The original recipe calls for lots of fresh thyme sprigs, which I'm sure would be amazing. I used dried, and was very happy with the results. So, if you can't find fresh or want to save some pennies, I think this is a good way to go. If you want to make this on a weeknight, I recommend cooking the compote ahead. It's easy to make -- a little chopping plus the occasional stir while it's on the stove -- but since it has to be fully cooked before the fish can go in the oven, it would drag out the dinner prep. I made the compote alongside dinner the previous night and stashed it in the fridge. It heated up well in the oven with the fish, no problems.
Servings are flexible. The butternut squash compote makes enough for 4-5 pieces of fish, but leftovers are great on oatmeal/pancakes or another protein like chicken (it can go sweet or savory)
For the compote:
2 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 cup golden raisins
4 dates, pitted and chopped
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Generous pinch ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
For the fish:
1 fillet mild white fish, such as tilapia, per serving
Salt and pepper
Dried or fresh thyme
1. Make the compote. Combine all of the compote ingredients in a large saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 8-10 minutes. Uncover, and cook, stirring often, until the squash is tender and glossy and the liquid is almost completely absorbed, 8-10 minutes more. Use immediately, or store in the fridge until ready to prepare the fish.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. For each packet you are making, lay out a large piece of foil. Scoop a heaping 1/4 cup of the compote into the center of the foil. Place a fish fillet on top, and then season generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, and top with either a sprig of fresh thyme or a sprinkle of dried thyme.
3. Fold the edges of the packet over and pinch to seal so that the fish is completely enclosed. Leave a little air inside for steam to expand. Repeat for each serving you are preparing.
4. Place the packets on a heavy baking sheet. Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes (longer if using very thick fillets).
5. Remove from the oven and very carefully open the packets. Transfer to a plate and serve.