Cooking

Recipe: For foolproof baked salmon, reach for foil and make packets

Food-Healthy Salmon Packets

This March 14, 2016 photo shows salmon packets with curry and green beans and a side of rice in Concord, N.H. Baking fish in a foil packet keeps it moist and makes it difficult to overcook. It also is a great way to simultaneously cook sides, such as the green beans in this recipe. (AP Photo/J.M. Hirsch)

By Melissa d’Arabian, Associated Press

We all know that eating fish several times a week is a healthy goal. But a lot of otherwise accomplished home cooks still find cooking fish a bit intimidating. The biggest worry? Drying it out.

I’d love to say that this fear is unfounded, but truth is that it’s easy to overcook fish. This is why I always pull the fish out a minute or two before I think it’s done. Usually, that will result in perfectly moist and tender results.

Another trick: en papillote, or packet method of cooking. Cooking fish en papillote is a super-easy way to increase (significantly!) the margin of error, that window when the fish is cooked, but not overcooked. That’s because cooking the fish in a tightly sealed packet creates a dome of steam that gently cooks the fish (and any other ingredients in the packet), keeping all those tasty juices right inside.

That cooking time forgiveness is pure culinary gold! En papillote traditionally is done using kitchen parchment, but foil packets are handy and can get tossed on the grill in summer. Just be aware that foil can react with acid, so if you are using a lot of lemon juice for an en papillote recipe, it’s better to go with parchment (but not for the grill).

For each packet, spray a heavy-duty piece of foil with cooking spray. Then set a serving of fish on top, following by any other ingredients you like. I like to include a sauce or paste for flavor (maybe pesto or a little white wine), an aromatic (such as minced onion), and some finely chopped veggies. If the veggies are heartier (such as sweet potatoes), parcook them first (a quick microwave steam is fine).

Fish foil packets are versatile and weeknight-friendly. You can assemble them in advance and just toss them in the oven when you get home from work. You’ll find it much easier to hit that fish allotment each week.

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SALMON PACKETS WITH CURRY AND GREEN BEANS

Food-Healthy Salmon Packets

This March 14, 2016 photo shows salmon packets with curry and green beans in Concord, N.H. Baking fish in a foil packet keeps it moist and makes it difficult to overcook. It also is a great way to simultaneously cook sides, such as the green beans in this recipe. (AP Photo/J.M. Hirsch)

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

Six 5-ounce salmon fillets

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 teaspoons fish sauce

1/4 cup chopped pineapple (canned is fine)

1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (optional)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped Thai basil (or regular basil if not available)

1 teaspoon lime zest

1/2 cup light canned coconut milk

3 shallots, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks

1/2 pound thin green beans (haricots verts), trimmed

Heat the oven to 375 F. Coat 6 large rectangles of heavy foil with cooking spray.

Season the salmon with salt and pepper, then set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the curry paste and fish sauce. Add the pineapple, chili sauce, garlic, basil, lime zest and coconut milk. Mix well.

Divide the shallots evenly among the prepared sheets of foil, spreading them evenly in the center of each rectangle. Set a salmon fillet over the shallots on each sheet, then spoon some of the sauce over the salmon, dividing it evenly between the servings. Top each with red pepper slices and green beans, then fold up the sides of the foil to create loose packets. Be sure to crimp the packets well so they contain any steam.

Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake until the salmon is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful when opening; the packets will release hot steam.

Nutrition information per serving: 310 calories; 140 calories from fat (45 percent of total calories); 16 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 70 mg cholesterol; 660 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 30 g protein.

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Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net

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