Salmon with Spinach and Cream in Papillote, another fish they eat.
“I don’t want them scarred for life,” I explained to the fish guy in Shoprite. “We are making this with 10 yr olds and want this to be a positive experience.” He assured me that all the salmon had come in this morning. Which salmon would I buy was the next question; the silver brite, which never impressed me, the farm raised which I read so many negative stories about, or the wild caught sockeye. I know we have a $20 budget per week, but I figured that this would be a first time salmon experience for some of these kids, so I sprung for the extra $3 per pound and got the sockeye. I’ll cut something next week if necessary. Shopping took really long this week so Katherine had already started our cooks reading the recipe. Each person reads a line as we go over the ingredients and cooking instructions “Does anyone know what the zest of a lemon is?” “The juice!” “The seeds!” “Oh! The ends!” Well almost. The zest is the colored part of the skin. It is where the lemon oil is. “Oil?” ” Yes,” I replied. “All the lemony flavor without the sourness of the juice. It is great for adding to veggies since it won’t turn them the yucky green color the acid in the lemon juice will.” We then went to the kitchen to start cooking. Lucas and Annette wanted to work with the fish, while Katherine worked with Aniya and Nicholas prepping the other ingredients and cooking some of our leftover quinoa to go with it.
We opened the carefully wrapped fish and there was no fishy smell coming from the bright red fish. Now that is how fish is supposed to be! The fish wasn’t skinned so I showed our cooks how to do that, scrapping a bit of the fish away from the tail part of the fish, holding the skin tightly with one hand, which is the difficult part, and moving the knife across the skin to release it. Everyone had trouble holding on to the skin, so I suggested they ask the fish guy to do it in the market.
We didn’t have any tarragon, but found some herbes de provence. It still smelled fragrant so we mixed with the lemon zest, which smelled wonderful. Everyone wanted to taste it. Only a tiny bit, because the zest has a bit of bitterness to it. I love how they want to try everything. I am not a fan of cooking in foil, but there is a foil you can get that is lined with parchment. I brought it from home.
Each cook got a square and artfully arranged their spinach, sprinkled on the shallots and topped it with the salmon that Lucas and Annette had seasoned with salt and pepper. They then sprinkled some of the herb & lemon zest mixture over top. Because we were making a papillote rather than a pouch, we only used about 2 tbsp of half and half per serving.
I showed our cooks how to fold over the square to make a triangle to cover the fish. A couple cooks were a little upset that their spinach art would be messed up, but were okay when I just moved it over for them.
We all made triangular folds around the open edges sealing in the fish and moved them onto the sheet pan. I was amazed how easily they created the papillotes. I know it took me more times to get it right and they did it the first time!
We set the table while the fish cooked but kept an eye on it since the wild caught salmon can be thinner and less fatty than the farm raised and therefore cook faster. There was plenty of excitement as each cook carefully opened their packet and spooned some quinoa into the juices. They loved it! It was astonishing to watch these 10 year olds making sure they had a bit of everything on their forks and eating salmon and spinach. You just have to cook with your kids.
“Aw man, I’m running out of spinach…I gotta have some more spinach!”, Annette exclaimed. “You’ll have to put more in your packet when you make it at home,” explained Katherine.
They really enjoyed the quinoa, too – we forgot to have them taste it before we mixed it into the Moroccan stew a few weeks ago. After we cleaned up, each cook left with a bag filled with the recipe and the ingredients to make the Abruzzese Lentil soup over the Thanksgiving break. Don’t forget to donate to the Vetri Foundation to keep this program going.