I always carve up roasts on a piece of folded-up-at-the-edges baking paper (so I can gather the juices and any gooey bits and scrape them into the gravy), and I often use it in place of tin foil to cover a dish that is to be slow-cooked (I wet the paper first, then tie it in place with string).
My favourite use for parchment paper, however, is for making paper parcels in which to cook vegetables, chicken and fish (and sometimes even fruit and chocolate). I love the crackling promise of a baked parcel, and the fragrant cloud that billows upwards as you gingerly tear open the paper to reveal the steamy treasures within.
Ingredients that cook in a fairly short space of time are ideally suited to being baked en papillote: tiny potatoes, baby or julienned vegetables, whole fish and fish fillets, boneless chicken breasts and all sorts of shellfish. A few judiciously chosen flavours are really all that is needed to bring out the best in ingredients so simply steamed with their own juices: a dab of butter, a lick of olive oil, some wine or stock or lemon juice, a few herbs, and salt and pepper. Here, I've used a single slice of lemon to infuse a fillet of beautiful fresh rainbow trout with its citrussy perfume, plus a little olive oil and a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs.
The only really important thing when baking food en papillote is to make sure you create a tight seal at the edges of the parcel. Although you can cut out any shape you desire, it's easiest to cut the paper into a large circle or oval, then to fold it in half over the filling to make a half-moon. Starting at one edge of the semi-circle, make a series of small overlapping pleats to the halfway mark. Do the same on the other side, then fold up the flap of paper where the two seams join and secure it with a paper clip (see photograph, below).
Once the parcels are baked, take them to the table immediately, while they are all puffy (warm your plates first in the oven, and make sure you have any accompaniments - such as sauces, bread or spuds - all ready to go).
Rainbow Trout en Papillote with Lemon and Herbs
4 fillets fresh rainbow trout, skin on or off, as you please
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely chopped dill
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely snipped French chives
2 Tbps (30 ml) finely chopped curly parsley
salt and milled black pepper
a little extra-virgin olive oil
2 thin slices lemon, each cut in half to form 4 half-moons
Heat the oven to 180 ºC and place a baking sheet in it to heat for at least 10 minutes. Cut out four large circles of greaseproof baking paper. Place a fillet of trout, skin-side down, on each one. Mix the herbs together, divide into four equal portions and scatter over the top of the fillets. Top each fillet with a lemon half-circle, season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Seal the edges of the paper parcels as described above, and secure with a paper clip. Slide the parcels onto the hot baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your fillets (the small one in the picture above took exactly 12 minutes). Serve immediately, with boiled new potatoes and a green salad.
Serves 4. Print Friendly