A Step-By-Step Guide to Cooking in Parchment Paper (en Papillote)

Parchment Cooked Rainbow Trout
Parchment Cooked Rainbow Trout istetiana/Getty Images
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    Cooking in Parchment is Easy and Healthy

    Cooking in a parchment paper envelope seals in flavors and juices and makes a beautiful presentation. From fish and seafood to chicken and vegetables, cooking en papillote (the French term for cooking in a pouch) is a healthy and versatile method. The process is simple, and if you don't have parchment paper, you can use aluminum foil. The important things are that there is a bit of liquid with the ingredients and that the pouch is tightly sealed.

    The beauty of cooking en papillote is that the food is essentially steamed, so there is no need for the addition of fats to help keep the ingredients moist. Cooking en papillote can be used for baking chicken breast or rejuvenating a fish dinner, for example. The last benefit of cooking in parchment is that there are no dishes to clean—serve each guest their own packet atop a plate and simply toss the paper when finished!

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    The First Cut and Fold

    It is easier to fold the envelope properly if you start with a square of parchment paper. Begin by cutting off a 16-inch square of parchment paper and folding it in half.

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    Cut Out a Heart Shape

    In order to fold up the packet in a traditional way, you will need to cut out a heart shape from the square. This is easily done by keeping the paper folded in half and cutting out one side of the heart.

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    Position the Primary Ingredient

    Unfold the paper so the heart is open and place the main ingredient (a piece of fish, chicken, or shellfish) to one side of the centerfold.

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    Add Any Additional Ingredients

    Place the remaining ingredients (vegetables, herbs, lemon slices) on top of the primary ingredient. Drizzle any liquid included in the recipe on top of the stack of food.

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    Make a Small Fold

    Close the heart, folding the empty side over the ingredients. Beginning at the top of the heart next to the fold, make a small fold downward.

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    Make Another Small Fold

    Make another small fold, overlapping and sealing the first one. You are beginning to close the open top of the heart, similarly to how you might seal the crusts of a pie.

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    Continue Making Folds

    Keep repeating this folding process, continuing to make folds, each overlapping the previous one. Stop when you get to the bottom point of the heart.

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    You Will End Up With a Tail

    What you will end up with at the bottom of the heart is kind of a tail. 

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    Fold the Tail Underneath

    Fold the little tail underneath, completing the seal. Repeat this process with any additional packets you are making. Now your pouches are ready to bake. Place them on a baking sheet and put in the preheated oven.

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    Cut Open the Package

    Once the packets are done, set them on individual plates. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut open the top of the package being careful not to burn yourself when the steam releases.