My grandpa and grandma gave two of my favorite Christmas gifts this year (thanks Grams & Gramps!): a collapsible tripod for taking pictures for this lovely blog and a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s newest cookbook, Around My French Table.
Within, oh, about 2 minutes of perusing it, Around My French Table became one of my all-time favorite cookbooks—and I hadn’t even cooked a recipe from it. The recipes are easy and well explained, beautifully photographed and obviously delicious. And each has a poignant introduction written by Dorie herself. This is French food at it’s most accessible, and more Americans need to take advantage.
Dorie Greenspan is the award-winning author and co-author of nine cookbooks, including Baking with Julia (i.e., Julia Child) and Baking, From My Home to Yours. She travels between New York, Paris and Connecticut, cooking and writing up a storm for Parade and Bon Appetit. She’s won five James Beard and IACP awards, including Cookbook of the Year. Dorie has some serious credentials, and I highly suggest you pick up her latest tome and get cooking!
As a culinary student, I spend my nights learning French method and techniques, but Dorie’s book highlights the kind of French food I want to make, food that’s comforting but not too complex, classic but not stuffy. Her recipe for Curried Chicken with Peppers and Peas En Papillote satisfies on many levels: It’s healthy and flavorful, filling but light and fresh at the same time, and the sweet curry powder gives it a lovely sweet/savory component.
If you don’t like curry powder, you’re shit out of luck here. But if you do like it, there’s no limit to the kinds you can swap in for the sweet curry powder here: Maharajah style, which has saffron mixed into the blend, Thai red curry powder, hot curry powder, or even garam masala. Dorie only called for a teaspoon of curry powder in her recipe, but the French tend to be a bit more discerning about strong flavors than Americans—I used a full tablespoon to get the strong curry flavor I was looking for, and not one of my diners complained.
Don’t be worried by the fancy name en papillote, which means “in parchment” in French. Basically you spoon a mixture of chicken and vegetables in the middle of a square of parchment of tin foil, fold the parchment in, and bake the packets in the oven. It’s a really fun method of cooking and there’s something playful about it, which means, as Dorie says, that you can feel just as comfortable serving it on a random Wednesday as you would during an elegant dinner party.
Inside the parchment packages the meat and vegetables steam perfectly, and when you open them a delicious burst of curry-scented steam perfumes the air, beckoning your guests to the table. Of course, you can let your guests open them at the table, so they can enjoy the unleashing of the curry aroma, too.
Curried Chicken, Peppers & Peas En Papillote
This recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. It serves 4. It’s easy to increase or decrease the number of servings, but put only four packets to a baking sheet when you bake them so they can steam evenly. Serve with white rice, quinoa, or couscous. I also served sauteed green beans for some extra veggies on the side. Click here to download a copy of this recipe.
1 lb chicken tenders, or 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
12 thin slices red onion
½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
4 tsp. olive oil
2-3 tsp. curry powder
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400˚F. Cut four 12-inch squares of nonstick aluminum foil or parchment paper. Have a baking sheet at hand.
Put the chicken and all the other ingredients in a bowl, seasoning them with salt and pepper, and stir until the curry powder has evenly colored the chicken and vegetables.
Spoon an equal amount of the mix onto the center of each piece of foil. Draw up the edges of the foil and seal the packets well, but don’t crimp the foil very close to the chicken—you want to leave room around the ingredients so they can steam. Put the packets on the baking sheet. (You can assemble the packets up to 4 hours ahead of time and refrigerate; bake for a few more minutes).
Bake the papillotes for 17 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through—carefully open a packet and cut into a piece of chicken to test.
Serve the papillotes immediately, bringing them to the table straight from the oven or opening them in the kitchen and arranging the chicken and vegetables on individual plates.