There are a lot of advantages to cooking food wrapped up in foil. First and foremost, it keeps whatever's inside moist and tender. Second, you can cook individual portions and customize them (extra green beans for one person, a few more potatoes for another). Finally, clean-up is a dream!
Wrapping food up to seal in moisture and flavor before cooking (steaming, baking, and grilling are popular cooking methods for such packets) it is a time-worn technique. The wrapping material may vary—banana leaf, corn husk, parchment paper, aluminum foil—but the method remains the same.
The classic French method is often called en papillote. And it is most often used to cook fish. The good news is: you can cook pretty much anything in a packet: it's all about timing.
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A+ Shrimp Boil
This whole new way to cook a shrimp boil has several advantages: ease of prep, ease of clean-up, ease of custom portions. Shrimp, corn, potatoes, a few slices of smoked sausage...all seasoned with Old Bay. It tastes just like summer, but you can pull it together any time of year.
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Get experimental using this basic technique, adding the herbs, spices, and vegetables you like to create the fish foil packet you crave. Keep it seasonal with asparagus spears and new potatoes in spring, corn and tomatoes, and green beans in summer, or peppers and okra in early fall.
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Baked Seafood Spaghetti
This Italian classic is a delicious and impressive option for dinner. Serve in one giant pile family-style for an impressive reveal of the packet's contents to the table, or create individual portions for everyone to open on their own. Feel free to experiment with the mix of shellfish depending on what looks good at the fish counter.
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Bell pepper, onion, and oregano give these halibut fillets cooked in foil lots of flavor. Serve alongside rice for a truly perfect pairing, or add some slices of par-boiled potatoes to soak up the delicious aromatics alongside the fish.
If you have trouble finding halibut, use any other meaty white fish, such as sea bass.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Catfish with Lemon
A melange of vegetables turn simple catfish fillets packets into dinner. Add a few par-boiled potatoes to round things out, if you like, or serve with rice or chunks of crusty bread.
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Turn these yummy dilled potatoes into a full dinner by adding some chicken or sausage to the mix. Or, prepare things alongside any fish dish you can imagine—something about these little potatoes and dill make them divine with fish and seafood.
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This recipe may be written to be grilled, but the orange-and-yogurt coated salmon will be just as good if that foil packet is tossed in a hot oven. The packets can be prepared and the sauce added to the fish up to a few hours before cooking, if you like—prepare the packets, chill them in the fridge, and then pop them in a preheated oven when you're ready to eat.
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This onion-rubbed chuck roast gets wonderfully tender with the power of foil. Turn it into a complete meal by tucking potatoes or other root vegetables in the foil packet alongside the meat. If you're a stickler for including green vegetables, consider tossing broccoli or Brussels sprouts in there.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Red Snapper Veracruz
The red snapper used here gets topped with salsa, enclosed in foil, and baked until everything is just a flavorful as can be making individual fish dinners with fairly little effort.
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Chuck steak gets a nice long, slow time to tenderize wrapped up in foil with root vegetables for a meaty, yet cozy dinner. This dish is an excellent example of how foil packet cooking needs not limit itself to fish and seafood, ideal as it is for those delicate foods. Yet the wrapping of foil and containing moisture works for longer cooking of beef, too, breaking down any toughness and keeping everything deliciously juicy.
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Thai Baked Fish
Coconut milk keeps this fish packet moist and flavorful. Serve with rice (consider coconut rice), and a stir-fry of vegetables or just a green tossed salad to round things out.
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Often called paper-wrapped chicken, foil works just as well to enclose this insanely tender rendition of chicken covered in a sweet, spicy, super sticky sauce.