Packet Meals – Not Just for Kids and Camp Outs

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Fish filet with capers, lemons, olives tomatoes and peppers placed on top.

Packet Meals are not just for kids and camp outs. This French cooking technique also known as “En papillote” is quick and easy and the cleanup is a breeze because you can throw the parchment or foil away! Because each meal is assembled individually in a packet, members of your family can choose different selections based on their preferences.

For this flexible technique the cook chooses a boneless-skinless protein, vegetables, spices, toppings and sauces, combines them in a parchment or aluminum foil packet, places them on a sheet pan and into a preheated 420°F oven. Packet meals also work well on the outdoor grill with aluminum foil.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend fish or seafood twice a week as part of a healthy eating pattern and a Packet Meal is the perfect place to start. The Family & Consumer Science Program at North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Haywood County has been offering the Cook Smart Eat Smart Cooking School and recently covered this technique in one of our classes. We used Tilapia, bell pepper slices, tomato slices, lemon slices, olives, capers, salt & pepper, olive oil, basil and thyme. As promised, each participant got to pick what to leave out and what to leave in, the prep and cleanup were easy and the Tilapia Packet Meal was delicious!

See the directions below:

DIRECTIONS: Tilapia Packet Meals

  1. Choose protein, vegetables, spices and toppings /sauces.
  2. Wash and cut selected vegetables into small, evenly-sized pieces.
  3. Cut a 12 x 12 square of parchment paper or aluminum foil for each packet.
  4. Assemble your packet with hardy vegetables such as potatoes or carrots on the bottom.
  5. Brush both sides of protein source (ground beef patty, fish filet, boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh, boneless pork chop or tofu slices) with olive oil and place on top of hardy vegetables.
  6. Add the tender vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms and olives.
  7. Drizzle with toppings/sauces and sprinkle with desired herbs and spices.
  8. Top with cheese if desired.
  9. Fold over the sides of packet to meet in the middle and fold down. Fold ends of packet over to seal well. Do no slit the packet. Place packet on a baking pan and bake at 420°F for 20-30 minutes.
  10. Allow packet to rest for 5 minutes and then transfer to individual plates. You can simply tear open the packet watching out for the steam when you are ready to eat.

Here are some other suggested combinations for Packet Meals:

  • Ground beef patty, salt, pepper, onion, potato, carrot and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Chicken breast, salsa, black beans, corn and Cheddar cheese.
  • Flounder filet, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, zucchini, carrots, red bell pepper, onion and dry white wine (or water).
  • Salmon fillet with salt, pepper, lemon slice, oregano thyme and basil.