After hosting the June 2012 Daring Cooks’ challenge and making a few batches of Cannelloni, I was even more curious to see what this month’s challenge would be! I must admit, I had never thought about what goes “behind the scenes” of one of these challenges, but after hosting one I can tell you… it’s a lot of hard work! But so much fun and so worth it when you see so many fellow Daring Cooks making your dish and acing the challenge!
Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.
When I read this I was extra excited! You see, cooking “en papillote” (or “al cartoccio” as we say in Italy) is a very common cooking method for all Italians. I love cooking food “al cartoccio” as it is easy, fast, delicious, healthy and allows for dramatic presentation!
Here is how Sarah describes her challenge: “My challenge to you is to cook ‘en papillote (pah-pee-YOHT)’. This is French for ‘in parchment’. In Italian it is called ‘al cartoccio’. This is a method of cooking in which the food is put into a folded pouch or parcel and then baked. The parcel is typically made from folded parchment paper, but other materials such as a paper bag or aluminum foil may be used.
This is a very healthy way of cooking because no fat is required. The package holds in all the juices and is more flavourful than traditional steaming. As the package is heated, the air inside the package expands and the flavours of the ingredients mingle with no escape. The food in a sense is cooked in flavoured air.
Opening these packets at the table can create some drama with the aromatic steam that will pour out.
Cooking successfully en papillote takes thoughtfulness and an understanding of ingredients. You must think of how they will react with heat, how long they will take to cook, how they will taste together. Some vegetables will release a lot of water and dilute the natural sauce that forms. Some ingredients may turn an unpleasant colour, like basil turns black.
Cooking en papillote works best with tender foods that cook quickly. Cut the ingredients into sizes that will all cook in the same length of time. Add moisture, if necessary. Some vegetables release enough moisture but if not, add liquid seasonings or a splash of water or stock to create the steam within the packet. The ingredients in the packet will add flavour but you can also add fresh or dried herbs, salt, pepper, spices or stocks. Also consider a pat of herbed butter or a drizzle of cream. Fat is not required but goes a long way to build flavour. Laying a lettuce leaf on the bottom of the paper or foil will help to prevent scorching. […]”
I think she said it all! What I loved about this challenge was the freedom it allowed to explore new possibilities and combination if ingredients. She suggested a few delicious recipes that you can check out here (LINK), but I decided to try something new for me. I very often use this method for cooking fish and the final result is awesome. In fact, I have already shared with you a recipe for Snapper en papillote. I also love to cook chicken livers “al cartoccio”: see my recipe for Chicken liver parcels. So, to make this a “challenge”, I decided to make something I had never made before. I was really undecided between two dishes, so in the end I made both. Today I am going to share with you the first one of this dishes: baked feta. It makes for a great “antipasto”, better if part of a mezze plate, or it could even be a main dish, served with toasted crusty bread. You can top the slab of feta with different ingredients, but I decided to keep it simple and “Mediterranean”. I used a ripe tomato, kalamata olives, capers, oregano, chilli flakes and extra virgin olive oil. I think it makes a great spring/summer dish and it is also very fast to put together. You can even prepare the parcels in advance and bake them 20 minutes before serving them. I really loved how the flavours came together harmoniously. Thank you so much Sarah for such a fantastic challenge!!! Enjoy and come back tomorrow to see the second recipe I came out with for this month’s challenge!
Not available The recipe for a great mezze: baked feta cooked "en papillote"
- 200 gms - 7 oz. feta
- 1 ripe tomato sliced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp oregano
- ¼ tsp chilli flakes
- 4 kalamata olives pitted
- 1 tsp capers washed
- Red onion rings and basil to decorate
Take a piece of aluminium foil big enough to contain the slab of feta. Drizzle half of the extra virgin olive oil at the bottom and place the feta on top of it.
Slice the tomato and place it on top of the feta. Top it with the oregano, chilli flakes, olives and capers. Drizzle with the remaining extra virgin olive oil.
Close the aluminium foil to make a parcel. Make sure there are no holes in it, or the juices will come out and the feta will not cook properly.
Bake in a pre heated oven at 180°C – 355°F for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slab of feta.
Decorate with some red onion rings and basil leaves. Serve with some toasted crusty bread.
I like to serve it warm in the aluminium foil and unwrap it at the table. It can then be divided and put on the individual plates. You could also make individual parcels and serve them in the aluminium foil itself.
On a completely different note, I have some great news to share with all of you! I am very excited to announce that Manu’s Menu is one of Babble’s Top Mom 100 Food Blogs 2012!!! 🙂 Click on the badge to go to my profile on Babble!
THANKS to all the people who voted and supported me. This is an amazing result for me and a great honour, especially considering that Manu’s Menu is only 1 and a half year old! ♥ THANK YOU!!!
So… tell me, which is your MsM’s favourite recipe???