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Cooking in Paper (en Papillote)


The French term Papillote means to cook in paper - in this case parchment. It's easy, chic, and full of surprises!

Cooking en Papillote (paper) is simply another way of placing food in a paper packet and letting it steam in its own juices. It is a highly recommended way of preparing healthy dishes. The most common dishes contain fish or chicken with seasonings and roasted veggies. The parchment paper envelopes are really no different that cooking food in foil packets, but the process just seems a little fancier.

The simplest version of cooking en Papillote is to cut a heart shape out of about 15 inches of parchment. First, fold the section over and cut out half a heart. Open at the fold and place food to one side. Re-fold and self-crimp the edges, starting at the top and ending at the tail of the heart. Tuck in the tail to help keep the packet closed. Be sure to leave plenty of space inside to allow for puffing and steaming.

One of the great advantages to parchment paper cooking is it doesn't take long. If you're adding veggies to the mix you may want to saute or blanch them lightly first.

When serving, you can remove the food from the paper or you can make slits in the top and pull away the sides to eat directly from the packet. Watch the steam, though; it will come pouring out and could cause a blistered nose and lips.

This method of cooking is great for parties or family meals. Some foods can be prepared ahead of time or you may choose to get everyone involved in making up individual packets to taste. Here are a couple of simple and easy-to-fix recipes using chicken and fish.

Chicken Papillote
(serves 4)

4 Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless/1 per packet)
½ medium onion cut in thin slices, then halved
½ bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno, thinly sliced (optional)
Ground black pepper
Worcestershire sauce
Olive oil

Pre-marinate chicken breasts in black pepper. Place in plastic bag and add enough Worcestershire sauce to thoroughly season. Keep in refrigerator until about 20 minutes before placing in parchment packet.

Saute onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno in olive oil and set aside.

Create parchment heart. Add chicken breast and top with vegetables. Drizzle a little olive oil on top. Close each packet, place on cookie sheet, and bake in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for about 25 minutes.

Fish en Papillote
(serves 4)

Any firm white-fleshed fish (about 8 ounces per serving)
Butter or margarine
2 stalks green onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced and cut in short pieces
Lemon juice
Ground pepper

Prepare heart-shaped parchment. Place fish on one half of the paper. Add about one pat of butter. Top with green onions and celery. Sprinkle about one teaspoon lemon juice on top of each fillet. Top with ground pepper to taste.

Place on cookie and put in pre-heated 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes.

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