Living in the Pacific Northwest, my kitchen is fortunate enough to see the freshest and most delicious seafood of all kinds. And I do love all kinds of seafood. The snap of a plump shrimp being readied to grill. Fresh wild caught Copper River salmon with a simple lemon garlic sauté. The briny flavor of what my guy affectionately refers to as the bottom feeders… muscles, clams, oysters. It is all in regular rotation through my meal plans.
Tonight’s supper idea came from a local food writer Kathleen Flinn, and is a modified version from her memoir Kitchen Counter Cooking School. En Papillote is a French technique and simply means baked in paper. The preparation of this delicious and nutrient-packed meal is unbelievably quick and easy (It is more assembly than cooking, really.), involves very little clean up and the results are super fresh and flavorful. It really is a stellar way to enjoy fish.
And though I do recommend fish as an awesome source of nutrition, mainly packed full of Omega 3s, there is much controversy about the very real issue of overfishing, as well as the unfortunate health risks due to our ocean’s toxicity levels. I certainly do not want to be a buzz kill here, or detour you from eating fish, but I feel it is important to add a word on these challenges. It has been upheld by many health professionals that wild caught fish is the best overall for our consumption. These fish intake all of their natural nutrients, passing that awesome nutrition onto us, get adequate exercise doing what they do best, swimming, and live out their days in their natural state, being part of an interconnected ecosystem. Farmed fish on the other hand are often sectioned off in a coastal part of the ocean called offshore Aquaculture, which is detrimental to the oceans in those areas. Farmed fish, just like other livestock, live in overcrowded conditions and are fed antibiotics to combat the risk of infection. These drugs go into our oceans as well as our bodies when we consume them. In addition, the nutritional value is diminished greatly in farmed fish.
There has been a lot of research about farmed fishing, also known as Aquaculture, and is supported by many experts in the field including NOAA the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a way to ease the pressure of overfishing on our oceans. This is a concern since we are rapidly overfishing to the point of extinction in certain species. Though this argument doesn’t quite hold up since it requires at least 5 lbs. of wild caught fish to raise 1 lb. of farm fish. Meaning we are still catching 5 times more wild fish to feed to our farmed fish. Not very sustainable. And since there is a real danger of mercury in our oceans, not to mention the 300 tons of radioactive water that is still being leaked into the Pacific daily from the crippled Fukushima Plant in Japan, it is best to moderate the amount of fish consumed. My recommendation is twice a week. Also, consult the Seafood Watch guide and select varieties that are the best choices for your region. Finally, if you enjoy catching your own fish in alpine lakes, all the better!
Alright, back to the yummy stuff. Aside from all the controversy surrounding fish, let me say again that it is an excellent source of nutrients and should be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet.
Following is the recipe for the Fish en Papillote. Enjoy!!
(Serves 2 individual packets)
1 ½ Tbls. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Two 4 to 6 ounce cuts of fish (I used salmon)
Few springs of fresh herbs (dill, basil, thyme, rosemary) I used thyme and rosemary
3 thin slices of fresh lemon
¼ cup water or stock
½ to ¾ cup fresh vegetables (zucchini, shallots, onion, broccoli, leeks fennel, mushrooms, carrots)
1. Preheat oven to 400
2. Start with 2 pieces of parchment paper, 10×12 inches each, fold in half
3. On one side of the middle crease of each piece drizzle the olive oil and a dash of the alt and pepper. Add fish and turn over to coat.
4. Place the rest of the ingredients on top and around the fish
5. Fold the paper like a book and crimp the edges securely to avoid allowing any liquid or steam to escape. Here is a quick video tutorial.
6. Place the packet on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to sit at least 2 minutes after removing it from the oven.
7. Open carefully and serve immediately. Enjoy!