Parchment Aplenty

Issue 69 had a feature on using parchment as a cooking method.  It had full meals, main dishes, sides, and even breakfast in a parchment.  So, here we go.

The first recipe I made was for a dinner party with the lovely neighbor.  I made the Chicken with Mango and Ginger.

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Not being a huge fan of spicy foods, I went easy on the jalapeño on my packet.  Somehow it managed to impart a small amount flavor without much heat so it worked well for me.  The ginger infused the chicken breast and the mango kept it nice and juicy.  (Warning: the mango also made the entire packet pretty juicy so be sure to serve it with something that can absorb a lot of liquid — I went with coconut rice.  It was a good decision.)  This was a delicious recipe and I will most likely make it again in the future, especially when I need a tropical escape!  I also think I might start pairing chicken and mango more often, grilled for example, or in a sandwich.  Yeah, it’s a good match.

Next, I made the Eggs with Mushroom and Spinach.

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I’m not going to lie to you.  I didn’t think this one was worth the effort of cutting the parchment (let alone any of the actual packaging of the ingredients into said parchment.  To be fair, I did make this recipe on a day when I had chills and aches set in by mid afternoon (yep, the flu) so I may not have been a totally unbiased opinion on that day.  I definitely didn’t feel any desire to finish eating my packet.  I maybe made it through half.  It was really plain and more or less boring.  And when considering the effort put into fixing it, it just wasn’t worth it.  I think I’d skip the parchment next time and just make a scramble.  So much easier and the separate parts would work a bit better together that way.

Needless to say, after coming down with the flu, I didn’t do much cooking for a while.  I ate soup.  Soup from a can.  Because I didn’t have the energy to eat anything else.  And after the flop that was the eggs with mushrooms and spinach I wasn’t particularly tempted to make another parchment recipe.  But I did.  I made the Potatoes, Leeks and Carrots in Parchment

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It may not look that thrilling, but it tasted pretty decent.  This was another instance where I would normally have just roasted these vegetables together, because vegetables are more delicious when roasted.  But! This is the light issue (hence all the parchment) and by using steam trapped in the parchment to cook these veggies, they stayed pretty flavorful and required much less fat than when roasted.  In fact, the fat was optional in this method of cooking, so it has its perks.

Finally, I made the Broccoli, Asparagus, and Snap Peas in Parchment.  And as a bonus, I also made the Herbed Orzo.

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This is probably the one parchment recipe that I think really benefits from this cooking method.  Each of these vegetables is still super flavorful when steamed and don’t necessarily require anything added to make them awesome.  We liked it so much that we made it two days in a row.  Try it.  Trust me.  

The Herbed Orzo was slightly less exciting, but still an alternative to rice or potatoes so it might be a good thing to add to the mix.  The main issue with this recipe is that I found out after I made it that the bear doesn’t like dill.  And of course, I had decided that the main herb flavor would be dill… I ate a lot of orzo that week.

And now, G will fill you in on the final parchment recipe! Go G!!!

Thanks, B!  I’m winding this one up with the Salmon with Green Beans and Lemon Zest

There's fish under there somewhere...

There’s fish under there somewhere…

This was definitely good and certainly easy enough.  I like cooking things en papillote (that’s French for “No, G, not papillon.  You’re thinking of the dog…or the Steve McQueen movie.”), but I will admit it makes me slightly nervous.  I don’t think I’d be able to make B’s chicken dish without ruining it by busting open the packet and checking it.  But I grew to love the method by making a very similar dish from a Rachael Ray recipe.  She inelegantly calls it Spanish Fish in a Sack.  You’ll see that recipe is much more involved than the one in EF here.  I think this recipe is a good, simple option.  The wide pieces of peel are a nice touch.  But…if I’m bothering to make parchment packets, I’m probably going to go with the Rachael Ray fish sack.  It’s just too good. 

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In which polenta turns out to be cornmeal

pork tenderloin with swiss chard and polenta

mmmm....pork.....

mmmm….pork…..

polenta wedges with asparagus and mushrooms

Yes, grill your polenta!

Yes, grill your polenta!

Right off the bat, let me say that these two dishes were magnificent.  And for so few calories.  I said in December that I was anxiously awaiting some healthier fare, and this issue has been great.  368 calories for the pork tenderloin and a scant 261 for the wedges.  Well, mine was probably a bit more than that.  I have toddler, so I have whole milk in the house.  But that’s it.  The broth and pork and chard all come together to make something savory that tastes much more rich than it is.  Then the polenta just makes it so gooey.  It’s really comfort food.

A note about the polenta.  Did you know that polenta is yellow cornmeal?  I think I hear some chuckling coming through the tubes, and I think I deserve that.  I had always bought boxes or bags of “polenta” or “quick cooking polenta.”  This recipe calls for quick cooking polenta.  I reached into the pantry and discovered that I had maybe a 1/4 cup of polenta.  Gasp!  What to do?  D offered to go to the store.  I started googling how to make polenta thinking that someone had a neat trick.  Alton Brown had a recipe…for polenta.  It used yellow cornmeal.  At that point, I was slapping my forehead.  I got out my canister of yellow cornmeal and looked in.  Yeah, that looked a lot like polenta.  My polenta was always just ground finer than that.  Kind of like the difference between instant oatmeal and old-fashioned oatmeal.  Not since I found out that ponies were not baby horses have I felt quite so dense.  Another note: this recipe is not a good candidate for quick-cooking polenta.  Quick-cooking polenta comes together almost instantly.  I’ve never had to stir it for more than a minute before it seized into a mass.  This recipe has to cooking the polenta for 25 minutes.  Try that with quick-cooking polenta and you’re going to be chipping that stuff off of the bottom of the pot with a pick axe.  So use cornmeal!  Tada!

The polenta wedges are a great way to use up the leftovers.  Broiling the wedges seemed kinda weird.  Here I was taking blobs of polenta and grilling them(?)  To accomplish what, exactly?  To accomplish a wonderful crispy crust and a gooey interior, that’s what.  Sold?  Me too.  As for the rest of the recipe, the note about only 2T of heavy cream making the whole dish taste luxurious made me roll my eyes, but they were right!  It really did.  Also, I used button mushrooms instead of cremini because of cheapness, and it was delicious.  Use whatever mushrooms you like.