Edenton streets are a little quieter these days, except for those on a mission for toilet paper at Food Lion. As we all hunker down and lay low while waiting for the virus to abate it’s a good time to enjoy an easy meal at home.

Sheet pan meals are currently very popular. Your entire meal from protein to vegetables to starches are all cooked on one pan for easy clean-up. But even easier than a sheet pan meal is cooking “en papillote.” This is a culinary term for cooking in paper, specifically parchment paper. The term in Italian is “al cartoccio.” This method of cooking is really just an easy way to seal in moisture and steam the food. Ingredients are placed onto a piece of parchment and then folded and sealed into a neat little parcel and roasted in the oven. En papillote was popular in restaurants years ago. When served the paper is puffed and browned and then cut open to expose the sight and aroma of a delicious entree.

This method of cooking brings back memories of Girl Scout camping trips where we prepared foil packet dinners over an open campfire with embers sparking like fireflies in the smoke-filled moonlight. And although cooking en papillote is just as easy and fun, it can become oh so flavorful. Usually lighter proteins are accompanied by aromatics, herbs and infused oils and wine.

To prepare a meal en papillote fold a 14- by 12-inch piece of baking parchment paper in half lengthwise. With clean, sharp kitchen shears cut the parchment into a heart shape. Arrange vegetables and aromatics such as onion and garlic on one side of the paper. Top these with fish, shrimp, chicken or any thin cut of meat you choose. Add olive oil, butter, and a splash of wine or stock to steam the ingredients and create a sauce. Season with salt, pepper and herbs. You can brush the edges of the paper with beaten egg white for a tighter seal, but it is not necessary. Fold the other side of the heart over the food and working from one end, begin tightly folding the open edge of the paper. Continue folding the paper’s open edge to form a seal.

Transfer the packet to a sheet pan and bake. You can also substitute the parchment with aluminum foil which can be grilled as well as baked. Packets can also be made ahead a few hours until ready to bake for dinner.

This week I have included a recipe for Fish en Papillote.


Cheryl Orr is the owner of Cotton Gin Inn.