The French call this method “en papillote”. We like it because every cook gets to choose her own ingredients.
Makes 1 serving, multiply as needed
- Baking sheet
- Cutting board, cutting knife
- Small & medium bowls for ingredients
- Measuring spoons, measuring cup
- Parchment paper
- Metal spatula
- Kitchen scale, if you want to measure your protein instead of just eye-balling it (We measured out one 5-oz. portion of each protein, saw how much that looked like, and then just made similar-sized portions without weighing each one)
- about 5 ounces of protein: boneless skinless fish fillets, boneless skinless chicken breasts, or extra firm tofu
- 1 cup chopped quick-cooking veggies: snow peas, cherry tomatoes, peppers, baby spinach, etc.
- Finely chopped or minced garlic and/or herbs of your choice
- 1 Tbs. liquid: broth, lemon juice, white wine, unflavoured vinegar
- Up to 1 Tbs. spicy or salty condiment: soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, etc. Make sure they’re gluten-free, if you require it
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Tear off an 18-inch piece of parchment paper for each packet.
- Prepare your veggies. They should be sliced small so they will cook quickly.
- Prepare your protein. Thin fish fillets are fine as they are, but thicker ones like salmon should be cut in ¾ inch strips. Cut chicken breasts in ½ inch strips. Use a meat cutting board, and wash immediately after with hot soapy water. Tofu should be pressed to get excess water out, then cut in ½ inch slices.
- Mince, slice or dice any garlic or herbs you are using.
- Take your piece of parchment paper and lay it in front of you, with one of the long edges towards you. Lay your choice of herbs, spices, flavourings down the centre horizontally, in a line about as long as the protein you’ll be using. Lay the protein on top.
- Add your cup of chopped vegetables, and 1 Tbs. liquid, and any other condiments. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, if using.
- Bring the long edges up to meet in the centre above your food, then fold them down until they’re just above your food. You need to leave a little air, so your food will steam. You can then either twist the ends to seal your packet (it will look a bit like a big Christmas cracker), or fold them like a Christmas present: fold the sides in to make a point, then fold the point over several times to seal. If you’re worried they might come undone, use a paper clip (metal, NOT plastic-coated) to hold them closed. Your packet must be air-tight. If you would like illustrated detailed instructions, see Brette Sember’s Parchment Paper Folding Technique
- If you’re making lots of packets in a group like Lunch Club, write your name on yours, in pencil. Use a large metal spatula to lift your packet to the baking sheet. Leave a little space around each packet.
- Bake packets until done. Tofu and thin fish fillets will take about 15-18 minutes, thicker fish fillets and chicken will take about 20-22 minutes. You can’t open the packets to check, because all the steam will come out, but you can use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken. It should be 165°F (74°C). Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Be careful when opening, there’s hot steam in there.
Some good combinations:
Mediterranean fish packets: white fish, diced zucchini, quartered cherry tomatoes, white wine, lemon juice, crushed oregano
Japanese fish packets: salmon, minced ginger, julienned snow peas and carrots, mirin and tamari
Mexican chicken packets: minced garlic, chicken, broth, cilantro, lime juice, corn, green onions, quartered cherry tomatoes, black beans from a can
Tofu and veggie packets: minced garlic and ginger, tofu, chopped peppers, carrots, snow peas, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame seeds
You can also make Fruit Packets for dessert.
Adapted from Cooking Know-How, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarborough (2008)