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.