Aluminum foil serves a lot of wonderful purposes. It can be used to wrap presents, construct helmets, get better reception on your radio, and the standard use: Wrapping food.
Unfortunately, aluminum foil cannot yet be used to construct robots that will do all your cooking for you. At least not cheaply or reliably.
But there is a solution! The Foil-Wrapped Meal. Introduced to consumers in the mid-20th century, the wrap-in-foil trend encouraged campers, grillers and house-spouses to eliminate the needs for archaic devices like pans and bowls and make your entire meal in one makeshift oven.
As we face heat indexes in the triple-digits, the Foil-Wrapped Meal (FWM) has become a summertime hit in the Bellesouth household. Who needs those pesky drip-pans, messy broilers and hours over a painfully hot stove when you’re already sweaty and tired to begin with?
Last week I was faced with the task of having dinner ready by the time my mother returned from swimming class at 7 p.m. WHAT TO DO?! Well, I went through the freezer and I got all this stuff out: The LiveSmart Lemon-Garlic Seasoned Vegetable Blend, the Roasted Baby Bakers (i.e., small potatoes), and the Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts,all purchased from the Schwan’s man last week.
You can use whatever Protein-Veggie-Starch combination you want in its place, from wherever you decide to purchase it. Cod, hash browns and green beans. Pork chops, apples and celery. Veggie burgers, polenta and zucchini. Are we all clear now? You really can’t go wrong; while this is definitely NOT a “no-foil” recipe, it’s a “no-fail” recipe. (Yes, I know how horrible that pun was.)
Here’s how the scenario plays out: I preheat the oven to 375, and then I lie a sheet of aluminum wrap down on my pan. I spray the sheet with some non-stick cooking spray (I prefer the kind with Omega-3 Oils, btw), I load the veggies and taters in there with no thought to pattern or appearance.
I have just spent 30 minutes walking my dog up and down the street to get him to do his business, he is now standing next to me in the kitchen and waiting for me to drop a morsel of food onto the floor, and I’m sweaty and gross and just want to watch some re-runs of Family Ties on Netflix. So I’m really not trying to win a “prettiest meal” contest.
I then season the veggies to my liking. For this particular dish, I used some Old Bay seasoning and Mrs. Dash. You can use whatever you have. Cinnamon would probably be good with the pork chops and apples, for example. Even a little salt and pepper is fine. After I’ve seasoned everything, I then take out another sheet of aluminum foil and wrap my entire dish into something that is secure and resembles a “space-age” wallet they would have sold in the back of comic books in the 1950s.
Now, I’ve seen some foil-wrapped delicacies that look a lot nicer than what I’ve created here, but let’s remember this meal is about three things: dinner, function, and me getting out of the kitchen as soon as possible.
At this point, my dog is pretty much going insane, so I get him a Schwan’s Doggie Sundae from the freezer and it’s enough to distract him from anything I’m putting away, throwing away or placing in the sink.
I’m convinced there could be a pack of female French poodles waiting for him at the front door and he would be completely oblivious as long as he had one of those sundaes. It’s usually enough to keep the pooch occupied over the next hour, which is how long I leave the FWM in the oven. Cleanup takes me about ten minutes at the most, so I can get at least one episode of Family Ties in before I have to take the stuff out of the oven.
Okay, it’s an hour later and our meal should be completely cooked. I get my meal out of the oven, I carefully open the pouch and move my head back so the steam won’t melt my face off.
Voila! There we have it – everything’s cooked, I didn’t even dirty the pizza pan I put the FWM on, and Alex P. Keaton learned not to rent the house out to strangers while his parents are gone.
But how does it taste? Um, it tastes awesome. The steaming especially helps in our house, because my mother needs food that isn’t too tough for her to chew. The steam-cooking helps the food retain all its moisture and flavor, and you don’t end up with dry and bland food.
The only one who was really upset about this meal was the dog, who never got to serve as the clean-up crew. I’m one of those mean dog-parents who rarely gives my dog table food because he begs enough as it is.
So, there you have it. FWM. An easy way to make a hot, well-balanced meal without sacrificing your right to stay cool in the summertime. Sha-lalala.