The dissertation has been pretty overwhelming lately. This is the big push before the defense so I haven’t had much time for all the things that I love like spending time with my friends, cooking, blogging, eating out and drinking.
I miss the drinking. I ran an errand the other day and saw some nice people drinking wine in the shade. I remember jealousy thinking, “I bet they don’t even appreciate that wine!” Suddenly, I was overcome with the desire to grab their glasses out of their hot little hands and go sprinting down the street.
I didn’t do it, but I sure wanted to.
No way did I think that I was going to be able to participate in the Daring Kitchen challenge this month either until I saw the challenge: cooking en papillote.
En papillote is a fancy schmancy way of saying that you cook something in a paper envelope. We’re not talking about any old paper here; we’re talking about parchment paper, also known as bakery release paper or greaseproof paper. Cooking in parchment is a terrific way to cook delicate things quickly without fear of them drying out. You can also roast food en papillote as the paper allows just enough steam to release so that potato skin, for example, gets nice and crispy while the insides gently steam to perfection.
You could use aluminum foil instead of parchment paper — also known as a hobo pack — but I find that the results lack the finesse and elegance of cooking in paper. I might also be too negatively affected by the word “hobo,” and too seduced by the phrase “en papillote“!
It’s true that this month’s Daring Kitchen assignment wasn’t really a challenge for me since cooking en papillote is one of my favorite cooking methods. On this blog, I have posted a recipe for roasted tiny potatoes en papillote and roasted salmon with mango and Bird’s Eye chiles. However, it was completely new for me to use this cooking method to make a something sweet instead of something savory.
This dessert recipe was inspired by one that I saw months ago on Elle à table, the companion cooking site of French Elle Magazine. I kept the primary components — parchment, peaches and raspberries — and changed the rest. The original recipe has you peel the peaches. However, if the peaches are nice and ripe, this step seems fussy. It also seems like it would be a big waste of precious juice. The Elle à table recipe also calls for lime zest and juice, whereas I only used the zest for fear that the extra juice would have made the dessert too watery. Instead of a lime, I used a lemon. I also swapped out the cinnamon for vanilla bean, and shortened the cooking time so that the fruit would stay more intact.
Just like there is more than one way to roast a chicken, there is more than one way to make a parchment paper packet. Traditionally, you take a large piece of parchment paper, fold it in half, and cut out a heart — just like how you did as a child. After you position your food on the paper, you seal up the packet by folding or crimping the edges shut. To give you an example of how to seal up a parchment paper packet, here is a video with Chef Paul Prudhomme — who can pronounce papillote any dang ol’ way he pleases in Cajun country.
Alternatively, you can arrange your food in the center of a square of parchment paper, pull two of the sides up, fold them down, and then tie off the ends with cooking string. For some more examples of parchment paper packets, I direct you to this month’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge PDF.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you seal up the parchment paper as long as you make sure that your packets are snug, but not too tight around your food.
I made two different kinds of packets for this challenge. You can see them both in the photo gallery below. This challenge didn’t take up too much of my time since I had the fruit already (it’s high peach season here). Most importantly, it reminded me of how valuable it is to not give up those things in life that give you pleasure at those moments in life when you feel most stressed out.
A big thank you to Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie for the terrific challenge In terms of mandatory items, you only asked that we cook in parchment. As suggestions, you gave us some amazing savory ones like beef, lamb or rabbit. I chose a gourmand take on cooking en papillote, which I hope still keeps with the spirit of the challenge even though it might not have been as challenging!
Mandatory blog checking lines: Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.
* The reveal date for this month’s French cooking challenge happens to fall on Bastille Day: le 14 juillet Bonne fête, tout le monde!
4 beautifully ripe yellow peaches
1 vanilla bean pod, split into four pieces
The zest of 1 lemon
How to prepare:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 400° F.
2. Defuzz the peaches by very gently rubbing as much of the peach fuzz off as you can under cold running water. Cut the peaches into slices that are a little more than a quarter-inch thick.
3. Evenly divide the peach slices between 4 parchment paper sheets. You will use about one peach’s worth of slices per packet. Tuck one split vanilla bean pod in-between the peach slices. The vanilla should perfume the fruit, but not overwhelm it. Arrange a small handful of raspberries over the peaches. Sprinkle the fruit with cane sugar. Grate a little lemon zest over the top. Dot the fruit with about a 1/2 tablespoon of cold butter cut into small pieces
4. Crimp or tie off your parchment paper parcels and arrange them on a large baking sheet. Bake them between 8-10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and carefully open them (they will be steamy). Find and discard the vanilla bean pods.
You can serve the peaches and raspberries straight from the paper, or you can transfer the fruit to a small bowl to top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato.
* Although punnet is a Britishism, but it’s a pretty useful word for those little plastic or molded paper baskets intended for berries. We don’t seem to have any equivalent in American English (the closest approximation is a pint basket). Furthermore, punnets for raspberries are generally smaller than the containers used for pints of strawberries . . .