We’ve got a pretty good division of kitchen labor around here. I do the majority of the cooking, while Stephen does the majority of the dish-washing. Harry, when he’s not too busy playing with his bazillion Finn McMissile toys (really, how many iterations of one vehicle can Pixar sell?), will occasionally deign to set the table—and he’ll be responsible for more, soon enough.
But Stephen’s job is pretty insane these days—he’ll make it home for dinner, then as soon as Harry’s in bed, he’s chained to his home office desk, sometimes until the wee hours. Which means I’m responsible for the whole shebang—planning, cooking, setting the table, and cleaning up. Friends, I hate cleaning up. That’s why I pull out the parchment paper.
I’ve already waxed poetic about why parchment paper cooking rocks, especially for busy parents. Short version: It’s quick, it’s easy, and the cleanup is practically nonexistent. And now, there’s an entire cookbook devoted to the method.
The Parchment Paper Cookbook by Brette Sember offers nearly 200 recipes cooked en papillote, as the French (and highfalutin’ English-speakers like me) say. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert—you can cook every single meal for weeks this way, with Brette’s book on your counter. Cooking in parchment is by nature low-fat, since very little is needed, and that nice tight seal you’re creating results in exceptionally tender, juicy meat. It’s virtually impossible to dry out a dish cooked this way.
In fact, the recipe I’m sharing with you today turned out to be nothing short of miraculous. Harry—y’know, the one who won’t eat my cooking?—not only tasted the chicken, he devoured it. I only made two breasts, since I assumed he’d eat his typical mouse-sized portion, but the little dude kept asking for more. He ate at least half of my chicken breast. And then—AND THEN—asked if I’d make it again the next night. I nearly fainted. For that alone, I heartily recommend The Parchment Paper Cookbook to any and all parents in Internetland.
Chicken with Sage, Brown Butter & Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from The Parchment Paper Cookbook by Brette Sember
Serves 1, and multiplies easily
2 tablespoons butter
2 fresh sage leaves
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
salt & pepper
1/2 sweet potato, washed and thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut a 20” piece of parchment paper (or foil, in a pinch), and lay it on a baking sheet.
- Brown the butter: Put it in a small, stainless-steel skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Swirl it around a bit as it melts, just to keep it cooking evenly. It’ll foam, and when the foam subsides the magic begins. Continue to swirl the pan occasionally, but leave it alone otherwise—just watch it, since once the color starts to change it darkens quickly. When the butter begins to smell nutty and the color is toasty, remove it from the heat and add the sage leaves. They’ll sizzle furiously and begin to crisp up. Set the pan aside.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and place in the center of the parchment. Arrange the sweet potato slices on top, and season them with salt and pepper, too. Pour the butter and sage on top.
- Now, fold the packet: Lift the short ends of the paper and bring them together, centered above the food. Fold them over at least twice, creasing as you go, until you’re snug against the food—make sure the creases run the entire length of the paper. Twist each loose end several times, tightly, until the packet is well sealed.
- Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and the sweet potato is pierced easily with a fork.
MAKE BABY FOOD: The finished texture is moist and soft, perfect for babies—either puree some of the chicken and sweet potato along with the accumulated juices, or cut into bits for finger food.