While en papilotte sounds fancy, it’s actually a great trick for crafting a quick and delicious meal for one (or more) with minimal mess. All you need is some parchment paper or, in a pinch, aluminum foil. Not being much of a baker, I’ve had the same box of parchment sitting in a kitchen drawer for years, ready for deployment on nights like tonight.
I spent the first half of my Monday frantically pulling together materials in preparation for an evening board meeting that was ultimately canceled. And so I find myself with an unexpectedly free night and a serious desire for solitude. On the way home I picked up a piece of salmon and some asparagus (hallelujah for green vegetables) to go with the ramps and fennel waiting in my refrigerator.
Salmon, Asparagus, Fennel & Ramps En Papillote
- 1/2 fennel bulb
- 8-10 asparagus stalks
- 3 ramps (or some thinly sliced shallots)
- 6-ounce salmon filet
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt (ideally whole milk)
- splash of white wine
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper
- Pop a large cast iron skillet (or a baking sheet or dish of some sort) into the oven and set it to 400. Turn on the radio, strip off your work drag, pop open that bottle of Orvieto left by a dinner guest with excellent taste and pour yourself a glass.
- Lay a large piece of parchment on the kitchen counter. Rinse the fennel and then remove the stalks, reserving and finely chopping the fronds. Halve the bulb, core one half and then slice it as thinly as possible. Toss the sliced fennel onto one half of your parchment and pop the unsliced half into the fridge for a future use. Snap the woody ends off of the asparagus and layer the stalks on top of the fennel. Rinse the ramps, trim off the very tip, slice them in half lengthwise and lay them on top of the asparagus. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon zest. While pouring yourself a second glass of wine, give the vegetables a little splash.
- Rinse the salmon, feeling for and removing any remaining bones, and pat dry. Place the fish on top of the vegetables and add more salt, pepper and lemon zest. Spoon the yogurt on top and garnish with the fennel fronds and more lemon zest.
- Fold the parchment in half and begin folding the two halves together, making tight creases with your thumbnail as you would origami, until you are satisfied that it is reasonably airtight. Set this in the oven in your preheated pan and go about your business.
- After 17 minutes, pull the pan out of the oven. If you did a good job of folding, the paper will have puffed up. Tear this open like you would a present at your fifth birthday party and behold your dinner, swathed in headily scented steam.
This is a comically simple but deeply satisfying dish. At the end of it all, you are left with a cutting board to wipe down; a chef’s knife, microplane, dinner plate, knife, fork and spoon to wash; and another glass of wine to pour. Can somebody please remind me of this the next time I decide to host a dinner party for eight?