This is the easy, weeknight protein that you simply can't mess up.
Cooking seafood is one of those culinary tasks that you have to do in order to understand just how simple it is. Seriously, of all the things that you could be intimidated by in the kitchen, cooking fish should not be one of them. That said, if you’re ready to take that leap of faith (I’m telling you now that you are), this is just the place you can start. Not only is it nearly impossible to screw up, it’s super flexible and requires staple ingredients that you likely already have. Are you convinced? Are you ready to dive head first into the calm, relaxing ocean of seafood in the kitchen? YES, yes you are!
Because you are a bourgie chef who dabbles in the art of seafood, it only makes sense that you now employ French techniques in your cooking. That’s why you’re going to cook your fish in a sealed packet, a.k.a. “en papillote.” Sounds fancy, but bear with me, here. Parchment paper is the ideal cooking material because aluminum may react differently with certain foods, and there are some proposed health risks to cooking with it, as well. That said, both will get the job done. You can opt for 4 to 5-ounce fillets of salmon and make individual packets for each, or cook a larger 1 to 3-pound fillet in one large packet—it’s truly up to you.
Start by laying down a sheet of parchment or foil (that’s a couple inches longer on each side than the length of your fillet) on a sheet pan; this is the base of your packet. Now, place the fish, skin-side down, in the center of the paper/foil and, rub the upwards-facing, fleshy side of the fillet with extra-virgin olive oil. You can also use butter—any fat will do, here. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then layer citrus slices (lemon is my favorite) over the fish. Finally, add some woody fresh herbs into the equation, like rosemary, thyme, and/or oregano, and you’re good to go. Use another piece of foil or parchment (whichever you’re using) to top the packet and carefully roll up each side so that all edges and corners are sealed and will not let any air out. Essentially, what you’re doing here is steaming the fish inside a warm pocket of love and hot air (but mostly love).
Slide your sheet pan into an oven preheated to 375°, and bake it for 15-20 minutes, depending on how much salmon you’re cooking and how well done you ultimately want the fish to be. You can also grill it with the lid down on a medium-hot grill for about the same amoutn of time. When it's done cooking, make sure to be careful when you open the packet, because all that love can quickly turn into a burn if you’re not careful about the escaping steam. Ouch. This is a great technique if you’re hosting a hungry bunch, as it can make a ton of fish with little to no effort, and it’s also a great move if you’re eager to meal prep a hearty protein that you can eat throughout the week. Whatever your motivation might be to experiment with cooking fish, this straightforward method is just the starting point you need.
*You can do this with any fish, really. Salmon is just our favorite, and it’s cheaper now at Whole Foods thanks to Amazon.