For the culinary connoisseurs among us, the term en papillote usually immediately imparts visions of succulent meals swimming in complimentary flavors. Unless you are as crazy about food as we are, it may be Greek to you although it is, in fact, a French phrase that essentially means “in paper”, or more specifically, “in parchment.
If you lean more toward Italian cuisine, you may have heard the term al cartoccio which is the same name for the same method of food preparation that uses high quality parchment paper to create an environment in which the food cooks itself while basking in its own aromas and flavors.
HOW TO COOK EN PAPILLOTE
A piece of parchment paper is folded and cut in a certain way, basically forming a heart-shaped piece of paper, much like you would make as a kid. The size of that “heart” will depend on the size of the meal you plan to cook inside.
Yes, you read that right. When you cook en papillote (in parchment paper), you can include your main dish and your sides all in one. In fact, that is how this “moist-cooking”, or steam cooking method works.
As the main dish, assuming it is meat-based, you will need to stick with relatively delicate types of protein – typically fish, but boneless skinless chicken can work as well. Along with that main course, you will add your vegetables, herbs, and seasonings to one half of your parchment paper heart, leaving a good inch or so clear of food around the edge.
You then fold the other half of the parchment heart over the top of your meal, folding and crimping the two edges of the parchment paper together, sealing the contents inside.
This plump little half-heart of food-filled parchment paper is now ready to bake. You should find the cooking times to be quick and thorough. The ingredients inside the package emit steam as they heat up, and that steam circulating en papillote is what cooks the meal.
Some chefs will add water or flavor infusions like sesame seed oil or other liquids to increase the steam production and fill up the medley of flavor.
Gently slicing open a moist, savory, en papillote meal greets the fortunate diner with a rush of aroma, teasing the taste buds of the memorable meal to come.
Daring to add flavor-intense ingredients like jalapeno, onions, garlic, and others will lead to rewards as every bite will be balanced with a bit of each item you bravely placed en papillote.
Ok, ok this all sounds fancy, right?
The best part of en papillote is how handy it can be for the average American household, regardless of your level of culinary education or experience.
THE CONVENIENCE OF COOKING EN PAPILLOTE
In some countries, they cook en papillote in large green leaves, as you might see from a banana tree.
Delicious results, we’re sure, but for most moms it’ll be much easier to find some good deals on parchment paper than it would be to find a reliable source for fresh banana leaves each week.
Not to mention… we don’t know how to say ‘banana leaf’ in French, but we do know that parchment paper is literally in the name en papillote, and parchment paper is what has traditionally been what is used by those who know best.
TIP: Resist the temptation to use aluminum foil for this method of cooking! If you insist on it, cook the exact meal once in foil, then again in parchment paper and tell us you cannot taste a difference. There definitely is one!
Parchment paper is also very easy to find, like our American made pre-cut parchment paper squares here on the site which make cooking en papillote even easier.
Here is where the convenience part comes in.
If you are into meal prepping, cooking en papillote is perfect for you. Prepare your family’s meals in the morning and when you get home from work, you have already done the hard work for dinner – just bake and serve.
For fish, you probably don’t want to wait more than 24 hours between prepping and cooking. For chicken, 48 hours. We haven’t mentioned it specifically yet, but this method may not be preferable for beef or steak.
Do you have kids or a spouse / significant other who cannot stand the flavor of your favorite ingredient?
Baking with parchment paper using the en papillote technique allows you to customize each heart-shaped package with everything your loved ones love to munch on.
Because you cannot see inside the parchment packages as they bake, you will likely have some trial and error for your first few attempts, but as you dial in your cook times you can begin to have fun with more ingredients. Some popular ones include lemon slices or some lemon juice, thyme, oregano, basil, bay leaves, fennel, chives, and different types of onions. Of course, there are so many more!
Before you know it, you will have your own personal en papillote cookbook just bursting with flavorful recipes for mouthwatering meals made in parchment paper.
We have a few such recipes that we will share in future articles and we would love it if you would share your own with us next time you place your order on www.ParchmentPaper.com because the only thing better than cooking en papillote, is doing it in a trusted brand of parchment paper made in the USA.
Maybe we will feature your recipe in a future blog post or email newsletter!