Sesame Chicken, Shiitakes, and Baby Bok Choy in Parchment

tonyr_pot_k Lisa asks: Ever cooked in parchment? Thoughts?? I saw a recipe for it the other day that’s got me curious…

tonyr_cook_k  Tony’s take: Hey, Lisa, thanks for the question! I love cooking in parchment (“en papillote” as it were), but I’ll admit, I kind of forgot about the technique until you asked. It is good and weeknight-friendly: easy, healthy without being blah, and amenable to global ingredients and flavorings. Layer meat, vegetables, and a starch (the latter is optional), wrap in parchment (or some sort of leaf or even foil), and roast so that the ingredients cook through and semi-steam together.  I’m not sure what recipe you saw, but, to brush up on the technique, I made this glazed sesame chicken with Asian vegetables and jasmine rice. And it was really good:

– Packing heat: Many of my favorite preparations come bundled: Mexican tamales, Chinese sticky rice (dim sum), and Thai grilled fish (in banana leaves). The technique combines the radiant heat of an oven (or grill) with the steaming that takes place inside of the packs. The only real trick is to make sure whatever you cook – vegetables, meat, fish, and starches – are cut uniformly so they cook at approximately the same rate.

Forget the fuss: The French do en papillote with care and attention to detail (flip through some old Jacques Pepin videos  for a primer). I’m not a big attention-to-detail type. I simple cut parchment or tear foil in large squares, set the ingredients in the center and fold over (no intricate scissor-ing or ruler measures). If using parchment, I do like to brush the outside of the pack with a little oil (or melted butter) to help give everything inside a little color.

THE RECIPE: Serves 4

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1. Prep the vegetables and chicken: Heat the oven to 425F. Meanwhile, rinse 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lb) and pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper and brush with 1 Tbs. peanut oil (or canola). Prep 1/2 lb. baby bok choy (wash and quarter), 3 1/2 oz. shiitakes (stem and thinly slice), and 1/2 red bell pepper (thinly slice). In a medium bowl, toss the vegetables with another 1 Tbs. peanut oil and salt and pepper.

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2. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup honey, 2 Tbs. soy sauce, 1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil1 Tbs. white vinegar, 2 tsp. Sriracha, and 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds.

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3. Make the packets and roast: Cut four 18-inch square pieces of parchment. Distribute 2 cups cooked rice (leftover is perfect; I used Jasmine) in the center of each of the squares, top with even portions of the mushrooms, bok choy, and a chicken breast. Spoon half of the sauce over the chicken and then fold the parchment over itself and seal. Brush the outside of the packs with some peanut oil (about 1 Tbs.). Set the packets, evenly spaced, on a large, rimmed baking sheet and roast until the chicken becomes firm to the touch and cooks through (an instant-read thermometer angled into the center of the breast should register 165F), about 15 min.

chicken.64. Unseal and serve: Transfer the packets to dinner plates. Using a pair of kitchen shears (and carefully avoiding the puff of steam), cut open each of the packs and serve with a drizzle of the remaining sauce.