"En papillote" is French for "in parchment" and refers to a method of baking something (usually either fish or poultry) in a little pouch of parchment paper. You add whatever spices, herbs or flavorings you like and the food ends up steaming in its little pocket in the oven, keeping the flesh moist and tender and flavoring it with whatever aromatics you've chosen to add.
I have clipped a number of different recipes that use en papillote over the years but had never actually tried one out before this. I would definitely do this again -- not only is it simple and easy, I also love the aesthetic of these neat little packages of yumminess. I could see this being a fun thing to make for a dinner party -- each guest gets their own little pouch of delicious, steaming food.
I used unbleached parchment paper since bleach just can't be a good thing when it comes to steaming food...
Although I went with a fairly traditional, French-inspired selection of herbs and flavorings for this first trial run, I am excited to try out a bunch more exotic pairings like mahi mahi fillets with coconut milk and red curry paste - simple and delicious!
Here's a little photo tour of the process.
Poulet en Papillote -- Chicken Baked in Parchment
* 4 free-range, organic, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
* 8 sprigs of fresh thyme, washed (you can also use rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, savory, etc., it's totally up to you)
* 4 shallots or two small onions, sliced
* Juice of one lemon
* 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
* 2 tsps white wine or marsala
* 2 tsps pale ale honey mustard by Sierra Nevada (this is truly delicious stuff)
* 2 Tbsps olive oil plus a little extra for drizzling
* Sea salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry.
2. Mix the olive oil with the mustard, garlic, lemon juice, wine, and some salt and pepper. On a heavy baking sheet, lay out 4 sheets of parchment paper roughly 10 inches square. Fold each sheet in half, making a crease to make sure that the fold sticks. Spoon a little of the oil/mustard/garlic mixture onto one half of each square of parchment paper (place it where you'll be putting the chicken breast) then scatter the sliced shallot or onion over it to create a flavorful bed for the chicken breast.
3. Place each chicken breast on one half of the parchment squares and spoon the mixture equally over each breast. Top each breast with two thyme sprigs and drizzle a little more olive oil over top.
4. Fold the parchment paper over and crimp the three sides together to make a neat pocket that will keep all the juices in while cooking. It can be a little challenging to get these closed up tight but keep working at it (you can crimp the sides if that helps) to make sure you've got a good seal as you want the chicken breasts to steam in these little pouches.
5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove, open the pouches and serve!