"En papillote," pronounced "on papeeYOTE," is a French technique that originally described the process of cooking food wrapped inside parcels made of thin pieces of lambskin -- parchment. Today, cooking parchment made of paper is available, but foil also does the job of locking in flavor and nutrients while eliminating the need for tricky folding techniques. Rainbow trout, one of the world's most popular game fish, lends itself particularly well to being baked inside its own little mini-oven. Unlike many French cooking techniques, "en papillote" is simple and, where fish is concerned, offers additional benefits by reducing both kitchen mess and the lingering odor that reminds everyone of what you cooked for last night's dinner.
Rainbow Trout en Papillote
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash the fillets and pat them dry with paper towels. Like its close relative salmon, the rainbow trout has delicate flesh that can be easily damaged by rough handling. Don't immerse the fillets -- a light rinse under cold running water is sufficient.
Rub olive oil into the fillets on both sides.
Season the fillets with salt and pepper.
Lay each fillet, skin side down, on a sheet of foil.
Lay the dill fronds on top of the fillets so that the flesh is covered but pink is still visible. The more dill you use, the greater the intensity of flavor in the cooked fillets will be. For people who prefer only a light touch, less is more.
Put the lemon slices on top of the dill. When the lemon juice is released by cooking, it drips through the blanket of dill to infuse the fillets with lemon-dill flavor.
Fold the foil so the fillets are completely enclosed and lay the packets on the baking sheet.
Put the baking sheet into the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes or until done. When you insert a fork into the thickest part of the fillet and wiggle it slightly, the fish should flake easily and be the same pale pink color all the way through. Let the packets rest for 5 minutes or so to make sure all the juices are evenly distributed before opening and serving.
The "en papillote" technique easily accommodates culinary creativity. In its "rainbow trout en papillote" recipe, "French Cooking for Dummies" recommends adding cooked vegetables to each packet. Either choose your vegetables specifically or let your selections be influenced by whatever you have in the crisper and want to use up, FCFD advises. The same principle applies to herbs and sauces. Dill is a standard complementary flavor for fish but other fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary and cilantro, may also be used, either alone or in combinations. See author/cook Jamie Oliver's recipe for a creamy horseradish and yogurt sauce to top the trout fillets in the Resources section.