Cooking “en papillote” is a french method of steaming food in individual parchment packets. The name may sounds complex, but is simple to do and makes a great presentation for entertaining. Cooking an item en papillote means baking at a higher temperature to create steam production within the packets, therefore concentrating the flavors without drying out the food.
You can also use less oil using this method since you’re keeping all the moisture in the packet, so it’s healthier and easier to portion control. You can make several meals this way for weekly lunches all at ONE time, on ONE baking sheet…
…all in under a half hour.
In this post I made four packets, each using a little different flavor combination to demonstrate the many ways you can customize this (plus I get easily bored eating the same thing every day for a whole week. I’m ADD like that). You can use this technique as a great way of using up what’s leftover in your fridge, as a way to use up the last bit of your favorite condiment or that last bit of fresh herbs. I always seem to have extra sambal oolek, soy packets or BBQ sauce in my fridge for whatever reason, and this is a great way to use them up!
(Pictured Above: Asian Chicken En Papillote)
In terms of entertaining, using this way of baking a protein/vegetable combination is a win-win not just for you but for your guests as well. You can assemble these for each persons taste, which is great for someone with a food allergy, or picky kids in the family, etc. Not to mention cleanup is a breeze, you just throw away the parchment paper since it’s nonstick! And when these are baked the little packages puff up from all the steam production, making a fun presentation to cut open tableside. After baking carefully move the packets onto plates and give your guests a pair of scissors or a small, sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ or criss-cross in the top (reminding them to be aware of the hot steam that will then beautifully plume out, and smell amahhhh-zing!) Then just peel back each corner to reveal their beautiful meal. Remove any items that have already given their all and don’t need to be eaten directly, like any citrus slices or remaining herb stems, etc. Que the dramatic oohs and ahhhs!
(Pictured Above: Mediterranean Chicken En Papillote)
You don’t have to just make chicken with this technique, either! Fish is a wonderful option to make en papillote- my favorites are cod, tilapia and salmon. Feel free to try out shrimp, sliced sausage links, even firm tofu cubes! The type of protein you choose does effect the cooking time: a chicken packet baked at 400 degrees should be done in 20-25 minutes or to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or 75 degrees Celsius,, a fish fillet of standard thickness at 425 degrees should be done in 10-12 minutes, and a veggie/tofu packet at 425 degrees should be done in around 9-10 minutes (depending on the types of vegetables you put in it!). But always be sure to keep an eye on it as it cooks, as times and temperatures vary oven-to-oven!
(Pictured Above: Tuscan Chicken En Papillote)
A few additional tips when making your own meal en papillote:
Try to keep accompanying veggies around the same size so they all cook quickly and evenly. You can use small cubes of potatoes in here as well if you wish, as long as you don’t add too many that it impedes cooking.
Avoid crowding the packet with too many ingredients, pick a few options that pack a punch together- and don’t forget the seasoning! Salt and pepper are a must, but add in a sprig of thyme, a lemon slice, olives, or even eye-catching pops of color like black and white sesame seeds!
Use a little olive oil, canola oil, or even butter in the packets so your protein doesn’t dry out and the seasonings stick to your ingredients during cooking. Another delicious option for extra flavor on fish is Morin and toasted sesame oil! You only need 1-2 tbsp of oil total per packet-so make it count! Other options include soy or Tamari sauce, coconut milk, wine, juice or spicy sauces like sambal oolek or sriracha!
Yes, you MUST use parchment paper for these, NOT WAX PAPER. They are not interchangeable. Wax paper is exactly what it says, it’s paper made with a wax coating. Granted it’s food-contact safe wax-but it’s still wax, i.e. meltable under hot temperatures. I only use wax paper for creating stand-alone chocolate shapes or royal icing decorations, like little flowers etc that I need to peel off once hardened. Or I occasionally lay it down on a counter or table to protect it from whatever kitchen project I’m working on at the time since it’s cheap. However, parchment paper is embedded with silicone so its able to withstand the heat of the oven without melting, or you know…going up in flames in your oven. Trust me, this is a mistake you only make once. (But hopefully never now that you’ve read this!)
You can absolutely use aluminum foil instead of parchment paper, although you don’t get the cool puffed up look and the cool visual, lol. But aluminum foil is a great conductor of heat so it’s a very efficient option here, especially on a grill during the summer months. It’s also a great way to seal/reseal to check for doneness if you’re new to cooking or just want to verify your chicken is cooked through. Just keep in mind, however, that acidic foods tend to react to aluminum so I’d avoid using ingredients like tomatoes or lemons with this technique so the flavor isn’t metallic-tasting!
Place ingredients on one half of a 12 x 16 inch sheet of parchment paper, leaving about a 2 inch margin of space around the outside edges. Then fold the other half of the parchment paper over on top of the food like a book, then make a tight seal from one corner to the other by overlapping little folds all the way around. Be sure to leave plenty of room between the food and your folds to allow room for steam production! When done folding, tuck the end of the paper securely under itself to anchor the seal and prevent any liquids from escaping. If you seal it well, it will puff up in the oven when it’s done!
I like to make one large batch of an accompanying starch or side to use universally for everyone to add to their meal, my favorite is rice bc it’s easy to make in a big batch. However, depending on what flavors or themes you go with, you could serve these packets with pasta, egg noodles, quinoa, or even warm tortillas or taco shells! The world is your parchment packet, people!!!
(Pictured Above: Provençal Chicken En Papillote)
So below I’m going to list the general ingredients I used in each one of my four versions of Chicken En Papillote, but the technique to make and cook them is the same for all. The amounts all vary according to taste, so I didn’t add exact volumes since each list is for one individual packet example. The instructions are all the same, however, and they go as follows!
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR ALL PACKETS:
Place the chicken on the parchment paper, add all the listed ingredients (or make up your own!), pull other side of paper over top and tightly fold the creases over, tucking the end underneath. Place on a sheet pan and cook in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F (75 degrees Celsius). Remove from oven and then carefully cut open the top with scissors or a knife to allow steam to escape. Fold down the sides and enjoy with a side of rice, etc. Or let the packets cool down and place in to-to containers for lunches during the week!
Mediterranean Chicken En Papillote:
GREAT SERVED WITH ORZO OR PITA BREAD WITH FETA CUBES!
Salt and pepper
Sprig of dill
Tuscan Chicken En Papillote:
GREAT SERVED WITH A SIDE OF PASTA OR COOKED RICE WITH DICED TOMATOES!
Italian seasonings: Thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary
Salt and pepper
Drizzle of olive oil and balsamic
1 tbsp pad of butter on top
Provençal Chicken En Papillote:
GREAT SERVED WITH POTATOES, PASTA OR COOKED RICE!
Drizzle of honey
Sprig of thyme
Herbes de Provence seasoning
Salt and Pepper
Asian Chicken En Papillote:
GREAT SERVED WITH RICE OR OVER LETTUCE FOR A HEALTHY SALAD WITH A KICK!
Carrots, Cut into strips
For the marinade, whisk the following ingredients together in a small bowl and then pour over chicken:
1 tsp Minced garlic
2 tsp Red chili flakes
1 tsp of both Black and White sesame seeds
1 tbsp blood orange juice and 1 tsp of it’s zest
Pinch of ground ginger
2 tsp Honey
1-2 tsp Sambal Oolek, optional but spicy!
1 tbsp soy sauce or Tamari