It has been a long time since I have cooked anything en papillote. To cook something en papillote means that you are cooking it in a parchment packet—although these days it is more common to use aluminum foil. As I was looking for dinner ideas, I came across several recipes like this, but none that matched what I wanted, so I just took out on my own.
Note: If you are not a French trained chef or a master at origami, foil is simply easier to deal with than paper and far more forgiving.
While you may cook a whole dish for all of your dinners in one large container, it is more common to make individual parcels. Whatever you are cooking steams in the foil envelope and it also holds in aromatic volatiles that are lost in other cooking methods. The payoff is when your dinners open their packets at the table and gets the wonderful aroma all at once.
When you are cooking only one ingredient—say chicken, with maybe some herbs and butter—it is fairly easy to know when to take the packet out of the oven. As you start layering ingredients—say adding potatoes—it gets more complicated. Will the chicken be done and the potatoes underdone or will the potatoes be tender, but the chicken be overcooked and tough?
Some experimentation is necessary, until you find the right balance. Slicing the potatoes very thinly or par-cooking them may solve this particular problem. As you add further ingredients it becomes even more complex, but the payoff is worth it—even partial successes turn out wonderfully.
One problem I was experimenting with today was trying to thicken the flavorful au jus at the bottom of the parcel. My thought was that if I added beurre manié—a paste of butter and flour—it would act to make the au jus into more of a gravy. I would rate this experiment as a partial success.
Karl’s Peach Chicken and Potatoes en Papillote
Note: The ingredients list is for a single packet—to make it easy to scale up to the number of dinners you are planning to serve.
Ingredients Per packet
1 sheet of aluminum foil (~14×14 inches)
2 Tbs. beurre manié
1 Tbs. butter softened
1 Tbs. AP flour
4-5 slices of Yukon gold potato (¼ inch thick and 2-3 in. diameter) or any waxy potato
Pepper and salt to taste
2-3 slices yellow onion (⅛ inch thick)
1 chicken thigh, cut in half
¼ white peach, peeled and sliced
1 Tbs. brandy
1. Lay the foil on a flat surface and spread half of the beurre manié in a 4 inch stripe down the middle of the foil.
2. Shingle the potatoes over the butter mixture.
Tip: This means to overlap the slices like a roof shingle.
Note: This is an individual serving, if you have a hungry diner or someone limiting their starch intake you may add more or fewer slices of potato.
3. Spread the rest of the beurre manié over the potatoes.
4. Sprinkle some pepper and salt over the potatoes.
5. Shingle the onions over the potatoes.
6. Lay the chicken thigh halves—in a line—over the onions.
7. Sprinkle the herbs and some more pepper and salt over the chicken.
8. Lay the peach sliced over the chicken.
Tip: You should now have a sausage shaped stack of vegetables and chicken.
9. Lift up the ends of the foil on the long ends of the stack and crimp the foil together.
Tip: As you do this the free edges should rise up to form an elongated bowl.
10. Before all of the edges of the foil come together at the top, pour a tablespoon of brandy over the peaches.
11. Take the loose edges of the foil and crimp them over to seal the packet.
Note: All of the steps up to this point may be done hours or even the day before the dinner. You may freeze the packet to make a quick easy meal for later.
12. Preheat an oven to 400º F.
13. Place the packet(s) on a lipped baking sheet and bake for 25-3 minutes.
Tip: From frozen 40-45 minutes.
14. Serve the pouches—still sealed—on the individual dinners plates.
Tip: A green salad and crusty bread—to soak up the au jus—are good sides to accompany this dish.