For a Quick Dinner, It's all in the Foil bag

For a Quick Dinner, it’s All in the (Foil) Bag

I love cooking for my family but I hate when it starts to feel like I’m a short-order cook. Prepping special orders, alternate meals, trying to remember which kid hates ginger and which kid loves it.

This is one of the reasons we started making pizza every Friday night. It not only got the kids engaged in meal prep, but it gave them more control over what they wanted to eat. If they wanted a plain cheese pizza, that’s what they could make. Want to experiment with anchovies (don’t say we didn’t warn you!) go right ahead…

Lately, we’ve been cooking one or two meals a week using a version of en papillote, which is fancy French way of cooking protein and veg together in a small sealed packet that’s baked. Being neither fancy nor French, we tend to assemble our individual packets very quickly using two small pieces of aluminum foil with the edges folded together to form a seal.

There’s a lot to recommend to cooking this way:

  • It’s dead easy to customize each packet—chilies and garlic in mine, skip the heat and spices in the kids’.
  • There are no pots and pans to dirty, clean-up involves balling up some used foil and tossing it in the trash.
  • Dinner is ready in about 25 minutes.
  • The range of flavours is almost limitless—we made packets with a coconut curry one night and fresh herbs and white wine another.
  • Although the flavours and ingredients are limitless, the basics remain the same:

1. Cut two pieces of foil about 30 centimeters square for each serving
2. On the first sheet of foil (the bottom) put a tablespoon of oil in the middle, top with vegetables roughly the same shape/size as your fish fillet.
3. Place the fish on top of the veg and then top the fish with remaining veg, seasonings and one tablespoon of liquid such as olive oil, wine, vinegar, stock, soy, etc.
4. Place a second piece of foil on top and fold the edges together creating a tight seal and a nice foil package.
5. Put the package on cookie sheet and cook at 400°F for 20 minutes (longer for thicker pieces of fish—add five minutes for each half inch of thickness)

We usually serve with rice and let our kids open their own packets at the table. Do be careful as they are hot and plenty of steam will come streaming out.

Here are four ideas to get you started with cooking in foil packets…

Per packet:

Fish Provencal Fish with ginger and soy Fish with spinach and tomatoes Curried Shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil on the first piece (bottom) foil 1 tablespoon sesame oil on the first piece (bottom) foil 1 tablespoon olive oil on the first piece (bottom) foil In  food processor combine:
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ginger
1/3 cup coriander leaves
200 mL coconut milk**
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon garam masala
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon sugarDivide between four packets
Grated carrot and zucchini Thin slices of ginger, 1 teaspoon minced garlic 1 cup (250ml) fresh, clean, spinach leaves (sauce, as per above)
A single four to six ounce fish fillet such as Snapper, Haddock, Halibut or Cod per person A single four to six ounce fish fillet such as Snapper, Haddock, Halibut or Cod per person A single four to six ounce fish fillet such as Snapper, Haddock, Halibut or Cod per person 200 grams shrimp, cleaned, deveined and shelled per packet
Season with a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of herbes de Provence,  few pitted black olives and chopped cherry tomatoes Handful of chopped scallions Tablespoon of chopped sun dried tomatoes, 2 chopped fresh basil leaves Handful of chopped scallions
1 tablespoon white wine 1 tablespoon soy sauce Small drizzle of olive oil (less if the sun dried tomatoes were packed in oil)

**What to do with the rest of that can of coconut milk? Make this Thai-inspired salad dressing to serve alongside the curried shrimp.

200 mL coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Combine all ingredients and whisk well to combine. Toss with mixed salad greens that are punched up with four leaves of chopped fresh basil and one or two leaves of chopped fresh mint.

The coconut milk salad dressing will keep, sealed, in the fridge for a week.

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Michael Forbes

About

Michael, a communications professional by day, is a father of two, an avid (but bad) hockey player, and an amateur cook. He finds it incredibly challenging to write about himself in the third person.


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