The Cowgirl Chef: Cooking en papillote

Posted Friday, Mar. 21, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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How to make a papillote “pouch”

1. Cut a piece of parchment paper 16 inches square. Fold in half, and cut out a large half-circle — in other words, once you cut this out, you will have a large half-circle folded over like a book.

2. Unfold into a full circle and put what you’ll be cooking on one half. Fold the other side over the top, like a book.

3. To seal the pouch, starting at one side, tightly fold over the edges, making about a 1/4-inch fold, rolling as you go, all the way to the other side. There will be a slight “tail,” which you should tuck underneath.

— Ellise Pierce

Salmon en papillote with tapenade

Makes 2 servings

• 2 big handfuls of baby spinach, uncooked

• 10 ounces wild salmon, cut into two pieces

• Homemade tapenade, recipe follows

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Cut out two pieces of parchment paper to make pouches (see how-to steps). To assemble, put half the spinach on one piece. Lay a piece of salmon on top, then a heaping tablespoon of tapenade on top of the salmon. Repeat with other paper. Fold up pouches.

3. Place packets on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes. Let rest 1 or 2 minutes before serving. Serve as is, allowing the diner to tear the package open.

Nutritional analysis per serving (including tapenade): 580 calories, 49 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 74 milligrams cholesterol, 750 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 75 percent of calories from fat.

Tapenade

Makes about 1 cup

• 1 clove garlic

• 5 large basil leaves

• 1 teaspoon capers

• 1 anchovy fillet (or 1 teaspoon paste)

• 5 ounces black olives, such as nicoise or Kalamata

• 1/3 cup olive oil

Chop everything by hand or do it the Cowgirl way: Put garlic in a small food processor and pulse a few times. Then add everything else, and pulse only until the olives are in small bits. You want this to be chunky, not pureed.

Shrimp and broccoli en papillote

Makes 2 servings

• 2 cups broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces

• 12 medium shrimp, shelled and with tails

• 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

• 1 teaspoon soy sauce

• 1 teaspoon sesame oil

• Red pepper flakes

• Toasted sesame seeds

• Chopped cilantro, for serving

• Lime wedges, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut out two pieces of parchment paper to make pouches (see how-to steps). To assemble, divide broccoli and shrimp between parchment pieces. Distribute ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil on each and toss so everything’s evenly coated. Lightly sprinkle with a few red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds. Fold up pouches.

3. Place packets on a baking sheet and cook 10 minutes. The packet will puff and brown when it is ready. Serve right away with cilantro and lime on the side.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 224 calories, 5 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 259 milligrams cholesterol, 443 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 22 percent of calories from fat.

Basque fish en papillote

Makes 2 servings

• 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc

• 1/2 cup water

• A few sprigs of fresh thyme

• 2 (6- to 8-ounce) sole or flounder fillets

• Sea salt and pepper

• Pinch piment d’Espelette or cayenne

• About 5 ounces chorizo, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put wine, water and a couple of sprigs of thyme in a small saucepan over medium heat and let reduce by half, about 5 to 10 minutes. Once it reduces, turn off heat and let cool.

2. Cut out two pieces of parchment paper to make pouches (see how-to steps). To assemble, place a fillet on each piece of paper; add a pinch of salt, pepper and piment d’Espelette to each, then layer chorizo on top with a couple sprigs of thyme. Pour half of the wine/water mixture on each fish. Fold up pouches.

3. Place packets on a baking sheet and cook 10 minutes. Serve in paper — that way, everyone can tear into their own.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 498 calories, 29 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 49 grams protein, 144 milligrams cholesterol, 1,081 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 56 percent of calories from fat.

— From “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent”

Chicken en papillote

Makes 2 servings

• 4 chicken legs

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Herbes de Provence

• 10 cherry tomatoes, halved

• 10 green olives, pitted

• 8 large basil leaves, roughly torn

• 2 tablespoons feta cheese crumbles

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Salt and pepper chicken legs and generously sprinkle with herbes de Provence. Cut out two pieces of parchment paper to make pouches (see how-to steps). To assemble, lay two legs on a piece of parchment, then add half of the tomatoes, olives, basil leaves and feta on top of and around chicken. Repeat with other paper and remaining ingredients. Fold up pouches.

3. Place pouches on a baking sheet and cook 30 to 45 minutes (the time will vary slightly depending on how big the chicken legs are; if you use another cut, such as a breast, it may take less time) or until you can smell the chicken and the top of the paper is slightly brown. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then serve unopened.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 324 calories, 18 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 859 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 51 percent of calories from fat.

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

The first time I cooked en papillote, the fancy-sounding French technique of baking with parchment-paper packets, I was desperately trying to impress a guy I was crazy about. I had this idea that if I could make a dinner that would make him swoon, then perhaps he would love me, too.

I had no recipe. Just this notion. I’d seen fish served this way in magazines but had never experienced it. Some people might’ve tried something simpler, something they already knew how to do. But I’d not managed to woo him with bread pudding with whiskey sauce or homemade ravioli with browned butter, and I needed to step up my game.

So I called a well-known Dallas restaurant and asked to speak to the chef. I didn’t know him and had never been to the restaurant — it was far too expensive for my meager budget. But he got on the phone right away and told me exactly what to do: First, pour some white wine and water in a saucepan with fresh herbs and let it reduce by half. Then pour this small bit of liquid over my fish on the parchment, roll it up tightly and let it cook until the paper browns. So I did this. It took less than 15 minutes to prepare.

The fish was perfect.

The date was not.

He and I didn’t last much longer, but I learned a good lesson. I now knew how to make fish en papillote, which, unlike so many romances, is truly a forever kind of thing, and something that works for one as well as two — or more.

Fish is one of easiest dishes to prepare this way. It works as easily with a larger portion served family-style as it does with individual ones. I’ve done it both ways.

What’s great about this technique, besides its wow-factor presentation, is that it uses no oil — the fish, chicken, shrimp or whatever you’re making cooks by steaming. Plus, there’s almost no mess to clean up, which is always a good thing.

Ellise Pierce is the Cowgirl Chef and author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25). www.cowgirlchef.com, @cowgirlchef.

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