Lemon Chicken Breast en Papillote
My friend Nikki asked if I had a good recipe for lemon chicken—and I immediately thought of this one. It is super quick, ridiculously easy, and it keeps fat and calories to a minimum. The only oil in here is a tiny bit to lube the inside of the packet, and it's done with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
En papillote is a French culinary term that strictly translates as "in parchment." Cooking en papillote is a great trick—you simply make a little pouch out of parchment paper, aluminum foil, or in a pinch, a paper bag. Inside, you place whatever you like: this lends itself best to fish, chicken, and veggies that like to be gently steamed or roasted. Throw it in the oven (or if using foil, on the grill), and walk away. Do your nails. Fingerpaint. Bathe the dog. You have a free 45 minutes before dinner's ready.
The French are renowned for their food for one very good reason—it rocks. And so does this little technique. On top of being easy peasy lemon squeezy, it's really pretty when it comes to the table. Cooking en papillote ensures the food stays juicy, and you've got the bonus of having a free sauce magically appear in your packets. You'll get ooohs and aaaahs . . . and don't you dare feel guilty when nobody knows how little you did.
Lemon Chicken en Papillote Method
This is more of a method than a recipe. In this case, I refer to four servings, but you can add or subtract at will. If you love a particular ingredient, use more. Hate it? Use less. You can also add veggies if you like; zucchini and sliced onion are divine when they are included in this particular recipe. Use red onion, and the colors are just beautiful. If you're a fan of piccata, toss in a few capers as well.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 4 large lemons
- 4 small sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Vegetables, your choice (I used red onion, Brussels sprouts, and cherry tomatoes in the photos, but peppers, mushrooms, and small carrots are great, too. Use whatever you love!)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp butter or cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Use the butter to grease the interior of each sheet of aluminum foil. You only need to butter where the chicken will touch on the bottom.
- Lay one chicken breast in the center of each square of aluminum foil. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken.
- Slice each lemon in half, squeezing the juice of one half evenly over each breast. Slice the second half very thinly, covering each breast with a few slices. This is pretty lemony; it makes it really sing. If you want less, use just half a lemon per breast.
- Top the lemon slices with a sprig of rosemary. Sprinkle with the minced garlic.
- Pull the edges of the foil up over the chicken and roll the, squeezing to seal each packet. If using parchment, gather the edges up top, and tie off with a little kitchen twine. This makes a really pretty 'purse'—great presentation.
- Bake for 45 minutes in a 350F oven. Allow each packet to rest for five minutes before you open it.
Note: 45 minutes works really well if you have really fat chicken breasts. If yours are thinner, or if you are using fish, cut the cooking time to 30 minutes. If they are super thin, go to 20.
I love this technique for busy days; at our house it's Thursday. The kids all have different schedules, so I make these ahead and then just pop one in the oven as each kid needs dinner. They get fresh, healthy, and homemade food that's cooked to perfection right on time. You can even customize them for each person's preference: no onion for one or no tomato for another. It's fast food in the best of ways!
Butter the Parchment or Foil
Season Both Sides
Fresh Garlic (As Much As You'd Like!)
Fresh, Diced Cherry Tomatoes
This recipe is so adaptable it's amazing. Use oranges and a few drops of soy sauce, add a little fresh ginger, water chestnuts, and sliced peppers and you have a lovely Asian flair.
Broccoli, peppers, kale, fresh spinach, even new potatoes all work just as well in these packets. Just keep pieces small and they'll steam beautifully.
Instead of lemon, add a splash of a dry white wine. Or if serving with pasta, add a pat of butter to the top for an even more luscious sauce!
Red Onion for Color and Flavor
Fresh Lemon and Rosemary
Crimp the Edges
Ready for the Oven: 350F for 30-45 Minutes
Lemon Chicken en Papillote
© 2010 Jan Charles