Lemon Chicken Breast en Papillote - Delishably - Food and Drink
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Lemon Chicken Breast en Papillote

Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.

See how pretty the chicken is when it's unwrapped?

See how pretty the chicken is when it's unwrapped?

Lemon Chicken

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.

Just layer the ingredients on the parchment paper.

Just layer the ingredients on the parchment paper.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. 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.
  3. Lay one chicken breast in the center of each square of aluminum foil. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken.
  4. 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.
  5. Top the lemon slices with a sprig of rosemary. Sprinkle with the minced garlic.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Butter the Parchment or Foil

Use just a little bit of butter on the parchment or foil, or in this case, plain cooking spray. The food steams in the packet, so this is simply to prevent the chicken from sticking to the foil or parchment.

Use just a little bit of butter on the parchment or foil, or in this case, plain cooking spray. The food steams in the packet, so this is simply to prevent the chicken from sticking to the foil or parchment.

Season Both Sides

Salt and pepper are all that's needed—I use kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Season both sides of the chicken.

Salt and pepper are all that's needed—I use kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Season both sides of the chicken.

Fresh Garlic (As Much As You'd Like!)

Freshly minced garlic add loads of flavor to this recipe, and you can use as much—or as little—as you'd like. The garlic really perfumes all the food in the packet, so it's a great way to pack a flavor punch.

Freshly minced garlic add loads of flavor to this recipe, and you can use as much—or as little—as you'd like. The garlic really perfumes all the food in the packet, so it's a great way to pack a flavor punch.

Fresh, Diced Cherry Tomatoes

Use your favorite fresh vegetables for even more flavor. I used diced cherry tomatoes here. Cut small, they release their liquids into the packet, adding to the sauce that develops as the chicken cooks.

Use your favorite fresh vegetables for even more flavor. I used diced cherry tomatoes here. Cut small, they release their liquids into the packet, adding to the sauce that develops as the chicken cooks.

Brussels Sprouts

Cut into quarters, Brussels Sprouts steam gently as the packet cooks in the oven. The sprouts, cut small, cook all the way through and pick up the flavors of the lemon, onion and garlic. So good! You can use broccoli as well—just as delicious!

Cut into quarters, Brussels Sprouts steam gently as the packet cooks in the oven. The sprouts, cut small, cook all the way through and pick up the flavors of the lemon, onion and garlic. So good! You can use broccoli as well—just as delicious!

Visual Appeal

As far as beautiful food goes, this lemon chicken en papillote recipe is at the top of the list. The multiple colors from the vegetables make one of the most visually appealing dishes there is - and with almost no effort.

As far as beautiful food goes, this lemon chicken en papillote recipe is at the top of the list. The multiple colors from the vegetables make one of the most visually appealing dishes there is - and with almost no effort.

Red Onion for Color and Flavor

A few slices of red onion on top of the chicken and vegetables adds great flavor and pretty visual appeal.

A few slices of red onion on top of the chicken and vegetables adds great flavor and pretty visual appeal.

Fresh Lemon and Rosemary

Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the ingredients. Slice the other half into thin slices, and layer them over the top of the other ingredients. Place a small sprig of fresh rosemary on top of the entire thing. Classic flavor!

Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the ingredients. Slice the other half into thin slices, and layer them over the top of the other ingredients. Place a small sprig of fresh rosemary on top of the entire thing. Classic flavor!

Crimp the Edges

If you use parchment paper, fold up the edges and wrap a couple of times, or use butcher's twine to make a 'purse'. With foil, simply roll and crimp the edges to seal the packet.

If you use parchment paper, fold up the edges and wrap a couple of times, or use butcher's twine to make a 'purse'. With foil, simply roll and crimp the edges to seal the packet.

Ready for the Oven: 350F for 30-45 Minutes

For a medium or regular sized chicken breast, like the ones in these pictures, 30 minutes is all it takes for the chicken to be cooked to perfection. For larger pieces, go to 45 minutes.

For a medium or regular sized chicken breast, like the ones in these pictures, 30 minutes is all it takes for the chicken to be cooked to perfection. For larger pieces, go to 45 minutes.

If using parchment, just tie the little package with butcher's twine. It's a present!

If using parchment, just tie the little package with butcher's twine. It's a present!

Lemon Chicken en Papillote

Let the packets rest for 5 minutes when they come out of the oven, and open carefully—watch for steam! Serve immediately—let your guests open their own—it's fun, and you have a self contained meal.

Let the packets rest for 5 minutes when they come out of the oven, and open carefully—watch for steam! Serve immediately—let your guests open their own—it's fun, and you have a self contained meal.

© 2010 Jan Charles