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A FRESH Point of View: Cooking en Papillote

Sounds fancy, huh?  Let me translate.  Cooking en papillote simply means “cooking in a packet.”  It is an easy cooking technique to use at home that will enable you to “wow” your family and guests!  It essentially involves wrapping food in parchment paper and baking in a hot oven.

The history of this technique dates back to France in the 20th century and gained wide popularity in the 60s and 70s during some of the more dramatic healthy cooking movements.  Why?  Because this method allows you to get maximum flavor from your food with little to no added fat.

So how does it work?  Foods cook quickly in packets because the steam is trapped inside and conducts heat. The ideal choices for this type of preparation are foods that tend to cook relatively quickly such as fish, shellfish, chicken and vegetables.  Add aromatic ingredients to flavor the dish such as ginger, white wine, stock, herbs, and scallions. Lay your ingredients on a section of parchment, wrap them up tightly and bake.

To ensure vegetables cook through, slice them thinly and evenly. Also, be sure to close, or crimp, the parchment packet completely so steam does not escape while the food cooks. Never open the parchment packet to check on the food.

Now onto the packets. I could devote an entire blog to teaching the technique of creating a packet from parchment paper on a roll.  But alas, I do not have to!  At FRESH, we carry an indispensable preparation tool called Culinary Parchment Cooking Bags.  Made by PaperChef, these bags make everything from prep time to clean-up super simple and non-fussy.

Let’s eat!  This is one of my very favorite recipes from the very talented Giada de Laurentis.  I hope you enjoy!

Ginger Sea Bass over Wilted Greens

6 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
4 (5 oz) sea bass fillets
4 tsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup dry marsala wine
8 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 lime, quartered
2 Tbs thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Cut 4 (12-inch) square pieces of aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Working with 1 foil sheet at a time, place the foil sheets on the work surface. Place 1 1/2 cups of spinach in the center of each foil sheet. Top with a sea bass fillet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic, then drizzle 2 tablespoons of Marsala, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil over the fish and spinach. Gather the foil sheets over the fish. Fold in the foil edges and pinch tightly to seal. Place the foil packages on a heavy large baking sheet.

Bake until the spinach wilts and the fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer the packages to wide shallow bowls. Cool 5 minutes. Open package and fold down to reveal fish, being careful of hot steam. Squeeze the lime juice over the fish. Sprinkle the basil over and serve.

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