Getting healthy meals on the table each night is one of the biggest challenges that my clients are faced with – maybe it’s a challenge for you too – so I was really excited to come across this amazingly simple cooking technique that dramatically reduces the fat and carb count of your favorite recipes!
I’m referring to the foolproof technique of baking in parchment paper packets, also called “en papillote.” Meat, veggies and flavors are wrapped together in parchment paper and then baked in the oven. Steam is trapped inside of the parchment packet to magically produce very moist and tender meals.
Here are the top 4 things to love about cooking en papillote:
It’s SUPER healthy!
There’s no need to add fat or oils to your en papillote dinner, since steam is used to do the cooking. Reducing the added fats is a great way to lighten the calorie count, helping you to lose fat and lean out quicker! It’s also quite easy to create a complete en papillote meal without the grains, added starches, or calorie-filled sauces that your favorite take-out meal contains. Keeping it light and tight!
It’s REALLY easy and quick!
Cooking en papillote is really simple enough for a child to make. All you do is wrap the ingredients up in parchment paper and place it in the oven. The whole process is incredibly quick and painless!
The variations are ENDLESS!
There’s no limit to the combinations of ingredients and flavors that you could create while cooking en papillote. As you’ll discover below, designing an en papillote meal is as simple as picking your favorite protein, veggies and flavors. You’ll have fun coming up with new flavor combinations to try!
The clean up is FAST!
You know those days when you really don’t want to do dishes, and so you use paper plates for dinner? Cooking en papilote is the culinary equivalent to eating on paper plates. Since each portion is individually baked in parchment paper, the pan doesn’t even get dirty. Once you’re done enjoying your meal simply crumble up the parchment paper and throw it away!
Alright, now you understand why I’m so jazzed about cooking en papillote, and you probably want to give it a try. I’ve given you an exact recipe for Dijon Chicken with Sweet Potato and Green Beans to try below, and I’d also like to give you the simple 5-Step process for designing and cooking your own, unique en papillote dinners.
Step One: Choose Protein
Chicken is an obvious choice for cooking this way, since the steam injects so much moisture into the meat. When cooking chicken, always pound out the chicken, for a thinner breast and quicker cook time, or use thin fillet chicken. Chicken cook time is 30 minutes.
Shrimp is also a fantastic protein choice to be cooked en papillote. It gets plump and juicy and absorbs much of the flavor that you choose to combine it with. Shrimp cook time is 15 minutes.
A fillet of fish – either salmon or white fish – is another wonderful light choice for protein cooked en papillote. This is a great way to get some natural fish oils in your diet. Fish cook time is 20-25 minutes, depending on how thick the cut is.
It’s entirely possible to cook a really satisfying vegetarian meal en papillote. For protein you could use canned beans or tofu. Vegetarian cook time is 15 minutes.
Step Two: Choose Veggies
The sky is the limit when it comes to selecting veggies to be cooked en papillote. You could probably cook any veggie this way. Sweet potato, green beans, zucchini, butternut squash, broccoli, canned beans, mushrooms, cabbage, bell peppers, onions, cauliflower, kale, collards or spinach are all wonderful options.
Be aware of the size that you cut your veggies, as it needs to be able to finish cooking in the same time that the protein cooks. Thicker veggies like sweet potato, bell peppers or cauliflower need to be cut small in order to cook all the way through.
It’s possible to get creative with your veggie prep by shredded it like rice or running it through a spiral slicer to create veggie noodles!
Step Three: Choose Flavors
This is the fun step, adding the flavors and sauces that you love most. Think of the flavors of your favorite dinner recipes like BBQ sauce, teriyaki or Dijon, and combine one of these with a variety of fresh herbs and spices.
It’s important that your ingredients include enough moisture to create steam. Some veggies naturally contain enough moisture (like zucchini or butternut squash) while others (like sweet potato or green beans) will not contribute liquid to the packet. If you’re working with drier ingredients then make sure to add plenty of sauce or a tablespoon or so of liquid to each packet. You could drizzle a little chicken broth or a bit of wine.
Step Four: Wrap It
Cut four 12-by-16-inch pieces of parchment paper and fold each in half. Open the parchment paper and arrange ¼ of the veggie mixture in the center of the top half of each parchment. Generously season with salt and pepper. Top with the protein and flavors.
Fold the bottom half of the parchment paper over the protein and veggies. Start folding and crimping the parchment paper ends together from one end all the way around to the other end, creating a sealed envelope. Fold the end under the packet. The packet should be fully encased, with no breaks in the parchment paper for steam to escape – we need that steam as part of the cooking process! Place the packets on a pan.
Step Five: Bake It
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and calculate the bake time based on your protein choice above. There’s no way to check if your meat is finished cooking, since it’s wrapped up, so it’s better to cook it a little longer than not long enough. Serve the packets on plates, tearing them open just before serving.
I hope that you enjoy this healthy and fit cooking method and that you give it a try the next time that you plan to make dinner at home. Consistently eating light meals like this is the way to lose fat, build muscle, increase your energy and to feel awesome all around!