Trying to figure out what to cook for Mother’s Day dinner? Look no further. Here is a terrific make-ahead technique for chicken breasts baked in parchment. Its so easy and healthy, yet looks impressive. Make the chicken packets hours ahead and bake them when you are ready. Spend your time enjoying mom on Mother’s Day, not in the kitchen.
Chicken Breasts Baked in Parchment
My first encounter with cooking “en papillote”, the French term for “in parchment” was while working in a fine dining restaurant. The restaurant baked fish in parchment. It was so moist and flavorful. Now I used this same technique to bake chicken breasts in parchment.
Baking chicken in parchment is easy. Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts atop a pile of thinly sliced vegetables spread with a mixture of whole grain mustard (like Maille Old Style Dijon), herbs and olive oil, then seal the packet and bake. The chicken and vegetables steam inside the parchment in about 15 minutes in a hot 425° oven.
Best of all, you can make the packets ahead of time and refrigerate for several hours, then bake when you are ready for dinner.
Assemble Ahead for Busy Weeknights
Baking chicken in parchment is great time-saving step for not only Mother’s Day dinner but for family dinner during a busy week. Just assemble the packets the night before. When you walk in the door, take them out of the refrigerator to warm up, about 30-45 minutes, then bake. Serve with a salad and you are good to go.
Making Parchment Packets
Parchment paper is widely available today. You can find rolls of baking parchment (made by Reynolds or others) along side of foil and plastic film in most grocery store aisles. Note – parchment is not wax paper. They are very different. Parchment will come either white or unbleached and may say either non-stick or silicone on the box.
To make packets, cut a piece of parchment 18″ long. Standard rolls are 15″ wide. Fold and crease the sheet in half to make a 9″ x 15″ piece. From here, cut a wide, fat half-heart shape with scissors. This will become your packet.
Choosing Chicken Breasts
When I made these for the post, the chicken breasts at the market were huge, so I split them in half to make two portions of the right size. To slice larger chicken breasts into cutlets, see photos. .
If you have smaller chicken breasts, say 5-6 ounces each, you can simply use them as is or pound them a little flatter at the thick end. That helps them to cook evenly.
Next, cut carrots into thin matchsticks. You can use a knife, a julienne peeler (a neat, inexpensive little tool for your kitchen) or a julienne slicer. Clean the leek and slice crosswise into thin rings or half moons.
With the parchment heart open like a book, layer the vegetables, then chicken into the middle, season, and spread with a thin paste of olive oil, mustard and fresh thyme leaves.
Seal the packets by folding and tightly creasing the edges around the heart every few inches until completely enclosed and sealed.
You can place the chicken packets in the refrigerator for several hours ahead of time or bake right away. If you refrigerate the packets, allow then to stand at room temperature for approximately 30-40 minutes to get the chill off for better baking.
Bake Your Chicken Packets
To bake the chicken packets, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the packets on a metal baking sheets. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Packets will be browning at the edges. Remove from the oven. To serve, place packets on plates and slit open the parchment packets, being careful of the hot steam. Slide chicken and vegetables out onto the plate and enjoy.
Baking chicken in parchment is easy, healthy and fun if you have never tried the technique. The chicken and vegetables steam to perfection inside the parchment. Make the packets a few hours ahead and refrigerate, then bake when you are ready.
- Two pieces 18″x15″ parchment paper (such as Reynolds non-stick)
- 1 – 10 to 12 ounce (283-340 grams) boneless, skinless chicken breast
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard (such as Maille Old Style Whole Grain)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2-3 large carrots 1 small leek
- Half of a lemon
- Make your parchment hearts. Fold pieces of parchment in half along the long side (18″) and crease like a book. Next, cut a large, fat half heart shape from each piece. See photos in the post for example.
- Trim the chicken. With a large sharp knife, slice your chicken breast horizontally into long thin cutlets. See photos in the post for example.
- Prep your vegetables. Peel carrots and cut in half across the center for more manageable pieces. Cut carrots into long, thin strips (julienne) with a knife. You can also use a julienne peeler (a fun little tool!) or a julienne slicer. For leek, cut off the dark green top and the root end, using only the white and light green part. Slice the leek lengthwise and run under cold water to clean out any dirt or sand. Slice the leek crosswise into thin half moons.
- Build your packets. Place half of the carrots and leek on half of the parchment heart. Top with a piece of chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Mix olive oil and mustard together and spread half on each chicken breast. Sprinkle each with fresh thyme leaves. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top of each.
- Seal your packets.Starting at the top of the heart, seal packets by creasing and folding every few inches around the heart until you get to the tail end. You want to create a tight seal so the packets will steam.
- To bake now, pre-heat oven to 425 degrees (218 C). Place packets on a metal baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. If baking later, refrigerated the packets for several hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30-40 minutes before baking to get the chill off, then bake.
- To serve, place packet on a plate and slit packet open with a knife or scissors, being careful of the hot steam. Slide contents onto the plate and enjoy.