Cooking foods en papillote—which means the food is sealed up in packages to steam in their own flavorful liquids—is a cooking technique that can be written off as "fussy diet food."
But when I came home from a memorable dinner a couple weekends ago, I was delighted to see my leftover goodies wrapped up in bamboo leaf like a little present. After eating the contents, the empty bamboo wrapper begged to be recycled, so I launched myself into a weeklong en papillote fest. (My husband was going out of town—what else was I supposed to do?)
At dinner, my kids started a guessing game called, "guess food?" Maybe they didn't love each dish, but who doesn't like unwrapping a little package, especially if it smells really good? I learned that the en papillote method isn't actually all that fussy.
There are a few rules of thumb to follow, but once you wrap everything up, the aromatic moist heat inside the package takes over to gently cook what's inside and infuse it with flavor.
And while it's an ideal low-fat cooking method, it works equally well with the addition of rich butter and cream sauces. What I like most about this method, though, is how the pure flavors of the ingredients mingle with one another to create a delicate and aromatic dish.
Learn the rules of cooking food en papillote in this slideshow.
About the author: Kumiko writes the blog Recipe Interrupted. She believes that having a few cooking techniques under your belt can help make home cooking creative and easy, and is excited to share these basics here on her regular column Technique of the Week. A graduate of Brown University, the Institute of Culinary Education, and a mother of two hungry girls, Kumiko is always trying to keep her Brooklyn kitchen smelling of something good.