Cooks Easy, Looks Fancy, Eats Healthy; a Trifecta Recipe

I cooked halibut in parchment paper the other night for dinner. This recipe is genuinely close to a thirty-minute meal; it lets you use fresh vegetables you can find at the farmers market (and it’s healthy); it cooks easily but looks fancy. Kind of a trifecta, if you ask me.

You can use any seasonings and veggies you want. I’ve done this with a slight Italian bent to it; the other night’s was American-Asian. This serves two but this ingredient list scales easily.

You will need;  Parchment paper (in the aisle with waxed paper and aluminum foil); a large baking dish and kitchen twine.


  • 2 ½-pound halibut steaks, about ¾ of an inch thick.
  • 1 medium straight-necked yellow squash or squash of your choice
  • 3 shitake mushrooms
  • 1 small or ½ medium shallot or onion of your choice
  • Garlic to taste (I used 2 large cloves)
  • A chunk of fresh ginger
  • Eight sugar snap pea pods.  (I grabbed a double handful and used the rest in salads the rest of the week.)
  • 1 stalk celery
  • Soy sauce
  • Hoisin Sauce, black bean or other sauce of your choice
  • Salt and black pepper

To prepare:

Season the fish with salt and pepper and let it come to room temperature.

Tear off two 10” rectangles of parchment paper.

Slice the squash into thin rounds.

Finely chop the garlic.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer skin from the ginger, then continue peeling the juicy flesh. I don’t have any idea how much, enough to layer some on both the bottom and the top of the fish. Be guided by how much you like fresh ginger, I guess.

Remove and discard the stems of the mushrooms and slice the tops into matchstick-sized slices. I used 1 ½ mushrooms for each parchment packet.

Split the stalk of celery in half lengthwise and then chop it into small squares. If you don’t use all of it, the rest is also good in a salad. Rinse the pea pods and take off the flowers and stems if any are still attached. Set aside eight.


Lay out the first piece of parchment paper.

Layer the veggies in the center because you’re going to fold the corners up around the food. I did it in this order for looks and also because I was trying to surround the fish with aromatics and flavor;

  • Squash (about eight slices per packet)
  • Mushrooms (reserve two pieces for each packet)
  • Shallot/onion
  • Sprinkle on some garlic
  • One or two ginger shavings

Sprinkle with soy sauce to taste. The squash and the mushrooms will release fluids as they steam, which helps the fish steam and creates a broth, and the soy sauce adds flavor. The ginger and soy were the “forward” flavors.

Brush hoisin or other sauce on top of the fish, sprinkle with remaining garlic and ginger to your taste. Put the fish into the center of parchment paper on top of the veggie pile and layer on the pea pods. Sprinkle in the celery. Add soy sauce if you want and sprinkle with black pepper. Lay the two remaining mushroom slices on top so it looks pretty.

Draw up the corners of the paper like you’re wrapping a bowl for a present. Close up the paper pretty tightly because you don’t want the steam to escape; but leave some room between the fish-and -veggies and the paper. Tie the top shut with kitchen twine.

Repeat for second packet.


Put both packets into the baking dish. The dish goes into the oven for 17 minutes. The fish and vegetables steam cook.

If you are terribly gifted and crafty, you can forego twine and do some clever, beautiful folding and crimping of the paper so it looks more like an envelope than a present, but I can’t do that, so it’s twine for me. If you’re going to do that remember to leave some room. Don’t wrap it like it’s a book, in other words.

Put each finished package on a plate and serve. Ta-da! You can snip the twine at the table and unfold the paper, releasing a yummy, saucy, fresh gingery cloud of steam, or you can give your dinner-mate a pair of scissors and let them do it themselves.

We only had a salad with this. You could make a side dish, (rice would be the obvious one) but to me that defeats the purpose.

Enjoy. If you experiment with ingredients, let me know how that goes.




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