Do you believe art imitates life, or life imitates art?
I love to cook and have always fantasized about entering a cooking competition, not a reality TV show or anything like that, something more grassroots, like the Australian Country Women’s Association’s (CWA) Annual “Land of Cookery” Contest; you can compete in several categories, including jams & preserves, cakes, cake decoration etc. The entries are judged by a panel of highly experienced country cooks, and winners get an honourable mention, a ribbon, and a modest monetary prize.
After watching one of my most recent favourite films “Julie & Julia“, I felt highly motivated to cook with a challenge, and hopefully find some inspiration to increase my repertoire of ‘go to’ dishes. It was unlikely that I was going to compete in the CWA’s “Land of Cookery” Contest, but there is another alternative, “Julie & Julia” has inspired the creation of several virtual clubs for cooking and baking, like-minded people connecting via cyberspace to cook with a challenge, and then share the results, be they good, bad or indifferent.
I did a bit of research and looked around at the many virtual clubs for cooking challenges, I decided to join the Daring Kitchen. The Daring Kitchen, has two groups the ‘Daring Cooks’ and the ‘Daring Bakers’, because I love a challenge I signed up for both (in hindsight one might have been enough!).
There are a few rules, but all-in-all it’s really about having a go, creating the selected recipe of the month and then sharing your effort, and of course the most important part, the fun and fellowship of supporting each others cooking adventures (or mis-adventures – doh!).
Cue the challenge this month, our Daring Cooks’ host is Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie; Sarah has challenged us to try a cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.
The secret step, which I gleaned from a friend is to pre-heat a baking tray, so the papillote goes into the oven on a hot tray, when it comes out of the oven, it is all puffed up and ready to serve, the aroma is wonderful.
To create the parchment parcel, all you need to do is fold over your parchment paper and cut out a heart shape, then once all the ingredients are placed in side, gently and firmly tuck over the ends, ensuring they will stay firmly sealed during the baking process.
Chicken in a Bag : My Way:
- 1 chicken breast;
- 2 shallots
- 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons of “Passata“ (I used my home-made tomato soup as a substitute)
- 1 small brown onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 corn on the cob, cooked and trimmed of the cob
- 1 pinch of grated pepper
- 4 cherry tomatoes
- 4 -8 snow peas
- 1/2 cup of couscous
- fresh herbs of your choice
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Trim the chicken breast into two equal pieces, rub in lemon rind, 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, salt, and fresh herbs, marinate over night.
Cook the couscous, according to the directions on the packet.
Heat up a frying pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil, lightly brown the chicken breast. Remove the chicken breast from the pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil, finely chopped onion and garlic and cook until translucent, add couscous and stir fry, add passata, corn and stir fry for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place the couscous, chicken breast into the papillote, layer cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley and snow peas on top. Seal papillote, place on a hot baking tray and cook in a moderate to hot oven for 20 minutes.
Makes two small entrée sized serves, to increase proportion or serves just add more! I served mine with a squeeze of lemon and a garnish of finely chopped shallot to add some texture and crunch.
The result was tasty, my couscous a bit gluggy – need to work on that! By the way, it’s refreshing to be inspired by a film, definitely a case of life imitating art.