Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Salmon en papillote

The funny things that happen in our brains. We met a long-time friend the other night and talked nostalgically about our lives in Munich. He had lived there before us (we spent six months in Munich in 2001) and was recently there again on vacation. We talked about how the littlest details could bring back so many memories, just like madeleines did to Proust. As he had stepped in the U-Bahn, the distinct metallic smell of the subway had hit our friend and brought him back many years in the past. We all shared stories about the fun things we had done there, the beautiful places we had visited, the great meals and beers we had savored.

A week later I went grocery shopping and picked without thinking too much about it, two bunches of fresh spinach. Then my eyes stopped on a root of ginger and I thought that it would make a good combination. I carried on, scratched my head in front of the fish and decided to go for some salmon. It's only when I put them together that I realized I was reproducing a dish I had eaten in Munich. Not that there is anything Bavarian about it. But we had been invited by French expatriates just after moving to Munich and they had served us baked salmon topped with cream, spinach and ginger. I had liked the dish as much as the warm welcome. It took nine years and a conversation to release this memory from my unconscious. The funny things that happen in our brains...

Baking fish en papillote is not to be mistaken with eating papillotes, the wrapped chocolates I talked about a while ago (here). It consists in wrapping the fish and accompanying topping (la garniture) in paper or foil to trap the steam and cook them in their own juices. The result is incredibly moist and flavorful.

Serves 3:
  • 1 salmon fillet (I bought Atlantic this time) – about 1/2 lb per person
  • 2 bunches fresh, organic spinach
  • 1 small fresh ginger root
  • 3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp white wine (e.g. Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • olive oil
  1. Pull out the stem of each spinach leaf (a technique beautifully explained by Julia Child here at time 1:30). Wash them well. Blanch them for 1 or 2 minutes in salted, boiling water. Drain and press to remove excess water.
  2. Rinse the salmon and pat dry between two paper towels. Cut the fillet crosswise into three portions of equal weight.
  3. Cut 3 squares of aluminum foil as wide as the roll (e.g. 12" x 12"). Pour a dash of olive oil in the center of each square. Place a portion of fish on the oil (skin down) and fold up the edges of the foil (forming a bowl around the fish). Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place a third of the blanched spinach on top of each fish portion.
  5. Peel the ginger root and grate 1 tsp over each papillote.
  6. Pour 1 tbsp of cream and 1 tbsp of white wine. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  7. Close the papillote tightly by bringing the edges of the foil together at the top and pressing firmly.
  8. Bake at 365 F (185 C) for about 20 minutes.
Serve in the aluminum foil so your guests will have the pleasure of opening the papillotes and unveiling the "surprise". You can then let them slide the fish (with topping and juices) in their plate and discard the foil. Then add a few spoonfuls of rice (simply boiled in salted water and butter) on each plate.

(the picture was taken before baking)


Guillaume said...

J'adore le saumon, il faudrait que j'essaie cette recette, elle a l'air délicieuse. Quand on sait cuisiner le poisson, le jeûne du Carême devient une notion très relative.

Orlando personal injury lawyer said...

Very interesting dish. It looks great. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Easy Wonton Recipe said...

That looks gorgeous. I'm going to make it tonight!