En papillote may sound like a difficult French cooking method you'd never use at home, but don't be fooled by its fancy name—it's actually a really easy way to cook food that is moist and flavorful, and all you need is some parchment paper and your oven.
Cooking en papillote is simple: just fold the parchment paper into a pouch that can be closed with your food inside. This pouch is usually closed by crimping the sides together, but the paper can be fickle and loosen up, so putting a little egg wash on the edges to make it stick is an effective solution. This pouch traps steam that is created when it's placed in the oven, and this steam cooks the food while keeping it from drying out.
Using this method is most popular with meat and seafood dishes, mainly because you can add aromatics and herbs to the pouch and the ingredients will permeate the meat during the cooking process. (Desserts also benefit from cooking en papillote as well.)
The best part by far is that the cleanup is minimal. Serving the meal in its parchment is simple and elegant, and dirty dishes are non-existent—just toss the parchment paper and you're all set. To give you some ideas, here are a few recipes to get your started on your en papillote journey.
For me, there is nothing like the smell of herbed shrimp filling my kitchen while it bakes. If you feel the same way, this dish should definitely be your first try en papillote.
- grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 to 3 anchovies (rinsed and minced, about 1 Tbsp.)
- 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 lb. extra-large shrimp (peeled and deveined, tails still attached)
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 1 red jalapeño pepper (seeded and chopped)
- ½ cup bottled clam juice
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Whisk together the basil, olive oil, minced garlic, lemon zest and juice, anchovies, parsley, paprika, and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the shrimp, scallions, tomatoes, and jalapeño and mix together.
- Using eight 16-inch sheets of parchment paper, make the packets, using a double layer for every packet.
- With a slotted spoon, place around ¼ of the shrimp mixture on a double layer.
- Add 2 Tbsp. of clam juice, ½ Tbsp. butter, and ¼ of the liquid from the bowl.
- Seal carefully.
- Repeat the entire process to make 3 more packets and divide between 2 baking sheets.
- Place in the oven and bake until the parchment puffs up and the shrimp are just cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Let the packet rest 5 minutes before opening.
- Be careful of the hot steam when opening the parchment packets.
Making fish in parchment paper is a great way to keep it from getting too dry and ensuring the herbs really flavor the entire fillet.
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- 8 oz. boneless fish fillet, such as snapper or cod
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. good olive oil
- 1 large sprig fresh thyme
- 2 Cerignola or other large green olives with pits
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1 Tbsp. water
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Lay the fish fillet on a single piece of parchment paper and season it with the salt and pepper.
- Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the top of the fillet.
- Sprinkle the thyme on top and put the olives next to the fillet.
- Beat the egg together with the water to create an egg wash.
- Brush the egg wash on the edges of the parchment paper, then fold it in half.
- Carefully tuck the edges of the parchment paper around and under the fish to create a package.
- Put the package on a sheet pan and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.
- Serve immediately in the parchment paper.
Cooking en papillote is not just for savory entrées. There are a wide variety of desserts that can be prepared with this same, easy method, including this healthy treat.
- 4 Tbsp. strawberry jam
- 2 golden delicious apples, cored and sliced thinly
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp. raw cane sugar
- fresh strawberries, sliced
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cut out eight 8-inch circles of parchment paper.
- Divide the apples slices into 4 equal portions.
- Fan ¼ of the apple slices onto each sheet.
- Sprinkle each with ¼ tsp. of lemon juice and ½ tsp. of sugar.
- Cover each one with a second circle of parchment and seal the edges by crimping them together.
- Put packets onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until fragrant.
- Allow packets to cool off slightly, then serve.
- Garnish with strawberry slices and eat with ice cream, if desired.
For a twist on a classic dinner favorite, this dish is great because you can mix and match the vegetables according to personal taste. The best part is that you will never suffer from the dried chicken dilemma, since this cooking method keeps the chicken moist and flavorful. (You can also dry poach your chicken to prevent loss of moisture as well... but that's another story for another time.)
For an easy recipe, try this delectable recipe from Serious Eats.
Shake up Sunday brunch with this simple yet exciting egg dish in parchment paper. The smoked paprika is the perfect addition to this protein-rich morning meal and is amplified by being baked in parchment. For a reliable recipe, check out Refinery 29's version here.
For those of us who are adverse to mess or in a time crunch, cooking with parchment paper is a must. After discovering all the different meal variations that you can create without additional dirty dishes, you'll wonder why this cooking method isn't used by everyone you know!