When I was little, in the summers, Mom would make these little packets of food in foil and called them “Hobo Stew”. It was hamburger meat, layered with potatoes, onions and carrots and Dad would throw them on the grill where the vegetables would cook in the grease of the meat and the onions would carmelize and it was sooooo good.
Little did I know then, my folks were onto something of greatness.
I just knew I loved Hobo Stew.
No, we’re not making Hobo Stew today but, as promised yesterday on my Pesto 101 recipe post, here is the recipe for the Pesto Chicken Packets with Wheat Penne.
I started by making my packet. You may remember if you saw my En Papillote piece that this is a super-easy, fast, healthy way to cook a meal in a sealed up packet of parchment paper. In that recipe, I used fish, lemon, and a variety of vegetables.
In this one, I got a little more creative. I’d been wanting to try a pesto packet, and what is better with pesto than pasta? In this version, I layered my pesto, pasta and veggies and spooned the pesto right over top, and bottom of the packet.
Start by prepping your parchment paper. I won’t go into details here as you can read my past post on how to do this. No parchment paper? You can use regular ol’ tin foil. However, I did experiment with both, and found the parchment paper almost steamed and roasted the ingredients, while the foil packet just plain steamed. I actually preferred the parchment paper.
Here is how I layered it.
First, a layer of my homemade pesto.
I spooned about a tablespoon on the bottom of the packet. Then I kind of spread it around in an oval about 3 inches long.
You can use any kind of pasta that makes your heart sing, but tonight we used wheat penne and it was really incredibly good! We used probably about a cup of pasta.
Now I placed a boneless skinless chicken breast on top of the pasta.
Next I sliced some of my beautiful fresh shallots that I got this weekend at the Farmer’s Market.
Shallots are like a cross between a sweet onion and garlic. You could use any onion you love here though.
Now spoon about 3 more tablespoons of pesto over top of all of this.
Now I chopped a zucchini in half longways, then slice off the ends, and cut half-moon slices. You don’t want to make them too thin, as they will cook with the chicken, and you don’t want them to become too mushy.
Now layer them right over your chicken and shallots.
You can get as artistic as you like here. The last ones I made really artful and pretty. If you’re having guests over, that would really wow them when they unwrap their beautiful individual dinners.
Mr. Wonderful and I were eating alone and starving to death so we didn’t care how it looked.
Begin to wrap up your packet. See my directions here.
Make sure you get the edges sealed tightly. The idea here is for the food to steam and meld together and make beautiful music.
Here is my parchment packet.
And here are both together. I threw in one more just in case a kid wandered in. They almost always do.
Wow that foil one was WAY easier! I think that was why I threw another one together.
Put them in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Now, interestingly, I stuck a meat thermometer in both when I removed them after 30 minutes. The parchment paper one was done and almost had a roasted look to the veggies, pasta and chicken. The foil one just kind of looked steamed. I thought it needed 10 more minutes so I stuck it back in the oven.
Here is what It looked like after I placed it on my plate. I was literally drooling at this point.
And this is what it looked like after I dumped it out on my plate. I topped with a few chopped tomatoes and some fresh basil. Yummmm!
I plan on trying several variations of these over the summer months on the grill with foil. Mushrooms would have been fantastic in this.
It may not be Hobo Stew, but wow, is it good!
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