Easy En Papillote on a Weeknight

Emile Henry Fish Steamer

Product Reviewed:
Emile Henry Papillote Fish Steamer

Cooking foods “en papillote” is an excellent skill for any home cook. It basically means cooking a variety of foods in little pouches made of parchment paper. It’s an old technique and works great, but sometimes it can feel a bit much to fuss with sealing up your food in folded parchment paper, especially on a weeknight.

So I was excited when I pulled the Emile Henry Papillote Fish Steamer from its box. The first thing I noticed was its good looks (so sleek, so French) and I couldn’t wait to put it through its paces … on a weeknight! My first test run involved a whole descaled trout, which I surrounded with a roughly chopped fennel bulb that I marinated for about 15 minutes in a tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of one lemon and salt and pepper. I placed a few some fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs inside the fish and lemon slices, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few more herb springs went on top. After 25 minutes in a 400°F oven, I had a perfectly cooked, aromatic fish.

I was so excited by the success of that test run that the next night I did a second test. When I got home from work, I preheated the oven to 400°F; tossed four thin-cut chicken breasts in the center of the pan; surrounded them with jarred marinated artichoke hearts and Kalamata olives (which are staples in my kitchen); topped the chicken with sliced lemon, salt and pepper; and tucked a few rosemary and thyme sprigs here and there. I put the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes while I cooked some quinoa and tossed an arugula salad. It was another perfectly cooked, perfectly presented dinner with minimal effort. OK, I’m sold on this dish!

But what makes it work so well? The ridges in the bottom of Papillote Fish Steamer avoid overcooking delicate fish, but it is equally well-suited for poultry and vegetables. (It is not suited for beef or for dishes that need a long cooking time in liquid, however).

Another benefit to using this steamer instead of parchment paper for en papillote cooking is that there is no need to pre-cook vegetables with high water content. It’s also a very healthy way to preparing protein foods, since moist cooking methods such as steam produce fewer advanced glycation end products (AGEs) compared with grilling, broiling or roasting.

I envision using this beautiful steamer weekly in my kitchen, with even higher frequency during cool-weather months. This is a great tool for both experienced cooks as well as novices — especially those who aren’t confident about how to cook fish. It’s also a no-brainer for entertaining, since keeping the lid on preserves heat and flavor until you are ready to serve, which is helpful when tossing that last-minute green salad. Plus, the dish is attractive enough to go straight to the table as a serving dish.

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Carrie Dennett
Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, CD, is a Seattle-based dietitian and journalist. She is the nutrition columnist for The Seattle Times and blogs at NutritionByCarrie.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.