It’s a fact that almost everyone owns a stove. This is where you do the majority of your cooking. You can fry, simmer, slow cook, boil, saute, stir fry, and even steam food on the stove. It’s the most versatile of the kitchen appliances and arguably, the most useful.
While it can do all that and more with some creativity, it can be exhausting standing in front of the stove all day when there are other ways to cook.
An effortless way to cook is by doing what the French call “en papillote” or in parchment. You are probably already doing this (maybe you’re not using parchment but foil) but didn’t realize it. It’s common to do since it’s one of the best ways to cook seafood. It not only packs in the flavor, but it also cooks everything gently, letting the natural flavors of the ingredients you added take a starring role in the cooking process.
There are two ways to do this. These two techniques rely on you making use of a piece of parchment and a tray to get the job done.
Here’s how to do it:
1 How to cook food in parchment
You’ll need parchment paper large enough to cover your food (No parchment? Use foil!). To determine this, use your biggest piece of food as a guide and your parchment paper should be able to fold over it with room to spare. Place your main ingredient a little off to the center of the parchment paper. Top it with your aromatics—usually lemons, garlic, onions, fresh herbs, and the like—or place it underneath, season, and then drizzle it with a liquid to activate the steaming. You can use water but it’s best if you use an already flavorful liquid instead such as stock, white wine, soy sauce or vinegar, and even a little oil.
Use a flavorful liquid plus a little oil for best results.
Time to fold: To secure your food inside the parchment, fold over one end of the parchment over the food towards the other side. Then start folding. Take both ends and make small folds at the corner towards the food that’s encased in the center. Continue to make small folds around the open end until you have gone all the way around the food and the edges are sealed closed with your folds.
You’re ready to place this and other parcels like it in the oven to gently steam inside until cooked through. Just remember to be careful when opening as the steam can burn!
Here are recipes you can try to experiment with this technique:
2 How to bake in a water bath
The other technique is baking in a water bath, and it’s easier than you think. The trick here is to use the drip tray in your oven and then fill it with water before preheating it. (No drip tray? Use a bigger pan.) Let it come to the desired temperature and the water should be gently steaming when you place your leche flan cake or cheesecake inside.
Worried about your cheesecake crust getting soaked in the springform pan? To prep your cake pan, use foil! Wrap it around the bottom of the baking pan—use two if necessary!—as high as it can go and then set it in the center of the hot water. The foil should prevent any leakage while the water bath does its job by gently cooking the cheesecake without the cracks.
Here are recipes you can try with this technique:
Easy? It is and it takes away the effort of standing in front of a hot stove when you don’t need to. Plus, when you cook your food in parchment and steam it in the oven, you’re going to taste all the flavors of the packet in each bite!