Trying to figure out what to cook for Mother’s Day dinner? Look no further. Here is a terrific make-ahead technique for baking chicken breasts 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.
Baking in Parchment Paper – An Easy Technique
My first encounter with cooking “en papillote”, the French term for in parchment, was years ago when I worked in a fine dining restaurant. The restaurant baked fish in parchment. It was so moist and flavorful. Years later, I adapted that technique to baking chicken breasts.
Baking chicken in parchment is easy. Simply place a split boneless, skinless chicken breast 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.
Best of all, you can make the packets ahead of time and refrigerate for several hours, then bake when you are ready for dinner. It’s a great time-saving step for not only Mother’s Day dinner but for family or friend as well. Anytime!
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.
Prepare Chicken and Vegetable Packets Split boneless, skinless chicken breasts in half horizontally to form thin cutlets. Set aside.
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.