Our July 2012 Daring Cooks' hostess was Sarah from All our fingers in the pie . She challenged us to learn a new cooking technique called en papillote.
About this challenge Sarah said: "My challenge to you is to cook ‘en papillote (pah-pee-YOHT)’. This is French for ‘in parchment’. In Italian it is called ‘al cartoccio’. This is a method of cooking in which the food is put into a folded pouch or parcel and then baked. The parcel is typically made from folded parchment paper, but other materials such as a paper bag or aluminum foil may be used.
This is a very healthy way of cooking because no fat is required. The package holds in all the juices and is more flavourful than traditional steaming. As the package is heated, the air inside the package expands and the flavours of the ingredients mingle with no escape. The food in a sense is cooked in flavoured air.
Opening these packets at the table can create some drama with the aromatic steam that will pour out.
Cooking successfully en papillote takes thoughtfulness and an understanding of ingredients. You must think of how they will react with heat, how long they will take to cook, how they will taste together. Some vegetables will release a lot of water and dilute the natural sauce that forms. Some ingredients may turn an unpleasant colour, like basil turns black.
Cooking en papillote works best with tender foods that cook quickly. Cut the ingredients into sizes that will all cook in the same length of time. Add moisture, if necessary. Some vegetables release enough moisture but if not, add liquid seasonings or a splash of water or stock to create the steam within the packet. The ingredients in the packet will add flavour but you can also add fresh or dried herbs, salt, pepper, spices or stocks. Also consider a pat of herbed butter or a drizzle of cream. Fat is not required but goes a long way to build flavour. Laying a lettuce leaf on the bottom of the paper or foil will help to prevent scorching"
Usually I use en papillote technique for preparing fish or chicken. This time I wanted something different. I decided to make something I had never made before, fruit en papillote.
Fruit en papillote
handful of mix berries
1 tbsp vanilla sugar or 1 tbsp sugar and 1 vanilla bean
a few fresh lemon balm leaves
1 tsp white rum
Preheat grill to medium-low.
Spread a piece of parchment out on a work surface. Place fruit in paper and drizzle with vanilla sugar and a splash of rum. Top with Lemon balm. Fold up packet to seal Grill packages, folded edge up, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Cool slightly. Transfer fruit and juices to a bowl or plate and top with egg custard gelato and mint.
Egg custard gelato
(adopted from Biba's Northern Italian Cooking)
3 cups milk
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugarWith a knife halve vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape seeds into a large heavy saucepan and stir in pods and milk. Bring to just below a boil over medium heat; do not let it boil. Turn off heat.
(I added 1 vanilla bean)
(I added 1 vanilla bean)
Meanwhile, put egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat with wire whisk until pale yellow and thick.Remove vanilla pods from the milk and gradually pour hot milk into beaten yolks in thin stream, stirring constantly with whisk.
Return mixture to saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 6 minutes. Do not let custard boil, or it will curdle.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into clean metal bowl. Cool completely over bowl of ice water. Cover and chill in refrigerator until cold. (Custard mixture can keep in refrigerator for a day or two.)
Freeze mixture in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately, or transfer to tightly sealed container and freeze for a day or two