baked halibut with asparagus, leeks, and dill

We’ve been longing for spring around here.

Rain. That’s what we’ve had. Rain.

I don’t complain about the rain. We live in the Seattle area. It rains here, especially in the winter. We don’t have banks of snow or days so cold we have to bundle up the child in so many layers that her arms stick out straight from her side. We have rain. I like it. I like the sound of rain quietly thrumming on the roof. I like how cozy it feels at times.

What I do not like is enduring the rainiest March in Seattle history. Every single day for March, rain then rain then more rain. And hard rain, rain that meant business. One evening, Lu and I arrived home in the midst of yet another horrible rainstorm. I took her out of her seat and stood her in the driveway for a moment while I grabbed our bags. She began crying, a piteous wailing cry. Startled, I looked over to see her. The raindrops hitting her head were so hard that she was crying out in pain. People, this kid does not complain.

After a few weeks of this, I started wearing only charcoal grey clothes out of the house. Everything else was grey. I might as well be too.

Everyone in the entire area was in a collective bad mood.

However, the trees pushed out blooms in spite of the lack of sun. Somehow they still remember spring.

And on Saturday, we bought our first halibut of the season.

Look at that lemon. Sunlight on parchment paper.

Asparagus, even if it is from California, is a sweet green relief in the midst of rain.

Dill, sprightly and alive, makes me happy.

Leeks are the late winter waving goodbye to the worst of it, emerging from the earth.

And halibut — a thick cut of halibut, the first here after the season opened in Alaska.

It might have been raining on Saturday, but we made spring happen in the kitchen.

If you have never baked fish in a parchment bag, you’re in for a treat.

It’s easy, elegant, and cooks in a whiff.

Sure, you don’t have the crisp sear that comes from a pan-roasted fish, but sears and crispness feel like winter to me now. Give me soft and pliable, with skin so white it’s like Seattle residents’ skin when they first run Greenlake in shorts.

And it takes about 15 minutes from preparation to eating.

Plus, you have the joy of crimping up parchment paper so it looks like a calzone.

(Hm. Maybe I should work on a calzone recipe.)

Danny and I bought this halibut from our favorite fisherman on the side of the highway on early Saturday afternoon. After we put Lu down for a nap, we took these photos. While the fish baked, Danny and I talked about all our hopes for this spring. The oven timer dinged. Bingo — lunch.

By the way, as I’m writing this, I’m looking out the window at the first cloudless blue sky we’ve had in months. There are sunglasses on the top of my head. This morning, Lu celebrated the sunlight splashing through the windows by dancing. Today, finally, it is spring.

Maybe we made it happen by making halibut.

You might want to make this for dinner tonight.

HALIBUT EN PAPILLOTE

Don’t let the French phrase fool you. This is one of the simplest preparations you will find for a delicious seafood dish.

Once you have eaten this, you’ll probably want to bake nearly every piece of fish you can find. Do. Experiment. Play. And stock up on parchment paper.

1 pound fresh halibut (we highly advocate wild Alaskan halibut)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 stalks standard-size asparagus, sliced in half lengthwise, woody stems removed
1/2 white part of leek, julienned
3 lemon slices
4 to 5 sprigs fresh dill
1/8 cup white wine

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pull out a long piece of parchment paper, about 24 inches long.

Wrapping the halibut in the paper. Lay the parchment paper on the counter like a long rectangle, short ends on the left and right. Put the halibut piece in the middle of the parchment paper. Season it with salt and pepper.

Lay the asparagus slices, leeks, lemon slices, and dill on top of the halibut. Fold down the paper from the top, over the halibut. Roll the paper and crimp up all the edges like you are wrapping a present in a hurry. Leave the bottom open. Pour in the white wine and take care to not spill it out of the bag. Crimp the bottom to seal the bag.

Baking the halibut. Put the parchment bag in a skillet. Slide it into the oven. Bake until the halibut is firm to the touch but not solid and dry, or until it has reached an internal temperature, about 6 to 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. (This should put the fish at a medium-rare to medium.) Remove it from the oven.

Cut the parchment bag above the crimped edges. Be careful of the steam. Remove the lemon slices and dill.

Serve.

Feeds 2.

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44 comments on “baked halibut with asparagus, leeks, and dill

  1. Feast on the Cheap

    I’m a huge fan of Halibut (particularly in a tangy spanish Romesco), but I’ve never baked it in parchment paper. This looks delicious — the perfect spring dinner. Hope it stops raining out in Seattle, it’s finally sunny here in NY!

    1. shauna

      I’d never baked it in parchment paper before I met Danny either. But it bakes quickly, the steam and wine help make it juicy, and it’s utterly delicious. I like your romesco sauce idea, however.

  2. Dave

    I’ve been baking fish, including halibut, for quite a while using the recipe from the Jacque & Julia cookbook. Like you said, it really is a fast and beautiful way to prepare fish. Two things got me very excited about your recipe. One, I love your version of cooking en papillote using the “calzone” method of sealing the parchment. I originally used straight pins to seal the paper and later started using a stapler, especially if I was preparing the meal for a lot of people. Rolling the ends eliminates the metal and looks appetizing. And two, what a great combo — asparagus, leeks and dill. Thanks!

  3. Lyn

    This looks and sounds really yummy and gets me in the mood for spring here in Utah! Think I’ll make it this week and maybe add some sliced jicima.

  4. Mary Louise

    You are so right about parchment-paper baking. It’s such a silly easy way to do fish, and impressive enough for guests. We like to put all kinds of veg & herbs & sauces with different kinds of fish, but the halibut in your pix has put me in a mood for it (have you tried halibut cheeks — extra yum!! almost like scallops, they are so sweet!) We live in “relatively” landlocked Milwaukee, Wisc. (relatively, as in “have you seen our lake that looks like an ocean?” :-), but fortunate to have Empire Fish market here to get wonderful fish goodies.

    I want to confess that I’m also a huge fan of your GF recipes, particularly those without the gums as I have now found those an issue as well. Do you think substituting the chia/flax slurry is the best place to start for recipes that need the boost? Your recipes have been a blessing for pizza and quick-breads, but the GF pasta recipes I’ve seen use a LOT of xanthan gum… Have you had any luck with gum-free pasta recipes yet?

  5. Lauren

    This looks amazing — simple and delicious. You’ve got me craving halibut now. And I, too, am breathing a sigh of relief that the sun is out (I’m in Tacoma, and I celebrated the sunshine today by going over to Pt. Defiance and looking at the views of your island!)

  6. Ann

    Ooh, yum! I’ve made salmon in parchment (awesome venue for meyer lemon slices and truffle salt with the veggies!) but it hadn’t even occurred to me to try halibut! How absolutely lovely.

  7. Ashley

    If your cooking halibut is responsible for the weather today, I implore you, do it EVERY DAY!!!

    I adore papillote fish preparations.

  8. Alison

    So excited to try this recipe. I have been looking for more fish recipes and this looks delicious!

  9. Pam C in Canada

    I wish this recipe had been posted yesterday :(. Oh well. Next time I get (frozen) fish, I’ll have to try it this way. I live in central Canada, so we’re starting to get warmer days (today it was +13C/54F & our snow is going away! Although now we have giant “lake puddles” to contend with). So far only one day of rain (with more to come I’m sure). Thanks for sharing your recipes :).

  10. Terry

    Looks lovely. I haven’t tried halibut or salmon in parchment but I surely will now. It can make for a fun dinner party to have thinly sliced veggies etc to put with the fish and let people choose what they like to build their own concoction. They all come out good and it’s fun to see what others do.

  11. molly

    somehow, i’ve never baked fish (or anything else) en papillote. i suspect that pasty greenlake shorts analogy may cinch it, though. now THAT is a classic!

    happy spring to you, shauna.

  12. i-geek

    I adore halibut. I’ve never baked fish in parchment, but I have done it in foil packets and it comes out moist and perfect every time. The parchment is so much more elegant-looking. I must try it.

    Also, I’m right there with you on celebrating spring. After one of the snowiest Detroit winters on record, we had 80-degree sunshine yesterday. Since my friend put away his snowblower last weekend, we’re pretty much guaranteed one more big snowstorm. In the meantime, I’ll take what I can get while the getting is good. :)

  13. Kristin

    This post made me miss Seattle with an intense nostalgia. I’m from Portland, lived in Seattle (well, on Bainbridge Island) for four years, and just moved to Sacramento. It’s just not the same here, with the sunny days, palm trees, and beef.…everywhere. I miss that happiness one feels on a sunny day after a long winter, and that first fresh halibut of the season. I hope some of our grocery stores pick up halibut soon :) Thanks for the recipe! Enjoy the NW!

  14. Michelle

    So I was born and raised in the glorious PNW. Bellingham = rain. I get it. I can handle more rain than humanly imaginable. When I would visit friends in CO they would tell me how great my skin looked.… it was the cloud cover and the moisture. Now we temporary live east of the Cascades where the climate is dry and more dry. When we get a good rain here, I suddenly feel all warm and cozy. I want to curl up inside and wait for it to pass like west of the mountains.… waiting for days, even months… instead it passes in a hour and the blue sky shines in all of its glory. I honestly miss the rain. Is that weird or what? It might be the trees, moss and ferns or the fresh seafood and the smell of the ocean that will draw me back home. That post just made me homesick.

  15. nancy

    Consider wrapping the halibut in parboiled kale next time. It is outstanding, gives you a side dish, and you can eat the “parchment paper.”

  16. Sarah

    You have inspired us for dinner tonight! My daughter and I cerimoniously put away our winter jackets and snow suits the other day and then the very next day we had a snow storm here in Pennsylvania. So, I felt the opposite of you. I felt like we dared winter to stay a while longer. Maybe your recipe for fish tonight will help spring start to show it’s beautiful face here in Pennsylvania. Stay tuned.…

  17. Julia Sarver

    I love baking fish this way — it’s easy to do with halibut, salmon, sole — whatever you have that’s wild and local. I actually find that this is a really great way to get kids involved in cooking — I set out bowls of toppings for the fish and each kid puts what they want in with the fish. Tomatoes, olives, and sliced fennel are great additions to the flavors you have here. Kind of like personal pizzas, but healthier.

    We live in Portland, so we feel your rain pain! I’m headed out for a hike today because I just can’t stand it any longer — hoping I don’t get soaked.

  18. Lori-Vancouver BC

    I hear you on the rain thing…the cherry blossoms make up for it though:)
    Mmmmmm halibut…this recipe looks easy and delicious!
    I caught my 1st salmon, now my next quest is my first halibut…wish I had a boat!

  19. Lauren L

    I’ve never cooked halibut nor anything in parchment. How do I test the fish to know when it is done if it is cooking in parchment? I really want to try this but worried I’ll overcook it.

    1. shauna

      If you see in the recipe, we suggest you cook it until it is 120 degrees. So, you need a thermometer!

  20. Miss B

    I am the complete opposite of…every single person in Seattle (and the world, I think). I grumble when the rain isn’t rainy enough (which is how it generally tends to be, so real rain with intention has been lovely for me) and I hate that we don’t get real winter or actual cold or lots of snow. And when spring arrives, I start to get grumpy without even realizing it, because some subconscious part of me knows that soon enough it will be too warm to wear coats and scarves, and then I will be an unhappy little thing, because there is little I dislike more than legitimately warm weather (let’s not even talk about hot weather, gah). If I could switch hemispheres every year and just cycle through endless autumn and winter with nothing else, forever, I’d be the happiest clam in Clam Town.

  21. Brenda

    Yummo. I’ve never had fish cooked in parchment paper. Looks so fancy and super delicious. The dill and lemons sound amazing. Where did you get asparagus from? I have not seen then at the market yet, but I want them as soon as they are.

  22. Teresa A

    I can’t wait to try this out. I just finished reading your book and it is just wonderful. Thanks for the inspiration! My GF son will appreciate all the new tastes.
    Smiling on Whidbey!
    Teresa

  23. LEAH

    I love leeks! So glad I stumbled upon your site. I’m always looking for new gluten-free recipes since I end up making the same things over and over again.

  24. Andrea

    Shauna, this isn’t a very appropriate response to your halibut recipe, but I have to share my appreciation and excitement somewhere. I don’t know if I can tell you how happy I am to have found your blog!!! (All of my family and friends can attest to this because I have been going on about your site and what revelations and inspiration it has led me to for the last several weeks!) It sucked me in instantly, and I spent several hours reading various sections and posts. I was immediately inspired and excited, and the next time I was at the grocery store, I bought approximately 8 bags of different GF flours and starches. But it wasn’t just the recipes, it was you, your story, and your love of life, family and food. It made me teary-eyed and reminded this skeptical, cynical realist that everyday life CAN be joyous and romantic. “Oh yeah, I forgot about those things.” I nearly swooned, and I fell in love. I think I even mourned more romantic days lying in bed later that night. I do not have celiac disease, but I have been avoiding wheat and gluten for over a year along with other foods in an attempt to sort out various digestive and skin issues. And, we are not yet ready to introduce our 21-month-old son, who is a descendant of two previous generations of celiacs, to gluten. A year ago I was baking wheat bread and making flour tortillas by hand every week! Wheat was a staple of my diet. Going gluten free has been a big adjustment. To complicate things, I was also off dairy and eggs had to be concerned about making sure my carb consumption wasn’t too starchy for blood sugar reasons…Weekend mornings found me crabby and feeling sorry for myself. I came to hate breakfasts. Every attempt I made at things like pancakes or quick breads were disastrous despite recipes from supposedly experienced GF cooks and mixes on the market that weren’t just nearly pure starch in a bag. The first recipe of yours I tried was the pancake recipe, and I was giddy when I ate it! I hadn’t had a delicious pancake in a year! I have since tried the muffins and look forward to exploring so much more. I LOVE your whole grain to starch ratio discovery! This makes baking healthy AND delicious GF recipes possible for me. And the information about egg replacers and gums has also been revolutionary for me. I never really liked those gums anyway! I am so looking forward to exploring more of your site and your books. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

  25. Bevy

    I have made the yummy bread that you had in the Seattle Times … that is DELISH! I appreciate your taking the time to work out GREAT recipes and am glad to find you online.
    I hope to get more recipes from you.
    I am constrained by not being able to use dairy or sugar — only honey in my baked goods though. :( I KNOW!

  26. Ruby

    I made this for dinner last night!
    Though… I forgot to add the liquid to steam the fish, it actually turned out pretty well!
    Also made extra steamed asparagus on the side so there’s enough veggie intake for the day.

    Thank you for sharing this simple & delicious recipe! <3

  27. Saskia

    Oh rain. Rain. We have forgotten what rain looks like here. It’s bee so long since it rained here that I think my children have forgotten what rain looks like! It has been one of the driest summers on record here in Western Australia.

    I read your blog and it transports me to a different season with totally different experiences!

    Great recipe by the way, I love cooking like this, it seems so glamorous butis so easy!

    Ocean trout or salmon are perfect this way too, yum, thanks for the reminder, might try this again over the weekend!

  28. Rachel

    I made a version of this last night using some bass that we had in the freezer — and I substituted spring onions (scallions) as I didn’t have any leeks. It turned out to be delicious! I’ve done the fish-in-a-bag (as I always call it) method before but had totally forgotten how easy and yummy it is.

  29. Ilke

    I like baking fish in parchment paper or just simply grill it. Definitely looks like spring has arrived :) Parchment paper is a handy-dandy thing to have, my grandma used to make individual lamb pockets — diced lamb and bunch of veggies wrapped in paper– and it was always a delight to tear the paper and see the steam escaping.
    Hope you have a nice Spring :)

  30. Kami McBride

    Hey SHauna,
    Thank you for everything!
    I would be happy to send you a copy of my book The Herbal Kitchen, let me know if you are interested. Full of great herbal condiments!!

    best wishes,
    Kami

  31. Deborah

    Great recipe… I love fish and just started baking en papillote — so thank you. Just started following you on Tweeter. Love what you are doing.

  32. Jenny

    Love this! I have 3 kids and a hungry hubby and EVERYONE devours this one! It’s one of my new go-to dinners! Thanks!