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The term “en papillote” literally means “in parchment.” It is a French culinary technique for cooking individual servings of food inside of packets of tightly folded parchment paper. Cooking en papillote allows food to gently steam inside of a sealed environment, thus concentrating the flavors and containing the odors—which is perfect for fish.
You can easily combine lighter, quick-cooking veggies and fresh herbs or pungents with the fish to create tasty little “one-packet” meals. As the servings are individual, the technique works equally well for just one or several servings. This fish dish is an absolutely wonderful way to lighten up your evening fare!
Featured Ingredient: Fish
All fish are high-protein, low-calorie foods that provide a range of health benefits. And some of them are real superstars. Fish high in the all-important omega-3s include sustainably caught wild salmon from Alaska, Atlantic mackerel and herring, sardines, sablefish, anchovies, and oysters.
White-fleshed fish—which you can use in this recipe—is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and it is incredibly low in calories. In addition, most fish are naturally low in the potentially pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats.
Fish for Smarter Babies
Should pregnant mothers eat fish? Scientific findings presented at a conference sponsored by the governments of the United States, Norway, Canada, and Iceland, and assisted by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, supported the notion that all people—especially pregnant and nursing women and children—should eat seafood twice a week, despite concerns about pollution contamination.
Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, iron, and choline—present in fish such as wild salmon, shrimp, pollock, cod, canned light tuna, and catfish—are important to brain development. Researchers have found that they may lessen the effects of dyslexia, autism, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder. Some studies have linked those nutrients with increased intelligence in infants and young children.
If you’re concerned about mercury, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has a wonderful consumer guide on its website (seafoodwatch.org) that tells you which fish have the lowest levels.
Aim for Two Servings a Week
The American Heart Association recommends that we eat at least two fish meals per week. The American Heart Association recommendation is also included in the USDA’s dietary guidelines. The nutrients found in seafood help reduce risk of death by heart attack and prevent a host of chronic health problems and terminal illnesses. Seafood cuts the risk for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. And a few short years ago, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating fish and seafood even once a week might help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Not exactly a bad resume
The AHA advice to eat two servings of fish per week is a minimum. My own advice is “eat fish as often as possible.” Back in the 1980s, William Castelli, MD, director of the famous Framingham Heart Study, said, “I have no qualms about the American public eating three or even four meals of fish a week.” That statement holds true today.
Notes from the Clean Food Coach:
If you need a little inspiration to create great flavor combinations, think about common groupings of fish, vegetables, and seasonings in different ethnic cuisines—Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Greek, etc. For instance, Japanese-inspired combinations could include white fish with matchstick carrots and sliced red bell peppers spread with miso paste.
Mix it Up
You can use any kind of skinned and deboned fish—try different varieties to find one you love. Mix-and-match different veggies, spices, and sauces to create your own flavor combinations.
For vegetables, try: thinly sliced fennel, sweet or green onion, bell peppers, greens of all kinds, haricots verts, sundried tomatoes, or cooked artichoke hearts. You can also use thin slices of lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit.
For fresh herbs, try: chives, thyme, parsley, dill, and/or cilantro.
For simple sauces, try: lemon or lime and olive oil, sweet teriyaki, peanut sauce, miso paste, mustard mixed with dried dill, olive oil mixed with Cajun spices, hot sauce or harissa, Greek dressing, or Italian vinaigrette.
We used salmon here, but really any white-fleshed fish works well in this recipe.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare 1 large piece of parchment: use a 15-inch roll and cut a piece about 20 inches long. Fold parchment in half widthwise, then open like a book.
- Arrange the veggies in neat pile, just a bit longer and wider than your piece of fish, in the center of your “book,” just inside the fold. Lay fish fillet on top of vegetables, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and other herbs of your choice. Dress lightly with 1–2 Tbs. of marinade, or a simple combination of fresh-squeezed citrus juice and a good oil.
- Fold other side of parchment over fish and veggies. Starting at the top of the spine, pull edges together and fold them sharply over as one. Take the fold you made and make another fold over onto itself. Moving around the outside edge of your closed “book,” continue to make folds, sealing the book “covers” tightly together. When you reach the bottom, tuck the final fold underneath the packet so the weight of the food holds it securely.
- Carefully transfer packet to baking sheet. Brush packet top with olive oil to prevent scorching. Bake about 10 minutes, until parchment puffs up. Remove baking sheet from oven and carefully transfer packet to a plate. Slit packet open to serve.
Be careful of hot steam.
- Calories 410
- Carbohydrate Content 19 g
- Cholesterol Content 85 mg
- Fat Content 19 g
- Fiber Content 4 g
- Protein Content 38 g
- Saturated Fat Content 5 g
- Sodium Content 680 mg
- Sugar Content 11 g