wolf_gourmet_salt_baked_fish_whole

On a recent date night, we ordered a whole sea bass baked in salt at a Spanish restaurant. With great pomp and circumstance, the waitress approached our table with the fish on a beautiful platter, rapped it with the back of a spoon, then lifted away pieces of the hardened salt shell, exposing the still-steaming bass inside. She boned and filleted the fish, then gave us each a generous serving. It completely exceeded my expectations and afterward, I was determined to learn how to make salt-baked fish, regardless of the time and effort involved.

Much to my surprise, it was not difficult to recreate. You definitely don’t need a toque or a culinary degree to make this classic and impressive dish. And cast away your doubts about covering one small fish with what seems like an inordinate amount of salt. The salt acts as a cozy blanket while cooking, sealing in the moisture and gently adding a bit of salinity, contrary to what you might think. Mixing the salt with egg whites creates a texture similar to wet sand which is easy to put around the fish. The temperature probe ensures it will be cooked to the exact temperature.

Tips for choosing a whole fish from our culinary team:

• Shiny eyes
• Bright red gills
• Flesh will spring back quickly when gently pressed
• Glistening skin
• Smells like the ocean (not fishy)

Once you take your catch home, use it within a day or two. Store whole fish in the coldest part of your fridge wrapped in parchment on a tray of ice, changing it enough so the melted ice doesn’t penetrate the parchment.

Whole Salt-Baked Fish with Lemon and Dill
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Servings
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Servings
2
Whole Salt-Baked Fish with Lemon and Dill
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
  • 1 whole 1 1/2 pound fish such as trout, branzino, or red snapper cleaned
  • 16 fresh dill sprigs
  • 1 lemon half sliced into rounds and half cut into wedges
  • 8 cups kosher salt
  • 4 large egg whites
Instructions
  • Preheat the oven to CONVECTION/BAKE 375°F. Stuff the cavity of the fish with 4 dill sprigs and the lemon slices and set aside.
  • Stir the salt, egg whites, and 3⁄4 cup water together in a large bowl until the salt is moistened and feels like wet sand. Spread out about 2 cups of the wet salt mixture onto the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (an oval casserole dish also works nicely), packing it down into a solid, even layer. Lay 6 dill sprigs on top of the salt. Gently lay the fish on top of the dill and cover the fish with the remaining 6 dill sprigs.
  • Insert the temperature probe into the fish just behind the head, then cover the fish with the remaining salt mixture, packing it down firmly so that the fish is completely encased from head to tail. Adjust the probe, being careful not to crack the salt crust, so it lies horizontal with the fish, its sharp end pointing toward the tail.P
  • Place the fish in the oven and insert the probe’s plug into the probe jack. Set the probe temperature for 140°F and bake until the probe temperature chime sounds, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove the fish from the oven and remove the probe. Immediately use a serrated knife to carefully cut away the salt crust from the fish, discarding the salt crust as you go. Remove and discard the dill and lemon slices. Transfer the fish to a serving platter and brush away any salt still adhering to the skin. Serve with the lemon wedges.
Recipe Notes

Variation: substitute fresh tarragon sprigs for the dill and 1 small trimmed, sliced fennel bulb for the lemon slices. If the fennel has fronds, use the feathery parts along with the tarragon.

 

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1 comment on “Recreating a Restaurant Dish: Salt Baked Fish”

  1. Milcarsky's Appliance Centre'

    Being here in Florida, this recipe can be utilized for so many types of fresh fish. Just in time for the spring/summer seasons!

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