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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Salmon en Papillote | #CookforJulia

Salmon en Papillote
When I was a kid, chef's weren't rockstars.  We didn't have the Food Network.  But to be fair, I only just got Food Network myself a few years ago.  I grew up watching cooking shows on local channels and on PBS.  I can remember walking into the living room and curling up on the sofa to watch Yan Can Cook, The Cajun Chef, The Frugal Gourmet, and Dinner at Julia's.  I was in elementary school, so this was sometime back in the early to mid-80's.

Back then, I don't remember ever actually asking if my parents would make something I saw one of those cooks make.  Because they probably wouldn't have.  But I do remember how much I wanted to be in those kitchens enjoying the sounds and the smells.  How much I wished I could try the food that they made.  I didn't want to be a chef or a cook back then.  I wanted to be a veterinarian.  Or so I thought.  Little did I realize how much that wok, those seasonings, those simple techniques, and the tall, funny, loud lady would stick in my mind so many years later.
I went to college, although no longer to be a vet.  I wanted to be a lawyer.  And then I wanted to switch to environmental law.  And then I wanted to major in music.  And then I realized that I didn't know what the heck I actually wanted to do with my life.  Nothing stuck.  So I left school after 3 years and 3 majors.

I worked for a while selling motorhome windshields.  Can I just say - NOT my dream job.  Sure, it paid pretty good money (surprisingly).  And I was pretty good at what I did (ummm, not a particularly impressive feat).  But I couldn't stand it.  But during this time, I started cooking.  I mean, I was "grown-up" and all.  And I had to eat.  I don't remember how, but I stumbled onto Saveur magazine.  And haven't given up my subscription since.  I also got reacquainted with an old friend, PBS.  And Julia.  I had a ritual.  Saturday mornings were my time to watch Mexico One Plate at a Time, America's Test Kitchen, and Baking with Julia, and the new show Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.
Salmon en Papillote
I started jotting down recipes and techniques and practicing them in the kitchen.  I subscribed to more food magazines and starting building my (now riduculously huge, according to my husband) cookbook library.  I was so mesmerized by the good-natured ribbing and humor and friendship that accompanied Julia and Jacques in the kitchen.  As soon as a book of the same name came out, I ordered it.  And to this day, it remains one of my favorites.

Through all this, I realized what I think had been buried deep down inside somewhere.  I wanted to be in the kitchen ALL THE TIME.  I wanted to cook.  I wanted to be a chef.  I felt at home in the kitchen - I could relax, I could experiment, I could do anything!  And so I went back to school.  Culinary school this time.
Salmon en Papillote
It was always one of my dreams to meet Julia.  I was sure that I'd find a way.  My favorite chef instructor had met her just the previous year.  But sadly, that dream was never realized.  Fortunately, Julia is enduring.  She IS Julia.  She is JULIA.  By finding re-runs or DVD's of her old shows to pulling one of her books from my simply being daring and unapologetic in the kitchen...Julia endures.

In honor of what would be Julia's 100th birthday and the kick-off of #CookforJulia, I wanted to make MY personal favorite Julia recipe from MY personal favorite Julia book.  It's simple, but it's one of the tastiest meals I've ever eaten.  Bon Appétit.  And thank you, Julia.

Salmon en Papillote
Salmon en Papillote
by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 8-12 minutes
Keywords: bake entree fish salmon tomatoes

Ingredients (serves 1)
    Tomato Garnish:
    • ripe tomatoes
    • salt
    • freshly ground pepper
    • white wine vinegar
    • olive oil
    • finely minced scallion
    • finely minced parsley
    • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 skinless salmon fillet (6-8 oz.)
    • salt
    • freshly ground white pepper
    • ~½ c. tomato garnish
    • 1 Tbs. very finely minced scallions
    • freshly chopped parsley
    also needed:
    • 1 sheet of parchment paper (20" x 15")
    To make Tomato Garnish:
    Score the bottom of each tomato with an X using a paring knife. Drop into rapidly boiling water for exactly 10 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon or strainer. Cut the core from your tomatoes and slide off the skins. Halve the tomatoes crosswise and squeeze each half to get rid of the seeds and extra juice. Cut them into ½-inch dice and place in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a few drops each of vinegar and oil. Add some finely minced scallion and parsley. Toss, then let sit to macerate for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain off excess liquid, if you wish.
    To make Salmon en Papillote:
    Preheat oven to 425° F.

    Lay out your piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Smear the butter in the center of the parchment.

    Season each side of the salmon with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Lay the salmon on top the butter (with its most attractive side up). Spread the tomato garnish over the top of the salmon. Scatter the scallions over that and then sprinkle the parsley over everything.

    Life the shorter sides of the parchment paper up so that the edges meet above the salmon, like a tent. Fold over several times. Next, fold over the other sides, crimping tightly between your fingers. Julia suggests using (straight) pins to seal the package completely, but I like just turning the final fold under the package.
    Salmon en Papillote
    Bake in preheated oven for 8-12 minutes (less for fish under 1-inch thick, more fore fish thicker than 1-inch).

    To serve, carefully transfer the package to a dinner plate and either unfold the parchment or cut it open (I like to serve and then right when ready to lets the steam escape in a dramatic fashion).

    I love serving this right in the paper; I think it's half the fun. But if you don't want to serve it in the paper, simply open the parcel and slide everything onto a plate.

    I found some beautiful, slender stalks of asparagus (no bigger than ¼-inch thick) at the market the day that I was going to make this salmon and just KNEW that they would make it a complete meal. I simply laid a handful out on top of the butter and under the salmon (as a sort of bed). Can I just say...perfection? Yup. Perfection!

    You could try adding julienned vegetables or something else that cooks in the same amount of time, if you like.

    I used 2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes for the tomato garnish, which yielded about ½-¾ cup total garnish.

    adapted from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home
    Salmon en Papillote
    “Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music.”  -Julia Child