En papillote, or cooking in parchment packets, is a French technique that is quick and easy. The food is steamed inside the pouch during baking, keeping its moisture intact. The natural sweetness of the foods comes out in this cooking method. If you have never tried it before, you will find it is fun, too. In the oven, the packets fill up like a balloon. Your family and friends will not know what is for dinner until they open their packets, engulfing them in the delicious scents of herbs, sauce, and food.
While parchment paper is the traditional paper used for this method of cooking, you can also try brown lunch bags in a pinch. To make a pouch, fold a large sheet of parchment in half. Cut along the fold, making a large Valentine heart. Make enough so there is one pouch per person. Open the heart. Position your food in the center of one half of the heart. Add your salt and pepper, vegetables and any sauce or marinade the recipe calls for. Top it off with lemon slices or herbs. Seal up your packets by folding the empty half of the paper over the food. Beginning at the top of the heart, make small folds towards the food. Continue making the folds along the entire edge, folding the last one over a few times to make sure it stays. Put the finished packets on a baking sheet and bake according to your recipe.
Besides the obvious benefits of easy clean up and the fun of opening up your meal like a present, cooking in parchment packets is also healthy for you. The steaming of the food in the packets is a low fat way to cook. You do not need to add a lot of oil or butter to cook your food. It is also a wonderful way to deal with delicate foods like sole and flounder.
Parchment is easily found at the grocery store with the aluminum foil and waxed paper. If you cannot find parchment, foil will work the same way.
Parchment packets are versatile… you can cook almost anything easily. Fish, pork, and chicken all work really well. An entire meal can be made inside a packet. Just layer your meat, vegetables, and sauce in the pouch, close it up and put it in the oven. Pasta even works inside a pouch!
Make side dishes of vegetables and herbs, an entre of tilapia and lemon, or try some quick easy chicken recipes. Make delicious ethnic recipes like ramen, pasta, or TexMex.
When you use parchment, you want to prepare your vegetables in small, even pieces. By slicing them thinly or using a julienne technique, they will cook quickly and evenly. You may want to try carrots, mushrooms, shallots, celery, or zucchini. Add some aromatic herbs for full flavor.
Place your packets on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for 6 to 10 minutes. Once the timer dings, dinner is ready!