Halibut & Spinach Baked in Parchment.
Otherwise known as The Idiot-Proof Way to Cook Delicious Fish!
Many people tell me that while they love seafood and happily order it in restaurants, they are afraid to make it at home. Afraid of over cooking the fish, or undercooking the fish, or not knowing how to season the fish…
If any of that sounds familiar, then this is the method for you. Actually, even if you are a fish cooking pro, this is the method for you.
Why? Because it is simple, easy, and fast! Put a few good ingredients together in a parchment package and let the oven work its magic. Fish, vegetables, and delectable sauce will be delivered unto you in 12-15 minutes.
Here’s what you need:
Halibut, Spinach, Onion, Mushrooms, Fresh Thyme, Whole Grain Mustard, Capers, Butter, White Wine, Salt & Pepper, and Parchment Paper.
If all of this is seeming a little familiar, it’s because we’ve done fish in parchment, or Fish en Papillote here at Idiot’s Kitchen before. That recipe had Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes, olives, and orange. This has more subtle, French influenced flavors of spinach, capers, and onion.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
This recipe is for 2 servings but can very easily be expanded – just plan on 6-8 ounces of fish per person.
For 2 servings, you will only need 1/2 of a large onion – about 3/4 cup sliced very thin.
Slice up 4-6 mushrooms (depending on size).
Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted and foamy, add the sliced onions.
Sauté the onions nice and slow until they are tender and slightly caramelized with some nice brown edges – about 6-8 minutes.
Tear 2 pieces of parchment about 18 inches long and fold them in half like a book.
Open the parchment back up and put a nice big handful of baby spinach in the center of one half of the sheet.
Place half of the caramelized onions on top of the spinach.
Place a boneless, skinless halibut fillet on top of the spinach and onions and season it with a little salt & pepper to taste.
If you can’t find halibut, other white flaky fish like snapper, cod, or amberjack will do. I would avoid really thin fillets like tilapia. Look for fish that is about 1½ inches thick.
By the way, do you know how to tell if your fish is fresh?
It should NOT smell fishy! If you can get your nose right in there, then the fish is very fresh. Most of the time, unless it is really oily fish like mackerel, fresh fish should not be stinky.
Spread 1 teaspoon of whole grain mustard on top of the fish. This will help make the sauce.
Add half of the sliced mushrooms and 1 teaspoon of drained capers. The capers give it a nice little vinegary kick.
Add a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. If you don’t have fresh, skip this step. Dried will not be a good substitute here.
Pour 1 Tablespoon of white wine right over the top of the fish.
I used my thumb (clean thumb) as a stopper over the end of the wine bottle but if you are unsure feel free to measure out a tablespoonful.
As the final step to the lovely sauce, cut 1 pat of butter (about 1/2 Tablespoon) and dot the top of the fish with little butter bits.
Repeat this process for the second packet OR build both at the same time assembly line style.
Fold the top piece of parchment over all of those good ingredients. Then starting at one edge, turn the parchment up in little triangles to seal the packet.
Make a little triangle, then move down the edge of the packet turning the parchment up into a little folded edge. As you get to the flat part, you might want to make two folds just to hold things together.
Don’t worry too much about making a perfect packet. If you do a reasonably good job, it will hold up just fine in the oven. This doesn’t have to be perfectly sealed, just be sure there are no major gaps where the juice and magic sauce can escape.
Once you oven is a scorching 500 degrees, place an EMPTY sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and heat the pan for 5 minutes.
Then carefully place the packets on the pan, close the door, and cook the packets at 500 degrees for 12 minutes.
Glorious golden packets of fish and sauce!
VERY CAREFULLY cut a small slit in the top of each packet to let out the steam. Gently tear the parchment open revealing your gorgeous perfectly baked fish.
Some people like to serve the packet closed on a plate and let each person open their own but I find that a little on the messy side. Once the packet is open, carefully lift out the fish and spinach with a spatula then tip the packet onto the plate to get every last drop of the sauce. I remove and discard the thyme sprigs before I serve the fish.
A little saffron rice and some asparagus make this a meal that is quick enough for a weeknight but fancy enough to serve to guests.
I love to make fish in parchment packets. Once you get the hang of it (and it truly doesn’t take long), you will be inventing new combinations of fish and ingredients to try in parchment.
Just remember to put a little butter, a little wine, and a little something flavorful in there to make the magic sauce!
Here’s the recipe: