Just when you think you’ve had all the fun with salmon fillets you can think of, along comes someone to show you new tricks.
Recently, for me that was chef Harald Osa, a former restaurateur in Oslo who now heads the Norwegian Food Culture Foundation there. He brought fine examples of his country’s ocean-farmed salmon, which he carved at least a dozen ways: into squared strips that he threaded in an “S” shape onto skewers; into multiple folds that could be slathered or stuffed with dressings or spinach; as escalloped pieces for elegant presentations; as butterflied “steaks”; and even into short braids.
In Osa’s version of packet cooking, presented here, he shared Norwegian sensibilities. He often demos for schoolchildren, who he says love to help assemble their own packets with prepped ingredients and their own choice of flavoring. They love the wedges of lettuce (or tender spring cabbage in season), which steam to a gentle tenderness.
When you shop for salmon fillets, the chef says, make sure the lines of fat between the orange flesh are white and not yellow to ensure freshness. A vivid reddish-orange color doesn’t necessarily translate into better flavor.
Norwegian Salmon in Foil
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 small leek
- 1 small sweet onion
- 1/2 head iceberg lettuce
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (optional)
- 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (optional)
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (optional)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2-pound piece boneless, skinless salmon fillet, preferably center-cut
- 1 lemon, for serving (optional)
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream, for serving
Arrange 4 sheets of aluminum foil on the counter, each about the size of a legal pad, shiny sides down. Grease the center of each piece with the oil.
As you prep the following vegetables, distribute them equally on the greased area of each piece of foil: Peel and trim the carrots, then cut them crosswise (on a slight diagonal) into very thin pieces.
Cut away the root end and green parts of the leek and peel away the tough outer layer. Rinse the remaining white part of the leek under cool water until it is free of grit, then cut it crosswise into very thin pieces. Cut the onion in half, then into very thin half-moon slices. Cut the lettuce half into 8 equal wedges.
If desired, add one or more of the optional flavorings -- peanut butter, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar -- and toss to coat. Season each portion with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle each portion with about 1 tablespoon of water.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have 1 or 2 large rimmed baking sheets at hand.
Remove any remaining pinbones in the fillets. Cut the salmon into 8 equal portions.
Place equal portions of salmon on each vegetable portion. Season the fish lightly with salt. Fold the top half of each piece of foil over the ingredients and seal well around the edges, creating a kind of U-shaped packet. Place on the baking sheet(s). Repeat to seal the remaining 3 packets. Bake for about 8 minutes; the foil packets should be slightly puffed at the center, and the vegetables should be crisp-tender.
Meanwhile, cut the lemon(s) into wedges for serving, if desired.
Transfer a packet to each individual plate. Use scissors or a sharp knife to open the packets at the table, following the U shape, folding back the top foil layer and being careful to let the steam release. Spoon the creme fraiche or sour cream on the fish, then pass the lemon wedges for sprinkling. Serve right away. 4 servings.
Per serving: 368 calories, 36 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 107 milligrams cholesterol, 179 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 7 grams sugar