Cooking in paper is fun, fancy and flavourful. The formal term for cooking in paper is cooking en papillote, and the paper is traditionally parchment paper readily available in supermarkets and food shops. Parchment is strong, heat-resistant and prevents food from sticking to it. In a pinch, aluminum foil can be substituted, but parchment definitely has more flair. That’s not all. Cooking in parchment or foil means you can recycle cookware which is no longer as good as new, make individual packages of food refrigerator-ready to pop into the oven at a moment’s notice (ideal for entertaining), and make clean-up a breeze. It looks beautiful on the plate in a puffed-up, piping hot, individual package. And it’s nutritious because everything cooks together, no nutrients are lost, and little fat is necessary to do the cooking.
To make one traditional heart-shaped package you will need a piece of parchment 15×24 inches (38×60 cm). Fold each in half to make a 15×12 inch (38×30 cm) rectangle. With scissors cut out one-half heart so when you unfold, it produces a heart. Arrange your ingredients on half of the heart and cover with remaining half heart. Starting at the top of the heart, brush the edge with egg white (egg white acts like edible glue) fold over about one-half inch of the edge, pressing down to make a crisp crease. Continue working all around the edge of the packet making overlapping folds always dampening edges with egg white to glue edges together. Twist the tip of the heart to finish. Arrange on baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to pop into the oven. Repeat for the number of servings you are making. If these instructions seem too difficult, simply use the rectangular shape and delete the steps making a heart shape.
Salmon en Papillote
For this recipe you can use salmon or trout. For that matter, you can substitute just about any fish you want. It is fast, juicy and flavourful. If you wish, prepare your favourite rice pilaf and place the rice under the salmon then you have dinner all wrapped up. This makes one serving; for more servings repeat as necessary.
1 6 oz boneless skinless portion of fish per person.
1 sheet of parchment paper 15×24 in. (38×60 cm)
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice or dry white wine
Fresh black pepper and sea salt
1 sprig of fresh dill or tarragon
1 orange slice or lemon slice
1 recipe rice pilaf (optional)
Preheat oven to 425˚F (220˚C). Arrange the fish portion in the center of the parchment paper; drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the fish, sprinkle with pepper and sea salt. Arrange the dill over fish and top with orange slice. Bring the two long edges of the paper together and fold over twice pressing neatly. Fold both ends under neatly and arrange package in oven proof dish. Repeat with any other fish fillets and arrange in single layer in baking dish. Bake 15 minutes or until the package is puffed out. Serve immediately directly from the parchment package. Variation: Rice Pilaf and fish. If you want a complete meal, place a serving of rice pilaf first on the parchment paper, top with the fish and proceed as directed above.
Seafood en Papillote
This mixture is delicious served with scallops, but your favourite mixture whether shellfish, halibut or other whitefish will all be tasty.
Seaport Merchants on Victoria Park just south of St. Clair has wonderfully fresh fish and shellfish flown in directly from the Maritimes throughout the week. Telephone 416-755-9960 to call and have your order ready. Makes 4 – 6 servings.
1 1/2 lbs (750 g) shellfish or fish or mixture
1/3 cup (75 mL) softened butter
1/4 cup (50 mL) finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
large clove garlic
2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh tarragon, substitute (1 tbsp/15 mL dried)
4-6 pieces parchment paper
Divide the shellfish or fish among the parchment or foil pieces as described above. In a small mixing bowl, beat together butter, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, dill and tarragon until well blended. Divide this mixture evenly among the portions of shellfish or fish, placing a spoonful of the butter mixture on the fish. Cover with the parchment paper or foil as described above; place on baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to bake. May be assembled in the morning ready for the evening. Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). Bake the packages 15 to 20 minutes until puffed and piping hot. Serve immediately with crusty bread to soak up any juices.
Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer.