My intentions for dinner last night was to cook up a little store-bought fresh tortellini stuffed with cheese in some alfredo sauce and serve it alongside grilled or baked chicken breasts with a little herbs de Provence seasoning. But, as is how life just goes sometimes, one little hiccup after another popped up and before I knew it, it was 6:30 pm and I didn't have a thing started for dinner. I'm not going to lie, I got a little frazzled wondering what I would be able to do with my chicken breasts so that I could have dinner on the table by 7pm. Then it hit me: papillote!
Papillote, (or al cartoccio in Italian), is a French method of cooking in which the food is placed in a folded and sealed pouch of parchment paper and then baked. The pouch holds in moisture to steam the food in it`s own juices, and it embodies the essence of fresh, healthy cooking. Beyond that, cooking in a papillote makes everything from preparation to clean-up, (and everything in between), a heightened culinary experience for the everyday gourmet. Cooking in a parchment paper pouch (papillote), elevates many favourite foods including fish, chicken or vegetables, to a whole new level by intensifying the foods` natural flavours and sealing all of the juices in. Given that the food is actually steamed, it also cuts cooking time drastically.
I rummaged through my refrigerator for inspiration, and trust me, when I say rummaged, I do mean rummaged. For whatever reason, the items in our refrigerator are in a perpetual balancing act. Pull something out the wrong way, and everything comes tumbling out, leaving one at a complete loss as to how it will all fit back in. But I digress....I found a small container of leftover black olive tapanade from the Tapanade Bruschetta I had made for Date Night at Home this past Saturday. It wasn`t enough to use for my chicken for dinner, but it gave me all of the inspiration that I needed. I quickly pulsed up 1/2 cup of black olives with one clove of garlic, 1/2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and drained, 1/2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice and 2 Tbsp of olive oil and was ready to start my papillote.
I tore off four pieces of parchment paper around 12 inches in length, one for each breast. I drizzled a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in the center of the parchment paper, doing one `papillote`at a time, about twice the size of the chicken breast. I slid the breast around in the oil and then flipped it over to coat it with oil on the other side. Placing it just off center, I spooned a small amount of the black olive tapanade onto the parchment paper, laying sliced white button mushrooms on top of that, and sprinkling on about a teaspoon of finely chopped chives. I placed the chicken breast on top of the chives, spread another spoonful of black olive tapanade on top of the breast, placed a few thin slices of sweet orange pepper on top of that, and sprinkled on a little white wine before folding up the edges of my parchment paper to form the papillote. (If you're not familar with making a papillote, watch this video....it's not my video, but this is how I learned how to do a papillote!).
Chicken prepped for papillote
I placed all of the papillote onto a baking sheet and placed them in a preheated 425 degree Fahrenheit oven to bake for 15 - 20 minutes. While the Tapanade Chicken Papillote were baking, I made my alfredo sauce and cooked my cheese filled tricolour toreillini for my side of Tricolour Tortellini Alfredo. Alfredo sauce is perhaps one of the easiest sauces to make, at least in my opinion. First I heated 3 Tbsp of olive oil in medium sauce pan over medium high heat. I whisked in 3 Tbsp of flour and whisked that until it was foamy, then added in 1 clove of minced garlic. When the garlic was fragrant, I whisked in 3 cups of 0.5% milk, (you can use whatever milk you have on hand...I try to reduce the fat in our diet wherever I can, hence why I use 0.5%), one cup at a time. When the sauce was thickening up, I added a little bit of freshly ground black pepper and about 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg, and then whisked in a handful of grated parmesan cheese, reduced the heat and let my sauce simmer while I prepared the tortellini. I used store bought fresh tortellini which cut my cooking time down to under 8 minutes. When my pasta was cooked, I drained in and added it to the alfredo sauce to keep warm.
I had just added the cooked tortellini to the alfredo sauce when the timer for my oven went off indicating that the Tapanade Chicken Papillote were read. The aroma from those little pouches when I took them out of the oven was phenomenal, but whatever you do, don`t open the pouches! Papillote are meant to be opened at the table to allow everyone to smell the wonderful aroma when it opens in front of them.
Plating couldn`t have been simpler...a scoop or two of the Tricolour Tortellini Alfredo, sprinkled with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, laying next to the parchment paper pouch. To open the pouch, the recipient simply tears it with their fingers or knife. (I prefer a `hands on`approach, but to each his own!). This meal was prepped in under 10 minutes and cooked in 15 minutes. The flavours were spectacular but the biggest thrill of all is when you open up the papillote and all of that aroma-filled steam fills your senses.
Papillote is an excellent way to cook for one, two or a crowd. It`s a simple yet elegant culinary tradition that creates dishes that will impress a table full of discerning dinner guests but it`s also a more satisfying and nutritious alternative to a frozen dinner-for-one!
Tapanade Chicken Papillote with side of Tricolour Tortellini Alfredo....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!