Audrey is a cook who loves creating new flavors by tweaking recipes to include healthier ingredients.
Culinary Basics: Cooking en Papillote
- Cooking en papillote is actually a type of French cooking which means 'in parchment'. Quite simply stated, it means to wrap your food/meal in parchment paper and cook.
- This method is also called cartoccio by the Italians.
- En papillote is a cooking technique employing steaming and braising as the food cooks itself in liquid and actually steams itself. This method assures that your food will always be perfectly cooked and tender.
- This method is an excellent addition to the culinary basics on the way towards creating delicious and healthy recipes. It also makes you look like a chef when, in fact, it's incredibly simple!
- Cooking by this method has many benefits, and the result is always sumptuous.
The following salmon recipe is only one of the hundreds available, and although fish is usually the most popular food to cook en papillote, the sky's the limit on this cooking technique!
Examples of en Papillote Dishes
Recipe for Salmon Papillote
- 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
- 2 medium tomatoes cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup white vermouth
- Salt if desired
- Pepper if desired
- Herbs to taste, such as dill, etc.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper (or use foil) large enough to wrap each piece of salmon individually—about 15 x 11 inches.
- Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over the bottom of each paper and place a salmon fillet skin side down on each one.
- Cover the fillets with tomato slices, dribble 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons dry vermouth on top of the tomato slices.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Wrap the fillets in the paper, folding the top and sides of the parchment to prevent the liquid from escaping.
- Place papillotes on a broiler pan. (You can prepare the papillotes to this point in advance and refrigerate for up to several hours—just bring to room temperature before baking ).
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes.
This recipe serves 4 and is derived from Slow Cooked Comfort by Lydie Marshall. There is also an accompanying sorrel sauce to add to the presentation with sorrel and heavy cream, but I rather like the salmon papillotes this way.
Advantages of Cooking en Papillote
- En papillote cooking allows your 'little envelopes' to act as an individual oven for the meat and/or vegetables that you are preparing.
- Cooking by this method infuses the entire packet with the herbs and additions like wine, liquor, or vegetables.
- This method allows for foods to cook, steaming themselves—food will not dry out.
- Individual packets are a wonderful presentation when it comes to serving—simply put each person's 'packet' on their plate and let them unwrap.
- Just about any kind of meat or vegetable can be cooked en papillote.
- Come up with interesting combinations of meats, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and other accompanying ingredients—create your own en papillote recipes.
- The en papillote method of cooking is low fat.
- Herbs, onions, tomatoes, wines, etc., are all 'aromatics'. As they cook, they lend their flavorful properties to the food as it cooks/steams.
- Parchment envelopes swell in the oven as they are cooking and will have a nice browned and puffed appearance when complete.
- You can cook pasta en papillote!
- Vegetarian dishes are wonderful creations en papillote.
- Desserts cooked en papillote are delicious—and you have a glorious presentation.
Martha Stewart Living Parchment Hearts
- Take a 24-inch piece of parchment paper and fold in half crosswise. Starting from the folded edge, cut a half heart shape.
- When opened, you will have a large 'valentine'.
- Arrange ingredients 2–3 inches from the crease.
- Fold the other half of the parchment paper over the ingredients and make small overlapping folds to seal the edges, starting at the top of the 'heart'.
- About 2 inches from the end, twist the parchment twice, gently but firmly, to seal. As the paper puffs a lot during cooking, you want a tight seal.
- Do not prepare packets too far ahead as the liquid can seep through the parchment and the paper will not be as strong or might tear/leak.
One of my favorite sources, Cooking Light, has many tips on en papillote cooking—whether you are using parchment paper or foil packets.
- Food choice is very important. If you are cooking chicken, for instance, breasts cook much faster and are more tender than thighs. Flaky fish, such as salmon, cooks better than denser fish steaks.
- Shellfish cook very well en papillote.
- Vegetables with high moisture content cook very well en papillote, such as zucchini, peppers, yellow squash, onion, etc.
- Keep in mind the size of what you put into the packets. You have to match your accompanying vegetables, for instance, to the size of the meat or fish you are putting in the packet. If you are cooking a fish fillet with potatoes, your potatoes will require more cooking time, so they will need to be sliced thinly to make sure all food is done at the same time.
- Add vermouth, wine, vinegar, and oils to the packets to add extra moisture but also flavor.
- Add herbs and other aromatic vegetables or fruits to lend flavor to the food.
- Spinach and tomatoes are high-moisture foods like zucchini and onions—they add natural moisture to the foods as they cook.
- Think outside the 'envelope'—add such things as coconut milk, wine, broth, or lemon or lime juice. Even add a pat of butter with herbs or a drizzle of cream.
- Most of all, be creative. Think about which foods go well together and create your own recipes!
Parchment Paper Tips
- Parchment paper is treated with silicone which gives it a non-stick property.
- Use parchment paper to bake cookies or line pans to prevent sticking.
- Parchment paper comes in bleached or unbleached varieties.
- Parchment paper can be purchased online but is found in most grocery stores in the section you would find foil.
- You can substitute foil for parchment paper.
- Do not substitute foil for recipes that have salt rubs or vinegar bases, as they do not interact well with the foil and may cause discoloration of food.
- Do not substitute wax paper for parchment paper.
- You can use parchment paper for separating items prior to freezing and they will never stick or adhere to the paper when defrosted.
- When using parchment paper en papillote, the paper should be puffed and a golden brown when cooking is complete.
© 2010 Audrey Kirchner