Here is a delicious dinner that goes from zero to done in about 30 minutes. Inspired by Vietnamese flavors and employing French classic technique, these parchment packets offer salmon steamed in a tangy, citrusy, sweet, and salty sauce. When the packets are opened, add the crispy topping for texture, fiery heat, and contrast. Use your own sensibilities for the chilies, depending on your tolerance for heat: Thai chilies are serious business. Not a lime fan? Swap in orange juice and zest.
1/4 cup (50 g) palm or brown sugar
1/4 cup (59 ml) fish sauce
2 limes, juiced for 1/4 cup (59 ml) juice and zested for 1 teaspoon lime zest
1 pound (500 g) salmon filet, center cut
4 small or 2 medium baby bok choy, trimmed and quartered
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into whisper thin slivers
4 scallions, julienned
2/3 cup (50 g) unsweetened coconut flakes
2/3 cup (100 g) chopped salted peanuts
1/2 cup (50 g) chopped cilantro leaves and stems
1 to 2 Thai bird chiles, minced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Have 2 baking sheets at hand and 4 sheets of parchment paper.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the palm or brown sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice until the sugar has dissolved. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Cook at a brisk boil to reduce by about one-half until slightly thicker, just 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
Wielding a very sharp knife, portion the salmon into slabs about 1/2-inch thick leaving the skin behind. Divide the fish, bok choy, scallion, and ginger into four servings.
If you have a precut piece of parchment, fold it in half, sketch half a heart and use scissors to snip around the line, as shown. If your parchment is not precut, cut each piece to about 13- by 18-inches. Cut 3 more hearts. Working with one piece of parchment at a time, open the heart up and place the serving of salmon, slices slightly overlapping, and the boy choy quarters in the center. Scatter the scallions and ginger over the salmon slices and spoon a tablespoon of the thickened sauce over the top.
Seal the packet shut starting at the cleavage of the heart and folding the two edges together, turning a 1/2-inch section over. Continue along the edge, folding 1/2-inch segments over, firmly creasing the folded edge to keep it together, and working until nearly at the point of the heart. Twist the pointed end to keep the packet tightly closed. (Because this is an impossibly difficult technique to write out and a simple one to show, reference this YouTube video.)
As the packet is sealed, place it on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of parchment, placing two packets on each baking sheet. Slide the baking sheets into the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, in a dry, small skillet, over medium high heat, add the coconut flakes and toast until they are very lightly browned, a minute or two. Add the chopped peanuts and toss everything around to warm it through, just another minute or two until the coconut takes on a little more brown. Empty the contents of the pan into a small bowl, then stir together with the cilantro, lime zest, and minced chili and spoon. Set aside.
While parchment packets are served wrapped up and the diner is expected to open it and then deal with the paper, I prefer to open the packet and plate in the kitchen, sliding the fish and sauce onto the plate. Pile on the crispy coconut mixture or pass it at the table. Be generous with it.