En Papillote: It’s Cooking for One at Its Best
And it’s the perfect way to save on washing up
Sheet pan dinners and slow cooker meals save the day when you need to feed an army of guests. Yet there are times when it’s just yourself for dinner.
And you really only want to have one portion of fish, chicken, or vegetables for supper — without the hassle of cleaning up and eating leftovers. No strings attached.
Cooking en papillote answers both pain points with ease and elegance.
Yet you might not be familiar with the classic French cooking technique.
Or you may have already caught a few glimpses of the finished product in older magazines or cookbooks.
Now, you’ve stumbled upon this article.
So what is en papillote all about? And why is it so fantastic for single-serving and dishwasher-free meals?
The answer is beautifully wrapped in steam.
What Does Cooking En Papillote Entail?
While you may not have the translation on hand, cooking en papillote directly translates to “in wrapper” in French. And this is your first and greatest clue.
Besides the reference to the material choice and cooking direction, the technique is all about the magic of trapping steam within an envelope.
Inside the envelope of parchment paper or aluminum foil, the liquids turn into steam, which, in turn, directly cooks the food.
With nowhere to go, the steam essentially creates a self-contained sauna-like situation. And similar to a relaxing spa visit, the steam is a gentle treatment.
Wrapped up in an air-tight envelope and placed in a hot oven, cooking en papillote is yet primarily designed for vegetables and lighter cuts of protein, such as chicken or fish.
What Makes This Method Ideal for “Singles Night”?
The classic French method has an old-school charm about it. And it’s aesthetically beautiful and functionally timeless.
The parcel makes for a delicate and endearing presentation, even if it’s just for your own pleasure.
But it also has a contemporary comfort to it: Not a whole lot of mental thought or elbow grease is required on your part for a satisfying meal.
Because there are no dirty pans to clean, the washing-up part is, well, as simple as discarding the paper.
To that end, it’s worth reiterating that when you’re on your own, you really don’t want to struggle with burnt pans and heavy cookware.
Even though this preparation is on the lighter side, it still makes any dinner of the week feel special.
Whether it’s delicate filets of fish, a medley of vegetables, or slices of chicken breast — en papillote, they’re all winners.
What’s more, when you cook vegetables, meat, and fish — along with herbs, spices, and wine — in a tight package, the items effectively use their own moisture content to do the cooking. It’s brilliant.
And so, while butter is flavour, additional fat is not at all necessary, which can be considered a plus.
Ironically, this also makes the method one of the least French by convention.
Further on the health front, cooking en papillote also keeps most of the nutrients and vitamins of the food intact.
And when you have individual portions in your control, you need not have the temptation or the fear of overindulging.
It’s your perfect opportunity to unapologetically enjoy one piece of salmon, surrounded by a few vegetables — nothing more, nothing less.
The next time you’re alone for the night, wrap your dinner like a present using classic French techniques with contemporary culinary convenience.