Picnic "En Papillote" (in paper)

Hello fellow foodie friends. Chef Izabella (aka Chef Izzy) here. I recently turned 3. I'm loving it so far! I'm learning new techniques in the kitchen. I'm having fun experimenting with fun food combinations: sweet and savory foods together and I also really like pairing sweet foods with a hint of spice (I know it sounds weird, since I'm only 3, but my taste buds want what my taste buds want).
I really love living in Southern California, as we have access to delicious, fresh, locally grown produce all year long. Seriously, this is an incredible blessing!

Lately, my mom and I have been making creative  dishes like mini frittatas, empanadas, risotto, quiches, soups (with fresh stocks), mini muffins, biscotti, tarts, slow braised meals with fun sauces and more. We cook together in the kitchen at least three times a week. I am always supervised by my mom or dad when I'm in the kitchen, and I always adhere to the safety rules and guidelines that my parents set for me while I'm in the kitchen (important reminder for all of my younger readers).

I highly recommend that you spend quality time in the kitchen with someone you love, at least two to three times a week! You can share the yummy stuff you make, with loved ones, friends and neighbors. Shared homemade food is like a big warm hug for the soul.

Well, back to this post. Sandwiches are great for picnics, but I recommend trying something creative, tasty and new for your next outdoor meal. As the title suggests, I'll be talking about cooking "in paper". In Italy, they cook in parchment paper and it's called "al cartoccio". In France, they cook in parchment paper and it's called "en papillote". This is a really cool technique in which you can bake veggies and meat or just veggies in parchment paper.  You place the food inside the paper and fold the edges of the paper so all the air stays inside the paper, creating a steaming effect. The flavors are bold, delicious and incredibly healthy. I recommend using chicken, pork or shrimp. Almost any vegetable would be fine. Keep in mind that you want your veggies to be cut in similar sizes, so that the cooking time is the same. For instance, if you are going to use carrots, potatoes and squash, I recommend that you julienne the pieces. You can throw some frozen peas on top if you want. I like to place a fresh sprig of some type of herb on top. Make sure that your meat is cut into thin, little strips and keep them all about the same size (if using shrimp, just clean, devein and place a few pieces of shrimp in a row; no need to slice the shrimp). Always wash your hands well and have your parent or caretaker clean the work surfaces really well after handling meat, seafood or eggs.

Picnic Parchment Paper Recommendation:
First, cut out your parchment paper. You can cut your parchment pieces into circles, squares, or heart shapes. My mom and like the heart shapes (about 22" wide and 15" tall; then fold in half widthwise). We'll reference the heart shape from here on out.

Second, hold up one piece of the parchment paper and spray one whole side of each parchment cut-out with olive oil spray. Fold the cut-out in half again. Do this with all the paper cut-outs and stack them on top of one another.

Third, get your preparation tray ready (mise en place). Measure out each ingredient and place it in its own preparation bowl or plate. Arrange on the preparation counter or on a tray.

Fourth, open up the parchment cut-out and place an even amount of each ingredient along the seam edge of the paper. Rotate the parchment packet so that the curved part of the parchment heart is closest to your stomach. Make a small fold (where the curved edge meets the flat perpendicular edge) on the parchment heart. Continue to make little pleated folds all the way around the heart edge until you get to about 2-3 inches from the bottom of the heart shape. Turn the bottom portion 3-4 times clockwise, into a little handle or tail, closing off the parchment packet, so that the steam will stay inside the parchment packet.

Fifth, place the parchment packs, side by side, on a large baking sheet. Try to avoid having them overlap. The packages will puff up while in the oven. We usually use 2 large baking sheets (we make 6-8 at a time). Bake for the allotted time that your recipe calls for. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Always let your parents or caretakers handle the hot stuff in the kitchen.

Sixth, you can transfer the little parchment packs into a picnic basket and take them with you to a local park, beach or friend's house. You may want to carefully line the papillote meals in a large, spill proof container (in case some of the juices drip out the sides during transfer). Once you get to your destination, each person gets to open up his or her own little food package. You can transfer the food in each packet onto its own serving plate or just eat out of the paper packet. Serve with a side of rice, quinoa or cous cous.

We like to picnic at local parks, beaches and at some of the local wineries. We love to listen to live music and dance outside. We like to make and take delicious, creative homemade food TO GO! So, I challenge you to try to make a meal "en papillote" and take it somewhere fun to go, with your family and friends. Enjoy a fun, creative meal in the great outdoors!

Salute and Cheers, Chef Izabella


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