If you’re afraid of butter, use cream

cooking from scratch“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream”, the famous words of Julia Child, America’s first celebrity chef. This week marked what would have been her 100th birthday. While Julia wasn’t known for heart-healthy fare, what I most definitely appreciate about her was her approach to cooking by keeping everything as fresh as possible.

While the rest of America were digging into “TV dinners” and discovering the new convenience food wave, Julia was cooking up recipes from scratch, using whole foods – a stark contrast with what was on the table elsewhere in America. A simple roasted chicken and root vegetables were perhaps considered “ordinary” at first, but when expertly and carefully prepared, they became a revelation.

She made her share of full-fat, heart-stopping dishes, of course, but what I will always love about her was her commitment to bringing fresh food back to the table. Ditching the cans, mixes and chemicals, she encouraged people to cook again. She empowered them by showing them that good cooking skills didn’t come from black magic or super powers; she taught them that good cooking began with good food.

I hope you’ll try one of my favorite recipes she developed for steamed salmon. I love this recipe because it’s quick and easy to prepare, it’s light and healthy, and it looks incredibly impressive when served. Salmon is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, as well as other beneficial nutrients.

Cooking “en papillote” is a French culinary technique involving parchment paper. In fact, “en papillote” means, “in parchment”. For this preparation, the fish and other ingredients are placed on the paper, then the paper is folded into an air-tight pouch, then placed in the oven. The pouch allows the fish to steam, gently cooking the ingredients inside.

Salmon en Papillote

Yield: 1 fillet, serving 1

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, soft
1 skinless salmon fillet, 6 to 8 ounces
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon very finely minced shallots (or scallions)
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato garnish
Whole leaves of flat-leaf parsley, about a dozen

Special equipment:  A sheet of parchment paper, about 20 inches by 15 inches; a cookie sheet

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Smear the butter in the very center of the parchment paper. Season each side of the salmon with a big pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, and lay the salmon, its most attractive side up, on the buttered area of the paper.

Mix the minced shallots and tomato together and spread on top of the salmon fillet. Scatter the parsley leaves over and around the fish. Lift the shorter (15-inch) sides of the parchment so the edges meet right above the salmon, like a tent. Fold over several times, then fold the sides together.

Crimp the folds tightly with your fingers, or use several pins at the end to seal the package completely. Set the package on the cookie sheet and bake 8 minutes for a fillet less than an inch thick, or 10 minutes for a thick fillet 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick.

To serve, carefully transfer the package to a dinner plate, remove the pins if you have used them, and simply unfold or cut the parchment open. If you’d rather remove the package before eating, cut or tear the paper alongside the fillet, and slide the fish right onto the plate.

Photo credit: Kevin H.

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