You’ve got dinner all wrapped up.
The direct translation of “en papillote” means “to effortlessly impress friends and family for dinner by serving them a delicious, personally gift-wrapped dinner.” Actually, the French term “en papillote” means “in parchment.” But my definition is also accurate. Baking this salmon and tomatoes en papillote recipe not only results in a fantastic dinner. It also yields some fun in the process.
Why Baked Salmon en Papillote Works
The benefits of baking salmon en papillote fall along the same lines as a sheet pan dinner, with a bonus. Sheet pan dinners and en papillote cook a full meal in the oven at once, using one pan. In other words, an automatic victory.
But cooking en papillote has an added benefit. Similar to braising, the flavors and aromas within the envelope circulate as the ingredients cook and steam, layering flavor in a more concentrated way. Cooking in this self-steaming environment also keeps the salmon moist and tender.
How to Make an en Papillote Parchment Envelope
This baked salmon en papillote looks more impressive and complex than it is. The main thing is to ensure a tight seal to keep the steam in. To make your parchment envelope:
- Fold a half-sheet (12″ x 16″ sheet) of baking parchment in half.
- Place your ingredients — here, salmon, tomatoes, shallots, and dill — in the middle of the left half. You should have a fairly wide border of parchment around the food.
- Fold the right half of the parchment over the left, covering the food like a blanket.
- Starting from the top right corner (the folded corner), fold a little corner of the parchment down, so it “points” toward the food. Crease the folded edge down to make it stronger.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat, working your way all the way around until you get to the bottom left corner of the parchment. You will have to adjust your triangle sizes a little as you go. That’s fine. Just be sure to make clean creases each time.
- When you reach the bottom, twist the last bit of parchment tightly and fold underneath the food.
Salmon and Tomatoes en Papillote: Recipe Notes
This recipe is very easy. The most complex part will be the parchment envelope if it’s your first time making one. And even then, I think it’s more fun than difficult. Just a few notes to make sure the dish really sings:
- Make sure the seal is tight on the parchment envelope. This holds all the moisture in.
- Layer the salmon, tomatoes, shallots, and other ingredients fairly compactly. Build high, not wide. This gives you plenty of margin space to fold your envelope.
- How to serve: I recommend serving each portion in the sealed packet, on top of a plate, letting each person slice into the top of the parchment with their knife to eat right out of the packet. This has a great reveal factor. But you may choose to transfer the salmon and tomatoes onto individual plates and then serve. That’s fine, too. Just make sure you pour all the good juices over the top.
Baked Salmon and Tomatoes en Papillote
- 1 pound salmon, skinned and cut into 3 fillets
- 1 lemon, cut into thin slices
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 shallot, sliced very thin
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 3 tablespoons loosely-packed fresh dill, and more to garnish
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- fresh-ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and get three half-sheets of parchment, or about that size (about 16" x 12" each).
- Toss the sliced shallot and grape tomatoes in a mixing bowl with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and some fresh-ground black pepper. Set aside.
- Take the first sheet of parchment. Fold it in half longways and create a nice crease. Place one salmon fillet in the center of one half of the parchment, with a few lemon slices underneath.
- Sprinkle the salmon with about 1/8 teaspoon salt (or a generous pinch), a few twists of black pepper, a third of the butter pieces, and a tablespoon of fresh dill. Spoon a heap of the tomato and shallot mixture on top.
- Create the envelope: Fold the other half of the parchment over the fish, like a blanket. Start with the top corner (the one with the crease), and fold about an inch of the corner down toward the fish, and crease it with your finger to make a clean fold. Continue all the way around the fish -- fold, crease, fold, crease -- until you reach the bottom. Twist the bottom corner tightly closed and tuck it underneath the fish. Repeat with the additional fillets.PRO TIP: Your folds will elongate a bit as you go around. That's normal. Just keep making clean, small folds and crease each. (See the photos in the text of the blog post for a helpful visual aid.)
- Place the parchment envelopes on a baking sheet, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness.
- Let the fish rest for a couple of minutes, then slice open the top and serve with a little more lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt, if desired.PRO TIP: If you'd like to serve these sealed for each person to open at their place setting, place a frond of dill on the top of the parchment before baking. This will make a pretty "garnish" for each person's packet.