For a weeknight salmon dinner that's easy but impressive, look no further. Juicy tomatoes, crisp green beans, and salmon fillets are cooked en papillote (in parchment) to form a delicious and healthy one-pan meal.
Most people want their salmon with a crisp golden crust. Not me. Well, not all the time. One of my favorite ways to cook salmon is poaching, and the en papillote method yields a very similar result—tender and juicy and not at all oily, like salmon can sometimes be. The cherry tomatoes in the bundle make the fish even better, adding a little tartness to cut the richness.
In my cookbook, Just Cook It!: 145-Built-To-Be-Easy Recipes That Are Totally Delicious, I write all about my love for this classic French technique. It's one of my favorites takeaways from culinary school. So much so that I use it probably once a week for cooking fish. And, believe it or not, it's actually way more practical than you might think. First of all, it keeps everything contained, that way you aren't splattering fishy oils all over the kitchen. Second, because you're essentially steaming the fish, it's pretty healthy. Lastly, it cuts way down on the clean-up. Seriously, you literally toss the cooking vessel in the compost.
My En Papillote Guidelines
The following guidelines aren't just for this amazing salmon dinner. Use them to create your own recipes at home.
Pick Your Wrapper
Parchment paper is coated to prevent sticking, which is ideal for delicate fish fillets. In a pinch, aluminum foil works well, too. you should use a larger- than-you-think sheet of parchment (I prefer ones that are 15 inches in length for an individual packet) because once you start layering your ingredients, it’s easier to cut off any excess than to transfer everything to a new sheet if it’s not big enough. Plus, you want enough paper to fold over the ingredients so that there’s just enough room for the steam to rise.
Choose Your Ingredients
Less is more when cooking en papillote: The more you squeeze into your parcel, the harder it is to wrap up. Start by choosing your fish and then pair it with ingredients that complement its flavor. If you choose a fattier fish, like salmon, choose more acidic ingredients (tomatoes, citrus) for balance. Likewise, lean fish, like sea bass, pairs well with ingredients that get juicy when steamed, like zucchini and mushrooms.
Harness the Power of Herbs
Jack up the flavor of your parcels with herbs sprigs, like basil and cilantro. you can easily pick them out at the end when they’re wilted. alterna- tively, sprinkle on chopped fresh herbs.
Make an Instant Sauce
Here’s where things get fun! drizzle on a little wine, soy sauce, or citrus juice. Butter, cream, and nut oils (sesame, walnut, pistachio) lend a luscious quality that’s especially important when using lean fish.
Seal the Deal
Parchment can be a little tricky to use at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. Just arrange sheets on a work surface and pile ingredients on one half. Fold the parchment over the ingredients and then, starting at one end, fold over the edge and crimp to seal. Continue folding over and crimping the edge at 1-inch intervals until you reach the opposite end, then twist the corner to make it airtight.
Hit the (Baking) Sheets
Always bake your parcels on a large rimmed baking sheet. It’s easier to move them about and you prevent any totally avoidable mishaps. Once you get them in a hot oven (I’m talking 425°F) leave them alone for usually around 10 to 15 minutes until they’re super puffy, which generally is your sign that the ingredients are cooked. Snip open the packets with scissors (be careful of the steam) and serve in the parchment, or just slide everything onto a plate.
Typically when cooking en papillote, it’s more common to make individual packets—they’re easier to move around and serve. But because I’m the adventurous type, I often make one outrageously oversized packet packed with enough ingredients to serve four. For this method, I use a 3-foot-long sheet of parchment and up the cooking time by about 5 minutes.
Once you're ready to cook and have assembled all of your ingredients, forming the parchment packet isn't hard at all. Follow these easy steps:
- Mound your ingredients on one half of the parchment paper and drizzle with your liquids.
- Fold the parchment paper over the ingredients.
- Starting at one edge, fold up the edge about 1 inch.
- Using your finger, crimp the edge to seal it tightly.
- Continue to fold the edge up, slightly overlapping the previous crimp, all the way around.
- Bake for anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of your fish).
Salmon with Haricots Verts & Tomatoes in Parchment
- 4 5 to 6-ounce salmon fillets (skinless or not, up to you), rinsed and patted dry
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ pound haricots verts, stem ends trimmed
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved if large
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Crusty bread, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Season both sides of the salmon fillets with salt and pepper.
- Lay a 3-foot-long piece of parchment paper on a large rimmed baking sheet. Mound the haricot verts, tomatoes, and garlic on one half of the parchment paper and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the salmon fillets and lemon slices on top. Drizzle with the olive oil. Fold the parchment over the fish and then, starting at one end, fold over the edge and crimp it to seal. Continue folding over and crimping the edge at 1-inch intervals until you reach the opposite end, then twist the corner to make it airtight. Bake the packet for 15 minutes for medium salmon and 20 minutes for well-done.
- Using scissors, snip open the packet to release the steam (be careful—it’s hot). Using a spoon, transfer the salmon, vegetables, and any juices to a deep platter or four shallow bowls. Serve right away with crusty bread.