Halibut Parcels With Capers and Lemon Thyme

from Joanne Weir

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This dish is a bit of effort, but it's really impressive and sublimely flavorful. Ready the fish packets ahead of time so all you have to do is cook the fish at the last minute. To serve, have your guests use tiny scissors to cut the strings or untie the bows as they would a gift.

2 pounds halibut fillets, 3/4 inch thick, skinned and boned
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup capers, chopped
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 egg, well beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
6 bay leaves, halved

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
11/2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon thyme or thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
11/2 pounds baby spinach leaves
6 lemon wedges as a garnish

Prepare the fish: Cut the fish into six 3-inch-square pieces. Split each piece in half, making 12 slices. Chop and reserve the trimmings for the stuffing. Place each slice of fish between waxed paper and pound gently with a meat mallet or a heavy pan until they are about one third again as large.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat, add the onion and cook until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the fish trimmings and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and stir together over low heat for 30 seconds. Place the mixture in a bowl with the capers, cheese, egg, parsley, and the lemon zest. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lemons to make 6 long pieces; reserve.

Place 6 pieces of the halibut on a work surface in a single layer. Place one-sixth of the stuffing on top of each piece of fish. Top with the remaining pieces of fish. Top each bundle with 1 bay leaf and 1 piece of reserved lemon peel. Using cotton kitchen string, tie each parcel around the center in a bow. Place the parcels on an oiled baking sheet. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the olive oil with the lemon juice, lemon zest, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Make the spinach: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Toss the spinach just until wilted but still bright green, 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake the fish in the oven until done, 20 to 25 minutes. To serve, place the spinach on the bottom of each plate. Top with one packet of fish. Drizzle the vinaigrette onto the fish and spinach and garnish with lemon wedges.

Serves 6