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This fragrant, tasty chicken dinner comes with a bonus: No cleanup

(Stacy Zarin Goldberg/For The Washington Post)
Chicken and Vegetable Parcels
Total time:35 mins
Total time:35 mins

If the cleanup end of a weeknight meal is your least favorite part, this recipe’s for you. It uses a time-honored technique employed by professional chefs and camping enthusiasts with equal aplomb: packet cooking, a.k.a. en papillote, al cartoccio, hobo packets and foil-packet dinners.

Foods enclosed in a parchment paper or foil pouch essentially steam as they bake in the oven or on the grill, holding in juices, flavors and aromas. To create that steam, added liquids are sparingly poured, and when the pouch is foil, some type of fat is included to keep the contents from sticking. The packets are typically done per individual serving, making them custom-order per diner at your table without extra steps or fuss.

Use the Dinner in Minutes pantry to stock your kitchen

Start with proteins that respond nicely to poaching, such as chicken or fish or tofu, and you can add on from there. For this rendition, chicken broth, lemon slices and a touch of honey do the trick; a dry white wine could stand in for the broth if you have that. The small pile of vegetables and herbs underneath picks up flavor from the chicken on top as well. The chicken needs to be thin; pound or cut the boneless, skinless chicken breast halves in your Dinner in Minutes Pantry or buy cutlets that are ready to go.

You don’t have to fold the packets any particular way, as long as you a) leave some head space for steam, and b) make sure they’re sealed tightly. Pop them on a baking sheet, where it doesn’t matter how closely they sit. When you open them, keep your face just far enough away to avoid the rush of heat but close enough to inhale the goodness.

Once the packets are emptied, you can toss them — and have only the dishes to wash.

Chicken and Vegetable Parcels

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  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 medium shallot
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 to 6 stems fresh herbs, such as sage, thyme and/or parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each, tenderloins removed)
  • 3 tablespoons no-salt-added chicken broth
  • Honey

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut two 12-by-17-inch sheets of parchment paper, fold each one in half crosswise. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, side by side, and then open each one.

Step 2

As you prep the next ingredients, you’ll be creating two equal piles, centered on one-half of each parchment paper: Cut the red bell pepper in half. Discard the seeds and ribs, then cut into long, thin strips. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the stringy bits from the celery. Cut the ribs lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips, then cut them in half so they are the same length as the red bell pepper strips. Mince the shallot. Season each pile lightly with salt and pepper.

Step 3

Pluck the leaves from the parsley (to taste). Cut the lemon into very thin slices, discarding any seeds.

Step 4

Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the chicken breast halves and pound each one to a thickness of no more than 1/2 inch. Season all over with salt and pepper.

Step 5

Place one atop each pile of vegetables. Arrange the parsley leaves and lemon slices on each portion.

Step 6

Drizzle the broth and a little honey (a few teaspoons on each) over the piles, then fold over the paper and, starting at one corner, crimp and seal tight each packet. Roast for 20 to 22 minutes; the paper packets should puff up a bit as they bake.

Step 7

Place them on individual plates. Carefully tear open, avoiding the steam. Eat right out of the packet or empty the packets onto the plates.


Calories: 290; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 125 mg; Sodium: 240 mg; Carbohydrates: 21 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 17 g; Protein: 40 g.

From deputy Food editor/recipes editor Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to

Scale this recipe and get a printer-friendly, desktop version here.

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