A Packet of Fun…Date Night and En Papillote (Fish in Parchment)

June 27, 2012Katie

En Papillote

Ever since Mr. Wonderful and I got married, we have faithfully stuck by one thing…

Date Night!

Any Tuesday (or whatever night we are free), when we are footloose and kid-free, we spend  on each other.

I highly  recommend this practice to all couples, seasoned or youthful.  You need to spend time as a couple just delighting in each other, away from electronics like the TV, computer and even your cell phones!

It keeps you fresh, and romance abounds.  If your kids are home, don’t feel guilty about going out.  They will realize in time that mom and dad love each other enough to spend time alone getting romantic.  Plus it gives you a break and time to refresh and keeps your children alive and well and keeps you from locking them in the basement.

If you have to go away to be alone, then do it. If you have the house to yourselves, get out the candles and the nice dishes and really do things up right. Sometimes, we go out to dinner and a movie. If money is tight, we’ll just go to our favorite bookstore.

We get a pot of vanilla rooibus tea and grab magazines and books and then sit, sip and read. We feel very artsy on those nites as we sit with the college students with their open laptops and textbooks.

Then we realize we have a book with very tiny print and we have to hold it arms-length away to see it or get our reader glasses. Realization sets in that we most certainly aren’t college age anymore, even if our hearts are still young.

Some nights we stay home, cook together, and rent a movie. We have really come to love this setting even more than a restaurant as we enjoy being in the kitchen together. Often we don’t want the annoyance of pesky wait-staff and kitchen noise to interfere with our conversation.

On those nights, we splurge and buy things that might be a little pricey for an every-night meal, but in comparison to restaurant prices, we come out way ahead!

Last evening’s date night was something fun. We made En Papillote, or in English – cooking in parchment paper.

This is a very delicate, healthy way to cook. Basically, you steam your food in an air-tight pocket of parchment paper with a small amount of liquid – usually white wine, and fresh herbs and spices. No parchment? Never fear – you can use foil or sometimes even a brown paper bag. No wine? Use chicken or vegetable broth and it’ll still be delicious.

The beauty of En Papillote is that it’s simple and you can use anything that makes your heart sing. Fish is commonly used, but I have seen chicken or other seafood used as well. Just remember that everything cooks for the same amount of time, so if you have something that cooks fast, like zucchini, just cut it in bigger pieces. You would need to slice potatoes very thinly, as they cook longer.

It’s time for me to confess. I am a vegetable addict. I don’t think I’ve found a veggie I don’t like, so we filled ours with loads of veggies and salmon last night. . And we felt like kids again in art class…an added bonus. Here is how we did it

The Ingredients of Love: Salmon filets, thinly sliced red potatoes, zucchini, matchstick carrots, fresh thyme, sliced cremini mushrooms, asparagus, thinly sliced onions, fresh spinach, lemons, and white wine.

Let me just say to begin that I was very disappointed in these salmon filets…they were frozen and in a bag and when I opened them I checked the bag to make sure I had the right bag. Salmon should be red not white, unless you get white salmon which is very pricey.

Now, let’s make En Papillote.

Preheat your oven to 400 degress. Begin by taking your parchment paper and cutting a good size rectangle. I would say a foot and 1/2 long would be right.

Now, fold it in half by putting the 2 shorter ends together. Cut a 1/2 heart shape.

Think Valentine’s in grade school people! Remember cutting those cute little hearts out of red construction paper?

Now open up your heart, your romantic one (date nite – remember?), and also your parchment paper one. Begin layering your Papillote by placing your fresh herbs on the bottom, I used thyme but you could use your favorite herb – try rosemary or basil or even a combination of herbs, or whatever makes you smile.

Lay 2 rows of your red potato slices on top of your herbs and make sure both rows overlap each other.
Layer your zuchhini slices over top of your potatoes.

Trim your asparagus and lay 5 or 6 of them over your zucchini. Sprinkle your matchstick carrots over top.
Then drop your mushrooms wherever you like. Layer some onion rings over top. Stick some fresh spinach in the cracks.
Place your salmon filet on top of everything. Put another few springs of thyme on top of it.
I have to stop and pause for a moment. When I went to the market today, guess what was there? Lemons. Not just any old lemons.

Meyer lemons are the Picasso of the lemon world…mmmm. They’re like a cross between a lemon and an orange or tangerine, much sweeter than regular lemons. I will be making something wonderful with the rest of these babies. You can just use regular ones if you can’t find Meyers and you can also zest the lemon before cutting it up if you like really intense lemon flavor on your fish.

Layer your slices of lemon over the thyme and fish. Drizzle about 2 T. white wine or chicken stock over top all.

This will create the steam that will cook your Papillote. Oh yes, sprinkle with salt and pepper as you layer

You can also drizzle extra virgin olive oil (or I think sesame oil would be fabulous for an Asian zing!) over top if you like, but I am on a low calorie fix right now so no oil for me!

Now, the fun part! To create your parchment “pocket”, fold the top of your heart back over your layered food. Begin at the top of the heart and fold over a small flap of the paper at the edges. Move your fingers down about an inch and fold another flap of paper over the first flap you folded.

Continue with this proces until you reach the end, or bottom point of your heart.

Take the end and twist it several times to seal your packet or you can just fold it underneath your packet.

The point is to created an air-tight pouch for your vegetables and fish to steam in

Once you get your packets finished, Twist the remaining end or fold it under to seal. Place your Papillotes on a lined baking sheet. You don’t have to line your baking sheet, but I am all about not doing dishes, especially on date night! This way, if your packet does leak, you’re covered on the dishes thing!

Look how perfect Mr. Wonderful’s packet looks. That’s mine over on the left with the spinach rolled up in the edges. Apparently, I need work on my fine motor skills!

Place your pan into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove the pan and place your now- browned Papillotes on dinner plates…make them pretty plates for date night please!

Begin unwrapping your pocket, being careful to let the first rush of steam escape away from your fingers! When fully undone, your paper should be folded back and your artwork displayed across your plate. You can remove your lovely creation inside from the paper and to your plate, but traditionally, you just eat right off the paper and hey, why do dishes on date night?

Are you sensing a common theme about me and doing dishes? Plus, you just throw your paper away when done and give a quick rinse to your plate. How easy is that?

There are so many possibilities for this technique. My mind is still thinking of them. How about red snapper with layered red peppers and onions, with sliced seeded roma tomato slices and cilantro, limes and a splash of white wine

How about julienning some veggies up like zucchini, carrots and peppers with some shredded ginger, and putting some salmon or tilapia over all and a drizzle of a little soy sauce and some sesame oil?

Or, chicken, pesto, orzo pasta, chopped tomatoes and fresh basil? (See Pesto Chicken Packets).

There are endless scenarios you can play out in your mind with these lovely steamed pockets of joy! Hope you experiment with one soon and don’t forget to do it with someone you love!

I sure do love him. 


A Packet of Fun...Date Night and En Papillote (Fish in Parchment)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2
  • Fresh herb of choice – thyme, rosemary, basil, dill, etc
  • 2 Salmon filets
  • 6 small thinly sliced red potatoes
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • ¼ red onion (medium sized), thinly sliced
  • ¼ c. matchstick carrots
  • ½ c. cremini or button mushrooms
  • 1 c. fresh spinach
  • 1 thinly sliced lemon
  • ½ c. white wine
  • parchment paper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut rectangle of parchment paper about one ½ feet long.
  3. Fold shorter sides together like a book.
  4. As large as possible, cut a half heart with the fold of your “book” being the center of the heart. Unfold heart shape.
  5. On one side of heart, layering down the seam side, layer your ingredients -herb, potatoes, zucchini, asparagus, carrots, onion, mushroom, spinach, salmon, herb, lemon slices.
  6. Salt and pepper lightly in between layers as desired.
  7. Drizzle with white wine or broth. Salt and pepper top.
  8. Begin folding at the top of heart seam.
  9. Fold a small flap over once.
  10. Continue going down the cut edges making small folds that fold over the last fold. Keep folding until you you reach the bottom point of the heart.
  11. Twist the end to seal or fold under.
  12. Lay your Papillotes on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Enjoy!


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