Lately I’ve been obsessed with the most inane of kitchen tools. Though “tool” may, on the surface, appear to be too powerful a category to place this object in, but tool, I dare say it is! I might even go further than that in fact and call it my go-to cooking contraption. My ace-in-the-hole, if you will. My fool proof, fail save, instantly successful meal creator extraordinaire….To coin a turn of phrase from my beloved TV show, “Friends”, this item really has become my very own version of a “moist-maker”! What is this fantastical tool of mine that parades around my pantry and perks up my plated dishes I hear you ask?! Why, it’s none other than the practically perfect (in every way) parchment paper! Parchment paper is way way WAAAAY under-rated in the world of cooking in my humble opinion. It does get some love every now and then, but it’s pure perfection and we don’t give it enough kudos for all it can do to improve our culinary creations!
I started using parchment paper a few years ago to bake chicken breasts and haven’t looked back since. I was finding that when I baked simple fuss-free chicken breasts with the express intention of later adding them to a pasta dish or salad, the chicken would often end up being dry and chewy… Not what one wants out of one’s chicken! I knew there had to be a better way and low and behold, I found that the priceless paper did the trick! I found a French recipe that described how to bake chicken breasts “en papillote” (in parchment….and yes, everything does sound better in French…but I digress….). The basic recipe I have followed for years to get instantly moist and flavorful chicken without fail each and every time is as follows:
Heat the oven to 375°F and prepare the pan: Heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position. Rub the baking dish and one side of the parchment paper with butter (this prevents the chicken from sticking). Butter is the KEY here people. I’ve read several other recipes that say olive oil can be used, but I’m telling you….butter butter butter!
Prepare the chicken: Pat the chicken dry and season with salt, pepper, and any other favorites. Place in the baking dish (you have the option to tuck more fresh herbs or lemon wedges around the chicken at this stage if you have them handy).
Cover with the parchment: Lay the parchment, butter-side down, over the chicken. Tuck the edges into the pan and press the parchment down so that it's snug around the chicken. The chicken breasts should be completely covered with the parchment.
Bake until the chicken is 165°F: Cooking time is usually 30 to 40 minutes.
Boom. Chicken perfection ala parchment! And I’ve gone on to be even more of a parchment preacher as I’ve learned more….there are parchment parcels people! (I’m all over my alliteration here!) You can literally make your own meal inside parchment paper and even serve it within the paper itself for an extra flair! I have learned how to make my own love-heart parcels and found this little online tutorial to be one of my favorites to create an entire meal of salmon, potatoes, and veggies ala parchment.
I was recently in Sweden with my husband and while visiting friends, we had one of the most tasty midnight meals (jetlag was heavily involved) I’ve ever had the pleasure of sampling. It was fresh cod caught hours earlier seasoned with lots of fresh dill and dill seed, salt, pepper, lemon, and lots of butter. The fish was parceled in parchment with pre-boiled potatoes and cooked in packets on the highest shelf of the BBQ at a low heat for approximately 15-20 minutes. The buttery flavorfulness of the potatoes paired perfectly with the mild and tender fish surrounded in the slightly bitter aroma of the dill. The moment I got to burst open my very own little parcel and experience all the flavors as once was truly a magical one. I will remember our midnight meal for a very long time and it is all thanks to parchment!
Have you tried any parchment recipes? If so, share with us! I am always looking for more! If not, download this week’s Pause. On. Purpose. Sheet (P.O.P.Sheet) for inspiration!