One of the most appealing ways of getting the most out of small, delicate cuts of meat or fish is cooking "en papillote," or wrapped up in paper. A papillote, in France, by the way, is also the paper frill we so seldom find at the end of a lamb chop or ham bone. Outside the kitchen, it can mean a curling paper.
The principal ingredient can be combined with other flavors, and, inside the sealed paper or aluminum foil, the juices mingle, with nothing lost to the air; no moisture evaporated. There is a wonderful burst of aroma when the papillote is opened.
If you have ever wrapped a whole fish for oven baking, or even enclosed a turkey in foil for part of its roasting time, you have used the technique, and you have also demonstrated its versatility. The two suggestions below only scratch the surface of the list of variations.
To start with you can reverse the recipes and use the par-cooked vegetables, along with the salmon and the simple butter and herb garnish with the veal.
Or you can use the chicken parts, plain or stuffed. You can even go further and remove the bone from a nice chicken leg before stuffing for a truly elegant presentation.
Whole small fish can be used, or you may replace the salmon steaks with swordfish steaks or cuts of bass. For a lavish feast, you can quickly open each package about 7 minutes before it's done and top the fish with some fresh scallops, then reseal and allow the flavors to mingle while the scallops have their brief cooking time.
The combinations are without limit. Not many people are going to like their beefsteaks done this way but the white meats and fish will give you plenty of scope for experimentation. Salmon Steaks en Papillote 1 salmon steak, about 1 inch thick 2 tablespoons butter Salt and pepper Pinch of thyme Pinch of tarragon or herbs to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Take a length of aluminum foil or baker's paper to wrap the salmon steak and place the steak on it. Slice butter into 5 or 6 thin pats and slip 2 under the fish. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Other possibilities could include parsley, dill, or marjoram.
Top with remaining butter and close foil over it being careful to seal it tightly, but in such as way as to permit you to open it easily while it is hot. Repeat for each steak.
Place on a baking sheet and cook 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size of the fish pieces and such factors as how cold they were when they went into the oven. Open a package and check it after 14 minutes. Flesh around the bone should have taken on the dense opacity of perfectly cooked salmon.
Open packages, remove skin from fish and serve either plain or with Hollandaise, Bearnaise, or Beurre Blanc sauce. Boiled potatoes make a perfect accompaniment. Serves 1. Veal Chops en Papillote 2 carrots 2 stalks celery 1 large onion 4 whole, unpeeled garlic cloves 4 veal chops, preferably rib Salt and pepper Butter 2 tablespoons cooking oil 1 tablespoon butter Parsley, thyme
Cut carrots, celery, and onion into thin strips called julienne strips, a little more than 1/16 inch thick and roughly an inch long. Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan and add vegetables with unbroken garlic cloves. Cover pan and stew over very low flame for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, season chops with salt and pepper and brown very quickly on each side in the oil with some butter. This is not to cook, merely to sear them.
Have ready 4 lengths of aluminum foil or baker's paper large enough to enfold chops. Place a chop in each and top with a quarter of the partly cooked vegetables, being sure that one of the garlic cloves gets onto each chop. Sprinkle with parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Wrap up each package, place on baking sheet, and bake at 375 degrees F. 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the chops.
Serve in packages so that each diner may get the pleasure of opening up his own package and experiencing the aromatic steam that escapes.