Halibut En Papillote
I enjoy food that has an element of theater. I’ve always been partial to movements of ceremony- the show of opening a wine bottle, or individually hand-serving a poached egg for the top of a salad, or ladling a piping-hot portion of steamed mussels into a bowl. I like to bring these fish packets to the table like little gifts, creating a “moment’ when each guest pulls apart the wrapper to reveal the delicious steaming contents with a positively ambrosial aroma. Cooking any kind of food- particularly fish, which starts out moist but has a delicate flesh very prone to drying out- in a package is a sure-fire way to ensure tender consistency and a complete melding of flavors.
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound baby spinach, washed and dried
- ½ teaspoon plus 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 4 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled
- 2 Tablespoons small capers, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives (or cured black olives)
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 7-ounce fillets of halibut, skinless and boneless
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Heat 1 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Add the spinach and sauté for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, season with a pinch each of salt and pepper, and set aside. (Alternatively, you can drop the spinach in a pot of boiling, salted water for 5 seconds, then remove it immediately and drain it through a colander.) Once it’s cool, squeeze the excess water from the spinach.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, capers, basil, olives, remaining ½ cup of olive oil and the vinegar. Set aside.
4. Cut out 4 pieces of parchment paper, each approximately 11 x 14 inches. Drizzle olive oil on the paper, place an equal portion of the reserved spinach in the center of each, and lay a piece of halibut on top. Spoon equal portions of the tomato mixture on each piece of fish to make a neat mound of ingredients in the center of each sheet of parchment paper. Season the fish with 1 teaspoon of salt and the ½ teaspoon of pepper.