Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cooking Easy Salmon en Papillote

There is an old saying, “When the tide is out, the table is set.”
When my Finnish-born grandfather fished the cold waters of Michigan’s Lake Superior in his homemade hand-crafted boat, a generation ago, the bounty of the waterways contributed in delicious and abundant ways to the family’s well being.

Slowly cooked salmon, vinaigrette, steamed mushroom

My mother’s father never worried about the issues that I worry about today when I stand at a fish case, debating the safety, the price and the environmental issues.
Steeped in my heritage is a great love of deep-sea fishing, and of course, an appreciation for the unmistakable taste of exquisitely prepared, fresh caught, wild fish.
That unmistakable taste is becoming increasingly rare to find.
It doesn’t matter how accomplished a chef or a cook might be, their culinary creations will be limited by the quality of their ingredients. A true connoisseur can tell the difference. For example, a connoisseur can taste whether they are being served a wild Alaskan salmon or a doctored up farm-raised version.
Today, an increasingly large percentage of the salmon that is being sold in grocery stores and in restaurants is not wild salmon. The salmon that is being offered for sale is labeled farm-raised.
Do you ever wonder how this trend of farm-harvested fish is affecting natural and native aquatic environments and the environment of our own bodies?
Haunted by important questions that nagged at me to be answered, I headed to the computer, where I waded through a vast sea of information. With the world wide net at my fingertips, I engaged in one of my most favorite passions- surfing the waves of the Internet researching treasure chests of information.
Where are we today with the issue of farm-raised fish? Are they safe for us to consume? What impact are fish farms presenting to the overall habitat of nearby waterways?
The issues swimming around farm-raised fish continues to be an on-going challenge to its own industry, other commercial fishermen, lawmakers, our environment and the health of consumers who indulge frequently in a diet heavy in farm-raised fish.
While my research helped me to formulate some conclusions that answer some of my questions, I encourage you to engage in your own research and make your own decisions about the safety of farm-raised fish.
So I am leaving that in your hands. I’m getting out of the boat and I am moving back into my comfort zone in the kitchen. Deciding on one special recipe to share with you for today’s column was rough. Being a huge fan of creative fish and seafood cookery, dozens of great-tasting recipes floated through my stream of consciousness. Finally, a stylish show stopping, yet quite simple technique for preparing salmon in a heart-shaped parcel of parchment paper, hooked my full attention.
Your guests will "ooh" and "ah' at the dramatic presentation of Salmon en Papillote, a classic-French vintage-cuisine type dish that perhaps your grandmother or mother served at a fancy VIP dinner party in the 1960’s. Salmon en Papillote was a fine dish to serve on those special occasions when perhaps the boss was coming to dinner and a wife recognized how her skill as a hostess could help her husband transcend the steps of a corporate ladder.
I have served this recipe to guests in my home and guests at catered dinner parties and it always resulted in kudos to the cook.
Salmon en Papillote
Cut large parchment hearts for each piece of fish.
Brush the inside of the heart with garlic and herb-spiked melted butter or olive oil.
Layer washed, chopped garden fresh vegetables, onions, leeks and one salmon filet on one side of the butter brushed paper.
Drizzle with white wine, fresh Florida lemon, sprinkle with favorite seasonings and herbs, and dot with a bit of butter.
Fold the other half of the heart over the food. Fold and crimp the edges to tightly seal the food inside the parcel.
Bake in a very hot oven of around 425 degrees for approximately 18 minutes. The packets will expand as they bake, causing the steam to circulate around the food, while retaining the vital nutrients inside in a most delicious way. When the parcels puff and brown the food is done.
Transfer to a preheated dinner plate, cut a small x in the top of each parcel, the intoxicating aroma will perfume the room and delight the senses.
(c) Kathi Dameron
Visit Kathi Dameron is a free-lance writer and the owner of Kathi Dameron & Associates, a writing boutique that does creative, writing and blogging assignments. She is a former caterer. She can be reached at