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For premium results, cook fish in a packet

Fish foil packets are weeknight-friendly and versatile, and they can be assembled in advance.

Associated Press

Fish foil packets are weeknight-friendly and versatile, and they can be assembled in advance.

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 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 moist, tender fish.

Another trick: en papillote, or the packet method of cooking. Cooking fish en papillote is an easy way to increase 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.

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, 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, followed by any other ingredients you like. I like to include a sauce or paste, an aromatic and some finely chopped veggies. If the veggies are heartier, such as sweet potatoes, parcook them first. (A quick microwave steam is fine.)

Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."


6 (5-ounce) salmon fillets

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 teaspoons fish sauce

¼ 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

½ cup light canned coconut milk

3 shallots, thinly sliced

½ red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks

½ pound thin green beans (haricots verts), trimmed

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. 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 among the servings. Top each with red pepper slices and green beans, then fold up the sides of the foil to create loose packets. 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.

Makes 6 servings.

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

For premium results, cook fish in a packet 04/14/16 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2016 5:28pm]
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