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I have been so lazy about cooking lately.  There’s been a lot going on at work, and singing and various social things have kept me busy in most of my off hours.  So I have been eating out a lot, or making meals out of an assemblage of snacks.  Tonight I actually shopped and cooked a lovely (though admittedly simple) meal, despite the fact that I was feeling awfully tired after work.  I felt like I could have fallen asleep in the shuttle to the parking lot, yet stopping for fast food on the way home just didn’t appeal.

Instead, I decided randomly to make fish baked in parchment (or en papillote if we want to get really fancy.)  I am not sure what came over me.  I rarely cook fish, and I had never cooked in parchment before, but why not?  Whole Foods had some wild Coho salmon (Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable – woot!) on sale, so I bought half a pound.  I wanted to make something that was simple and seasonal (it actually felt like spring today – yahoo!), so I also picked up lemon, leeks, and red potatoes. 

When I got home, I preheated the oven and chopped the leeks.  Leeks are often full of sand and dirt, so after chopping them, I throw them into a big bowl of cold water and swish them around.  Then I let them sit for a few minutes, so that the grit can fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Then you can scoop out the leeks.

While the leeks were soaking, I thinly sliced the red potatoes and a lemon, reserving the ends of the lemon for juice.   Once the leeks were drained, everything was ready for packaging.

I laid out two pieces of parchment (I kind of like the unbleached, brown parchment that I happened to grab at the store) and layered the leeks, potatoes, salmon, and lemon slices, as in the picture at the top of the post.  I seasoned each layer with salt and pepper, and added a little thyme, tarragon, and fenugreek on the salmon.  Then I drizzled the whole pile with olive oil, before folding the packages.

After folding the paper in half over the ingredients, you have to start at a corner by the crease and roll or fold the edge of the paper up little by little all the way around the food.  It’s a little hard to describe, but it’s easy to do, once you get the idea.

I baked the packages for about 25 minutes, and boy was I ready to eat!  I tore open one of the packages and could immediately smell the lemon and spices, and I was eager to dig in.

Man, this was delicious!  It was bright and springy and somehow delicate and flavorful at the same time.  The lemon was the predominant flavor, but it didn’t overwhelm the leeks and seasonings.  I scarfed the whole thing down in no time, and I am really glad I decided to make two servings, so I have leftovers to look forward to tomorrow.

I am kind of proud of how outside the norm of my cooking this dish is.  What I tend to do best in the kitchen are hearty dishes, stews, pastas, polenta, and the like.  This is unusually delicate, though not at all fussy and still satisfying.   And it has the advantages of very little cleanup (a cutting board and knife, the bowl for cleaning the leeks, and the barely soiled baking sheet) and short enough prep and cooking time to make it a really good weeknight option.  It’ll definitely stay in my spring rotation. 

Spring Salmon in Parchment (serves 2) 

1 small leek                                                       1/2 tsp. thyme

2 medium red potatoes                                  1/4 tsp. tarragon

1 lemon                                                              1/2 tsp. fenugreek

2 3-4oz. fillets of salmon                               olive oil

salt and pepper                                                parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Trim off root end and dark green leaves from leek.  Cut in half lengthwise and slice thinly.  Place sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water and stir to loosen any dirt or sand.  Let sit for a few minutes, then remove leeks and drain.  Thinly slice potatoes and lemon.  Sprinkle salmon fillets with thyme, tarragon, and fenugreek.  On one half of a piece of parchment paper layer half the chopped leeks, half the sliced potatoes, one salmon fillet, and half the lemon slices, seasoning each layer with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Repeat with remaining ingredients on another piece of parchment.  Drizzle olive oil over ingredients.  Fold parchment over and pleat along edges to close.  Place parchment packets on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes.

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