A note on picky kids, they actually have more taste buds then adults. As we grow older we loose our taste buds, enabling us to enjoy foods that as a child would have been to strong or bitter. They postulate that back in the day, this protected the cave babies/kids from ingesting items that were potentially toxic for a person of that mass.
Cooking food in a bag is just another way to steam food, keeping all the nutrients locked in the food rather then boiling them off. It has the added benefits of melding flavours and aromas together yet each food cooked within maintains their original nature. This recipe is using chicken breast and vegetables but could easily be adapted to cooking seafood, pork tenderloin, beef tenderloin is out of this world, incredibly buttery and delicate. Th key is to have a rough understanding of the foods cooking times in relation to size. A delicate tilapia fillet would need root vegetables like potato cut a little smaller so everything would be ready at the same time. As opposed to pork tenderloin or chicken breast, you can get away with cutting the veg larger. Traditionally one would use parchment paper folded end over end like one would wrap deli meat. But, with the advent of pre-made parchment bags, it makes this dish fool proof. One can use brown lunch bags as well but you must drop the temperature a bit. Parchment is good to about 450 degrees, even though I have used them in our bread oven at 600 degrees. If you haven't used parchment paper before you have to try it to believe it. Use it to stop cookies from burning, lining a roast pan, heck we even fried eggs in a pan lined with it for butter free no stick. And no, I don't work for some parchment producing company. Restaurant use it exclusively just to save on cooking times and clean up.
Awesome perks to bag cooking
- Very little cleanup
- Low waste
- Incredible flavours and aroma's
- ooooh aaaah eeeeh presentation
- Quick cooking times
- Quick prep
- low maintenance, bake and forget forgivability
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Step 1: Ingredients and Tools-O-trade
- 8 carrots peeled and chopped 3/4" chunks
- 6 yellow potatoes skin on, 1" cubes
- 1-2 sweet peppers 1/2" chopped
- 2-3 stalks of celery including the leaves 1/2" chunks
- 2 lemons
- 8-10 chicken breasts cut into 1" x 2" chunks
- 1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon each of salt, sugar & pepper
- 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions coarsely chopped
- about 1/2 cup of liquid - you could use wine, chicken stock, apple juice, cider etc...
- Oven set at 425 degrees
- Cookie sheet
- Flippers, tongs knives, cutting surface
- Hot surface retrieval device - aka oven mitts
- Parchment cooking bags. You can also use regular parchment paper. Ingredients are mounded in the middle of the paper, edges folded over and tucked under to seal.
Step 2: Prep
This is where all the real work happens in this recipe. In no particular order, peel and coarsley chop all your veggies, meats and herbs. Season generously with your salt and pepper and any dried herbs and spices you wish to add. The fresh rosemary works really well in this recipe all though other fresh herbs will work. Fresh oregano, fresh thyme or sage all have nice penetrating flavours. All though my favorite fresh herb is basil, it just doesn't lend it self to this style of cooking.
Step 3: Mix
Finishing off, add a good splach of extra virgin olive oil and a little liquid like wine, cider, stock or even juice. Toss it all to coat evenly. At this point you can let it sit and marinate in the fridge for up to 24 hours, but the beauty of this dish is that the steam created while cooking really carries the flavour well into all the goodies in the bag.
Step 4: Stuff
Almost ready for the oven! take all your mixed ingredients and start shovelling it in to your parchment bags. About 3 cups give or take per bag. I divided it all between 3 bags, as this fits all 3 on to standard size cookie sheet. Fold the open end of the bag over several times to seal and tuck the end under the bag on your cookie sheet.
If you can't find the parchment bags at your grocery store, they will most likely sell at least regular parchment paper by the roll. roll out a piece of parchment paper about 3 feet long. Visually divide up the paper into 3 one foot sections. Pick the left or right side and put about 2-3 cups of ingredients on to the middle of it. Fold the short end of the paper over it and fold the side over a little as well. Start rolling it up, being mindful to tuck in the parchment on the sides as you go. It is not to hard, but he slippery ingredients will try to sneak out. Beware of rogue ingredients trying to make a break for it on the floor! once its all rolled up, tuck the edges underneath.
Step 5: Bake
Slide your bags onto a cookie sheet and put into a preheated 425 oven for about 25 minutes to half an hour. You can flip the bags half way through, but this really isn't necessary.
Step 6: Open - Ooooh, Aaaah, Eeeeh
2 ways to serve this.
- Slice open the bags in the kitchen and hog all the smells that come out, scoop the food onto awaiting plates and pass out to the masses.
- Appease the masses! Transfer the bags to a large platter and bring out to the crowds, slice open the tops of the bags dramatically and let the escaping steam waft out and fill the room, be ready for the oooohs, aaaaahs and eeeehs!
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