Writing about art, food and changes

Theresa Rice

Theresa Rice
North Georgia Mountains, Georgia, United States
August 24
I write. I paint. I teach. I grow things. I cook. I eat. Louisiana-born and Southern bred, I love people wise enough to be optimistic and generous enough to bring their gifts to the table.


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JANUARY 3, 2011 9:57AM

Emergency En Pappillote

Rate: 16 Flag


  . . .  or Mastering the Art of Packet Cooking


 The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a 'What the hell?' attitude. ~ Julia Child

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I prefer my emergencies run of the mill, non life-threatening, and of brief duration. Any advice I offer here is geared in that direction without safety concerns about food storage or contamination, and serious water shortage. For that type of counsel check in with official guidelines and recommendations like those offered by FEMA

I can't say I've been in every kind of emergency, but I have gone through fires, floods, gas leaks, chemical spills, droughts, animal attacks, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, ice storms, bomb scares, car wrecks and Atlanta traffic gridlock. I'll gladly pass on whatever is left, including pandemics, hijacking, kidnapping, terrorism, airplane crashes, train wrecks, earthquakes, explosions, asteroids crashing to earth, foreign invasion, tidal waves and tragedies at sea, thank you.

Wearisome home-grown emergencies often have predictable issues in common--no water, no power, no phone. Throw in ice, snow and impassible roads and you're in for the long haul. One year we were marooned for a week in March by a surprise ice storm, with what felt like terminal flu, no less. We had to keep hydrated, but at least we weren't worried about food. It could have been a much worse if we hadn't had gas heat. Even so, it was a whole lot of no fun.

Baden_powel011Robert Baden-Powell, father of the organized scouting famously said, “Be Prepared.” Good thinking. Keeping well fed in emergency conditions has a lot in common with Boy Scout camping. A certain amount of planning can provide better options. And if you're not completely prepared try to be as observant and inventive as a well-trained scout.

54px-Julia_ChildNot that we have to descend into beanie weenie mode or finding edible woodland roots. At least I hope not. There must be alternatives for those of us committed to culinary standards of excellence.When in doubt I ask myself, “What would Julia do?”

Ms. Child faced life and its emergencies head-on, with more  joi de vivre and je ne sais quoi and sangfoid than a whole passel of Eagle Scouts. "Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes." She would respond to any food emergency with dash, knowledge, humor and aplomb. What a woman! Baden-Powell would have eaten out of her hand, so to speak. 

How would Julia earn her emergency cooking merit badge in a snowstorm, flood or hurricane? She’d cheerfully head for fridge and freezer, spice rack and pantry, a sharp eye on the lookout for compatible ingredients. She’d grab a roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil and a can of cooking spray and gleefully commence making gourmet Silver Turtles, those tasty foil packets scouts have been edging onto glowing coals for decades. Of course Julia being Julia, she would call them "en papillote," explain that cooking "in parchment" can also mean using foil, and rhapsodize about the flavor derived from the food's own liquids steaming in flavors. The word "jolly" might come into play and there would be butter.

Julia wouldn't blink twice about being on the same cookery path as a Boy Scout. Aluminum foil is a scout’s best friend on a cookout and should be yours in an emergency kitchen. Apart from added flavor, think of the the convenience—no pots, pans or dishes to wash. Even if your water supply is not limited, who wants the hassle of cleanup when you're in coat, scarf, hat, long johns and three pairs of socks and a Guinness Book of Records-length Monopoly game is underway in the dining room?

 A quick scan of my kitchen, not restocked since Christmas, turned up several possibilities. I had ingredients for vegetable, seafood, chicken, beef and pork entrees. Here is a trio of entree ideas to make or use as a jumping off point for what's in your kitchen.  MR900314296 turtle

Silver Turtle Shrimp (1 serving)

  • Aluminum foil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 tomato, diced
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, canned or frozen
  • 1/2 teaspoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon pesto (or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil + 2 teaspoons olive oil + 1 finely minced garlic clove)
  • 1 or 2 thin lemon slices

 Tear off a square of foil and coat dull side with cooking spray. Layer all ingredients. 

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 To seal the packet, bring two edges together and fold over twice. Repeat on the edges. For more authentic looking silver turtles you can twist each corner to make it easy to grab them out of the fire.

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 Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. If the oven's out of commission, fire up the grill or cook in the fireplace. If you use the fireplace, be sure the fire is down to coals. DO NOT put the packets onto flaming logs.

 I used the 14" x 15" top plate of our small woodstove when the fire was medium hot and had a done packet in 10 minutes.

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 Supremes au Poulet au L'Orange (1 serving)

  • 4 to 6 ounce boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders
  • Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon each dried thyme, sage and rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon orange marmalade
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth

 Tear off a square of foil and coat dull side with cooking spray. Season chicken and dredge in butter, then breadcrumbs. Lay on the foil and top with marmalade and vermouth. Cook as directed in previous recipe for 18-24 minutes. 

Sesame Ginger Pork Chops (1 serving)

  • 1 small boneless pork chop
  •  salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 small onion, cut into strips
  • 3 or 4 bell pepper strips
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
Tear off a square of foil and coat dull side with cooking spray. Season pork chop with salt and pepper, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce. Top with onions and peppers and olive oil. Seal edges as directed in previous recipe. Cook for 20-25 minutes in oven, fireplace, grill or woodstove top.


A few pointers: 

If you want to use carrots, turnips, potatoes or any very firm vegetable, consider parboiling. If you can't do that, cut into tiny pieces.

 Be sure to include liquid or juicy vegetables and oil if the meat is lean. 

Move the packets around to cook evenly but don't invert them. Leaks happen.

Be very careful when you open the packet. It's like a steamy little pressure cooker in there. Don't get burned.

And . . .


In 1987 Julia Child was invited onto Late Night with David Letterman to make a hamburger and faced a bit of an emergency herself. Time limitations, a wise-cracking Dave and equipment failure did not daunt our Julia. Armed with chutzpah and a blowtorch she spontaneously and hilariously invented "Beef Tartar au Gratinee Letterman."

Danger symbol in the public domain
courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 
Turtle graphic courtesy of Microsoft clipart
Video courtesy of YouTube
All other text and images by Theresa Rice © 2011 


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My God You must put these in a published collection. r.
I really like beanie weenies, but I also just happen to have a bottle of capers in the fridge so I think I'll try your "turtle" recipe. I've been thinking I need an emergency stove. I love your quotes by Julia.
YUM! and I agree with Jonathan..Always have
Rated with hugs
Ok! You sure slam dunked that one. Hats off. And rated.
There's a few things worth trying. And the "What would Julia do?" are words to live by in the kitchen. Thanks for the post.
Wow, this is an elegant way to ride out an emergency! I think we can all learn from you and Julia Child. Good stuff!
Teresa and Julia, it has a nice ring to it doesn't it? My husband makes foil packets when camping, but your recipes and stories take this to a new level.
Thanks for bringing Julia into my morning! It's better already...
Julia as Boy Scout - very nice! Rated.
The aluminum foil is ingenious for clean up in limited water situations, and everything looks delicious as well. Well done!
You certainly get my mouth salviating and more...
Bam! You knocked this out of the park Theresa! and just in time for the next blizzard. Plenty of people are probably buying foil and a blow torch today - be prepared!! and to that I'm adding 'What would Julia do?', to make sure I consider all possibilities.

I didn't remember the space in Dave's teeth ever being so wide, but wish he'd left it alone. It's iconic in the way Barbra's nose is her signature. Do you think some sharp marketeer was listening to Dave when he said "put it in an oven mitt", because 20 years later, I have pocket pita in my freezer! I loved this post.
Wow, some interesting flavors and ideas here. I'm thinking that these can be adapted and/or other recipes converted into "Cheap Bastid" en Pappiollote--quick, cheap and good--which kids might love to do too (make their own).
Julia and Dave were terrific. A year or so ago when I did a post on steak tartare, some readers got squeamish, even though, as Julia said, it's absolutely delicious.
Theresa, this is brilliant! I love your writing, especially, and the food, well, when the next Armageddon comes, I'm grabbing my hobo stick and hiking to the mountains of Georgia. Bonne chance!
Hi Jonathan. One of these days . . .

There's a time and place for beenie weenies, Janice. For me it's a very small increment of time and a very tiny place. But you go, girl. BTW capers are a permanent long-term fridge resident we tend to pass over. Let me know how your shrimp turns out.

Thanks, Miz Linda-girl. You rock

Vivian, I appreciate that, but do you see an EP here? lol

Abrawang . . . It must be Saint Julia by now.

Felicia Lee, life's too short to pass up opportunities to shine.

Hiya, Grace. Next camping trip, why don't you plan the menu? Consult Julia.

Felisa, that's Julia for you.

Becalim, she's my favorite good scout of all time, I think. Culinary division.

Thank you, Belle. Seems we had a lot of practice with water limitations not so long ago. The memory and some of the habits linger.

Whip out a roll of foil and get cooking, Algis. Saliva is not a good fashion statement most places. lol

My thanks to you, Linda S

Merci beaucoup for the kind words and I completely agree with you about Dave's teeth, Gabby Abby.

OK, Walter. Be sure to send me a notice when you post your ideas!

Come on up, Lucy. And stick an extra roll of heavy duty foil in your hobo pack, will you?