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Nyonya Delicacies

Cooking Foods en Papillote

(Newsletter Issue #020)


How to cook foods en Papillote style

In this variation of steaming, the main item and accompanying ingredients are encased in parchment paper and cooked in a hot oven. The main item rests on a bed of herbs, vegetables or sauce and the combination of these ingredients and their natural juices serves as the sauce. The steam created by the food's natural juices cooks the food. As the steam volume increases , the paper puffs up.


Foods that have been properly prepared en papillote will demonstrate the same characteristics of flavor, appearance, and texture as other steamed foods.

Steps to prepare

  1. Assemble all ingredients and preparations for en papillote -

    • Main items

    • Broth, stock or sauce

    • Additional or optional flavoring, seasoning or garnishing items


    In addition to the preparation techniques for steaming, there is an optional first step. Sear thicker meat cuts in advance to ensure that they will be adequately cooked during the relatively short cooking times associated with this technique as well as to provide additional color and flavor.


    Vegetables can be included to provide moisture for steam. They also add color, flavor and texture. Cut the vegetables into a fine julienne or dice. Sweat or blanch the vegetables, if necessary, to ensure that they will cook in the same amount of time as the main item.


    Prepare herbs and spices according to type. Some herbs may be left in sprigs; others are cut into a chiffonade or minced. Have a prepared sauce, reduced heavy cream, wine or citrus juices on hand if your recipe calls for them.


  2. Assemble all equipments necessary for cooking and serving -

    • Parchment paper

    • Sizzler platters or baking sheets

    • Serving pieces


  1. Assemble the packages.

    The method for cutting the parchment and making the individual packages is shown below.

(1) Preparing the parchment heart. (2) Arranging the ingredients on the oiled paper. (3) Folding, crimping and sealing the package. (4) The fully cooked snapper being opened.

Cut the parchment into a heart shape large enough to allow the food and any additional ingredients to fit comfortably without over-crowing. The paper needs to have enough space to expand during cooking. Oil or butter the paper on both sides to prevent it from burning.

Place a bed of aromatics, vegetables or sauce (if you are using these optional ingredients) on one half of the heart and top it with the main item. Fold the empty half of the heart over the main item and fold and crimp the edges of the paper to form a tight seal.

  1. Place the bag on a preheated sizzler platter and put it in a very hot oven.

    The oven temperature may need to be carefully monitored, since delicate foods such as fish fillets can be overcooked quickly at a high temperature. A thicker cut may be best if cooked slowly at a moderate temperature and "puffed" in a very hot oven.


    Foods prepared en papillote should be cooked until they are just done. This is difficult to gauge without experience, since you cannot apply the senses of sight and touch in determining doneness. If the item has been cut to the correct size or if it has been partially cooked before being placed en papillote, it should be done when the bag is very puffy and the paper is brown.

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