In high school every once in a while my dad would make Fish Surprise, his take on Fish En Papillote. The vegetables he used would vary and most of the time it was halibut but no matter what the ingredients were the dish always felt like the most elegant of dishes. Fish Surprise is when you take veggies, oil, and fish wrap them tightly in foil or parchment paper and bake or grill. You end up with this delightfully steamed flaky fish that has been lightly seasoned with the essence of whatever vegetables you use. The vegetables end up al dente with this umami quality due to the fish drippings. My dad would serve the foil package to us and we would get to open it ourselves. It was like a present, the steam would billow out and you would be overcome with this briny, earthy scent that would make your mouth water.
Why it has taken me this long to recreate this dish in my home is beyond me. During my quest to control my portion size, I realized that this dish is the perfect dish. Everything is pre-portioned so there is no option to overeat, to go back for seconds and thirds. It feels luxurious, like you are indulging in some guilty pleasure without the true guilt. I am glad I took the walk down memory lane and I am looking forward to adding Fish Surprise back to my routine.
1/2 lb of Halibut (Mahi Mahi and Cod also work)
1 zucchini, cut into rounds
1 small shallot, minced
5-6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
about 1/2 c of chopped kale
Preheat oven to 350. You can also do this on the grill but I am not quite the grill master like my dad so I use the oven. Cut the Halibut into two portions.
Cut two pieces of foil about 1 1/2 feet long. Drizzle 1 T of olive oil in the center of the pieces of foil. Split the kale into two portions and place on either piece of foil on top of the olive oil.
Place the halibut in the nest of Kale. Splitting the veggies equally, top the halibut with the zucchini, shallot and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle an additional 1 t of olive oil on top of the veggies. Top with a couple of basil leaves.
Enclose the halibut and veggies with the foil. You want it to be a tight package so that no steam can come out. I find it easiest to have the seal at the top. Place both packages on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
Remove from heat and let sit for a couple of minutes to cool slightly. Open your “present” and grate a small amount of parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy!