En Papillote: Healthier Meals, Full Steam Ahead
David Landers, CCC
This month, we had the privilege of interviewing one of our very own Campbell Chefs about healthy cooking techniques. Here's what Chef David Landers had to say:
One of the foundational healthy cooking techniques is a type of steaming called en papillote; literally translated from French it means "in paper." It is a fitting name as the food is wrapped in parchment paper and then baked in the oven. This approach creates a single-portion steamer that gently cooks the food without added fat while trapping in the flavor and nutrients. When done properly the steam builds up inside the paper causing it to swell and this puffed up balloon can be served simply by cutting a slit in the top table-side releasing all of the wonderful aromas. It is very dramatic and quite impressive, which adds to the appeal of this cooking technique. Let's walk step by step through the en papillote cooking method.
1. Prepare the parchment paper
First of all, you need a large piece of parchment paper, approximately 2.5 times as large as a single portion of food. Cut the piece of parchment paper into a heart shape, lightly brushing one side with oil. This step creates a slight barrier to water, preventing the paper from becoming soaked too quickly. Another option, though not as attractive, is to use tin foil instead of parchment paper. It will do the same job of trapping the steam and will never become water-logged.
2. Select the ingredients
Choosing the right ingredients is key. This is a very quick-cooking approach and so it works best with tender proteins such as fish and shellfish. Steaming is a gentle cooking method that brings out the natural flavors of foods. Fish is a good choice because its delicate flavor will really shine here.
The accompanying ingredients, such as julienned vegetables (matchstick size), must be small enough to cook at the same rate as the fish. In some cases the vegetables can be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiling water, to ensure proper doneness.
The moisture in the fish and vegetables alone is not enough to make the steam we need and so another key ingredient is a flavorful liquid. For this recipe a good choice is Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice as it will provide a big hit of flavor without adding too much salt or fat. Other great options include Swanson® Unsalted stock, V8 V-Fusion® or white wine.
Fresh herbs, such as parsley, chervil, or cilantro, will go a long way in providing flavor and are a go-to ingredient for delicious cooking. In this dish they have an added bonus of providing color and visual appeal.
3. Assemble the packet
Assembly is the next important part to cooking en papillote because the dish will be served directly from the oven in the parchment packet. First lay the oiled, heart-shaped parchment paper on a baking tray, oiled side up. Then season your vegetables with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and half of the herbs. Toss them around to make sure they are evenly coated and place enough for one portion on one half of the paper. Bunch them up to create a bed for your fish and leave about two inches between the food and the edge of the paper. Place the seasoned fish on the vegetables and sprinkle on the remaining herbs. Add a splash of the flavorful liquid on top of the fish, just enough to add moisture, and prepare to seal the paper.
The goal in sealing the packet is to fold the edges of the paper in an attractive way that will be strong enough to hold in the steam. Fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables so that it resembles a teardrop. Next, starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge towards the center. Fold over again to create a seal. Then continue with this method along the length of the parchment packet folding each section twice to make an attractive edge. When you get to the point of the heart, twist and fold to finish the seal.
4. Bake your dinner
Your packet is now ready for the oven or it can be stored in the fridge until you are ready to cook the meal. Bake the packet in a 425°F oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The packet will puff and brown while in the oven and as the steam builds. When cooked remove from the oven and carefully place the packet on a plate. With a sharp knife or scissors cut an "X" on the top and fold back the edges for a dramatic presentation and a delicious, healthy meal.
This is one of my favorite summertime recipes using en papillote and it is extremely flavorful and easy to prepare.
Chef David Landers, CCC earned his A.O.S degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and his B.S. degree in food science from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He is a Certified Chef de Cuisine through the American Culinary Federation and a member of the Research Chefs Association. As a Sr. Chef for the Campbell's Culinary and Baking Institute (CCBI) Chef David works closely with many brands to develop new culinary inspired foods.