Cooking en papillote is the game changing secret to fast, healthy meals and no pots or pans to clean up. En papillote
translates to "in paper" and cooking en papillote literally means to cook in paper. Protein, vegetables, aromatics and a little liquid are wrapped in a parchment paper packet and baked in the oven. The liquid in the packet steams the dish, while keeping in all the flavor and nutrients.
Why You Need to Learn How to Cook En Papillote
There are many advantages to cooking en papillote:
- Allows for flexible quantities - It is a great way to make a single serving, but the packets can easily be multiplied by the number of people you plan to serve.
- Healthy - Most en papillote recipes call for a lean protein such as fish, shellfish or chicken and a variety of vegetables.
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- Accommodates many diets - Generally speaking en papillote dishes are low carb, gluten-free, and Paleo friendly. En papillote dishes can also accommodate dairy-free diets by using olive oil instead of butter.
- Fast - En papillote dishes can be assembled in 10 minutes and cooked in 15 - 25 minutes.
- Lots of variety - You can cook many different combinations of protein and vegetables en papillote.
- No recipe required - Once you learn how to cook en papillote you will not need a recipe, yet you can make different dishes every night of the week if you wish.
- Not pots and pans to clean - The best part of cooking en papillote is there are no pots and pans to clean up after your meal.
Parchment vs. Foil
The traditional method for cooking en papillote uses parchment paper, but you can also use aluminum foil.
Benefits of using parchment paper:
- Makes for a great presentation - you can serve the cooked packet directly on a plate and allow your guests to open their steam-filled packets at the table.
- Will not react with acids (foil sometimes will react with lemon, vinegar or wine creating an off taste).
- Parchment paper is sold at most grocery stores, but you can also get it here on Amazon.
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Benefits of using foil:
- Everyday material most people keep on hand.
- Easy to fold and seal
- Handles extra liquids well
- Can be cooked on a grill, fireplace or open flame in addition to in the oven.
How to build a packet using parchment
Tear off a 24" piece of cooking parchment paper and fold in half. Using scissors cut a half oval shape so that when the shape is opened you have a full oval.
Brush the bottom half of the folded oval with a little melted butter or olive oil, keeping three inches of the perimeter of the half oval free of the butter or oil. This prevents the food from sticking to the paper.
Begin building your stack of protein and vegetables. You can start with your protein, or make a bed of vegetables or even cooked rice, pasta or couscous. Season as you add each ingredient.
Fold the top half of the oval over the stack and seal the edges by making a series of overlapping 2" folds along the open edge. Work around the edge from fold to fold until the package is fully sealed. If you feel your seal is not fully secure, go ahead and repeat a second layer of folds over the first. Make sure not to wrap the food too tightly as you want some air space for steam.
Place the packet on a baking tray and bake in a 400 degree F oven. The packet will brown and puff up as it bakes. The time required will depend on the thickness of the protein and your vegetables, generally 15 to 20 minutes. Parchment paper is generally safe to cook up to 425 degrees F.
Remove from the oven, carefully cut an "X" in the top of the packet and place on an individual serving plate.
Serve immediately. Guests can tear the paper away from the "X" to access their dinner.
How to build a packet using foil
Tear off a 20" sheet of aluminum foil and fold it in half. Brush the bottom half of the foil with a little melted butter or olive oil, leaving 3" around the edge of the foil oil or butter-free.
Begin your vegetable stack in the same way as you would for a parchment pack, seasoning between layers.
Fold the top half of the foil over the packet and seal on the three open sides by folding the foil over on itself a couple times.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your protein. Serve immediately.
Here is a master recipe for cooking en papillote recipe:
Fish, shrimp, clams, mussels and chicken all work well en papillote. Plan on 1/4 to 1/2 pound per person and per packet. The thickness of the protein will determine the time required to cook. For instance thin sliced chicken cutlets or thin fillets such as sole will cook in 15 minutes en papillote. A thick chicken breast or halibut fillet will take a bit longer. If you are unsure if your packet is done, carefully open it up and check. If it needs more time reseal it and return to the oven.
A variety of vegetables can be used. The secret is to slice them thin so they cook quickly. Good vegetables for cooking en papillote include mushrooms, leeks, onions, peppers, asparagus, fennel, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini and summer squash.
A little fat adds flavor and moisture to en papillote cooking. One tablespoon of olive oil or butter will do the trick.
A little liquid is needed to create steam in the packet as well as to add flavor. You can use wine, vinegar, stock, coconut milk or a combination of liquids. You can use up to 1/4 cup of liquid per individual packet. Include the oil or butter in your 1/4 cup calculations.
- Tip: I often toss the cut vegetables in the liquid first so they are fully coated and then stack the vegetables on top of the protein.
You can add a variety of ingredients for flavor and texture including: olives, capers, herbs, spices, nuts, grated or thinly sliced cheese, and precooked rice, couscous, pasta or mashed potatoes.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare your parchment or foil packet. Layer in your protein and vegetables seasoning between layers. Drizzle on your liquid, seal the packet and place on a baking sheet. Bake until done, typically 15 - 20 minutes, but up to 25 minutes for thicker proteins. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Two En Papillote Recipes to Get You Started