Are you too busy to cook? Do you like to come home to a healthy, delicious, and elegant meal? Even if you can't cook, make toast, or boil water, I can show you how to shine in the culinary light as a gourmet cook. With this method of "en Papillote" cooking, you can create meals that will not only dazzle you, but anyone else lucky enough to share in your meal creation.
"En Papillote" is a French term used in the culinary world for cooking in parchment paper. It is intended that the food be cooked in the rolled paper and opened at the table to let the aromas of the food impress the recipient. This parchment paper does not burn while it is in the oven. Bakers use parchment paper, to line their bake pans so cookies or pastry do not stick to the pan while baking them.
I will substitute aluminum foil for the parchment paper. I find the foil easy to work with and more durable. You can use regular aluminum foil or the heavy duty aluminum foil. With the foil you can sculpt and design your own creation. You can sculpt animals, plants, or any theme you create. The swan is an easy one to shape. I demonstrated the swan for this column.
This recipe and cooking method will also allow you to prepare meals ahead of time. You can spend an hour of preparation in the kitchen and have meals prepped for the week. Sounds good, doesn't it?
On Sunday evening, after dinner, I prepare my pouches for the week. It usually takes me an hour. I use a bag of frozen vegetables which helps me save time. I add some sliced onions, canned chopped tomatoes or cut up fresh veggies. I mix and match, and believe me I am amazed at how successful these little foil pouches turn out.
Sometimes I cook a few extra pouches to take as lunches. Once you have prepared the pouches you will be able to relax the rest of the week. Instead of having to prepare each days dinner, you will do it all at once. I always make at least one extra foil pouch to share with a friend or neighbor. Sometimes I will bring one to my day job and share with a co-worker that I do not know very well. This is my way of keeping the Aloha Spirit alive. Live Aloha! I hope this will be something you will also adopt in your life. It is pretty amazing how food brings people together.
When you return home from a day of work, school, shopping, doing volunteer work, or what ever - just pop a foil bird pouch in the oven, and an hour later you will be enjoying a delicious meal. I usually read the paper, open mail, or throw a load of laundry in the washer while the dinner is cooking. Ideally I would like to be soaking in a tub of bubbles sipping a cool beverage. On some days I actually do just that. Having my meals prepared ahead gives me a few extra hours in my day. Now that's a bonus for the busy person.
The best part of this cooking method is the easy clean up part. No messy pans to wash, no dishes to fuss with. More time added to your day. If you live in an area where they recycle foil, you can do something good for the environment too.
You can eat the contents right out of the pouch or empty the meal on to a plate. The juices from the veggies mixed with the herbs and spices will tantalize most palates. The presentation is impressive. I once shaped dinosaurs with mouths that were open. I made a different dinosaur shape for each of my guests. I placed the appropriate one in front of the guest who most resembled that particular dinosaur. Herbivorous or carnivorous?
Be creative! You can vary the veggies that you put in the pouches, as well as the spices you choose for variety. Mix and match your veggies. I put extra veggies as they shrink in the cooking process. Remember to make an extra pouch or two to give away to a neighbor or someone who may not be the fabulous cook that you are. After you make this dish, you will hear the raves.
Bake pan, aluminum or glass type
Pam Cooking Spray, or Olive Oil, or Butter
Ingredients Needed Boneless chicken, thighs or breasts, fish if you prefer. Garlic. I use it as a side dish. 1 bag assorted frozen vegetables and/or Assorted fresh vegetables: zucchini, onions, mushrooms, squash, olives, tomatoes, etc. Canned tomatoes or mushrooms are optional Herbs such as oregano, parsley, rosemary, herbs de Provence, basil or any you choose Dry white wine or cooking sherry optional Salt and pepper
Some vegetables don't work well with this cooking method. Examples are potatoes, asparagus, any delicate veggies because they will turn to mush. You can add cooked rice in the pouch to make a platform under the chicken.
Prepare any ingredients you will be using and arrange in assembly line fashion. Tear off foil pieces at least 24 inches long. Tear as many pieces of foil as the amount of pouches you will be making. For each pouch you create you may choose some extra reinforcement of the pouch with a smaller piece of foil underneath the pouch. This is to prevent tears in the pouch. You can do this after making the initial food pouch. Sometimes I put so many veggies in the pouch that it bulges and needs some support on the sides.
You can freeze some pouches for future meals. I recommend wrapping the foil pouches in plastic wrap or plastic bags. They can be used right from the freezer or thawed on the day of use in the refrigerator. If you cook them from their frozen state, add 15 minutes of cooking time in the oven.
Place one piece of chicken or fish in the center of the foil sheet. Add veggies on top or underneath the chicken. Sprinkle chicken with herbs and spices. Add some oil or butter on top. You can use Pam as a substitute underneath the chicken so it won't stick to the foil. Wrap up the sides of the pouch and make the shape you choose. You might try the bird shape, as it is always a winner. Seal the contents of each pouch completely. This recipe only works if the foil is sealed tightly so that in the cooking process the veggies are steamed and the contents are infused with aromas of the herbs. The moisture from the veggies will make a light sauce inside the pouch.
Now you are ready to cook your foil creation.
Cook at 350 degrees for one hour. No need to preheat your oven. Place the foil pouches on a bake sheet and place in the oven. You can shorten cooking time by using a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. I like the slower cooking method. It adds some time to my relaxation activity. Good luck with your foil pouch endeavor.
One last reflection that has come to my mind is a quote from a book a dear friend gave me on my 50th birthday. It seems appropriate to use with the above cooking method. You will be trying new things and sharing with others that you love, so here is the thought for the day. "You will find as you look back in life that the moments that stand out above everything else are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love." I encourage you to create in that spirit of love and share freely with others.
Feel free to leave a comment on this column to let me know how your foil pouch creation turned out. I will reply to your questions and emails. Thanks for reading my column. Mahalo for spreading the Aloha Spirit where ever you live.
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