Picture: Washington Post

If the cleanup end of a weeknight meal is your least favourite part, this recipe's for you. It uses a time-honored technique employed by professional chefs and camping enthusiasts with equal aplomb: packet cooking, a.k.a. en papillote, al cartoccio, hobo packets and foil-packet dinners.

Foods enclosed in a parchment paper or foil pouch essentially steam as they bake in the oven or roast on the grill, holding in juices, flavours and aromas. To create that steam, added liquids are sparingly poured, and when the pouch is foil, some type of fat is included to keep the contents from sticking. The packets are typically done per individual serving, making them custom-order for each diner at your table without extra steps or fuss.

Once the packets are emptied, you can toss them - and have only the dishes to wash.

Serve with warm bread, or over brown rice.


1 medium red bell pepper

1 celery rib

1 medium shallot

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 to 6 stems fresh herbs, such as sage, thyme and/or parsley

1 lemon

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)

3 tablespoons no-salt-added chicken broth



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut two 12-by-17-inch sheets of parchment paper, fold each one in half crosswise. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, side by side, and then open each one.

As you prep the next ingredients, you'll be creating two equal piles, centered on one-half of each parchment paper: Cut the red bell pepper in half. Discard the seeds and ribs, then cut into long, thin strips. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the stringy bits from the celery. Cut the ribs lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips, then cut them in half so they are the same length as the red bell pepper strips. Mince the shallot. Season each pile lightly with salt and pepper.

Pluck the leaves from the fresh herbs (to taste). Cut the lemon into very thin slices, discarding any seeds.

Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the chicken breast halves and pound each one to a thickness of no more than 1/2 inch. Season all over with salt and pepper. Place one atop each pile of vegetables. Arrange the herb leaves and lemon slices on each portion.

Drizzle the broth and a little honey (a few teaspoons each) over the piles, then fold over the paper and, starting at one corner, crimp and seal tight each packet. Roast (middle rack) for 20 to 22 minutes; the paper packets should puff up a bit.

Place them on individual plates. Carefully tear open, avoiding the steam. Eat right out of the packet or empty the packets onto the plates.

Nutrition | Per serving: 290 calories, 40 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 125 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar

Washington Post