Prep 15 mins
Cook 40 mins
Nope - not salty & unbelievably easy! Bonus - cracking the salt shell at the table (dramatic in itself) reveals a perfectly cooked whole fish that retains its beautiful coloration! This is a great recipe for anyone trying to get the essence of fresh fish (salt or fresh-water) with the bonus of no added fat & ease preparation (yo! - beginner cooks & those with kids who want to help!). You can leave fish unadorned or add lemon & fresh herbs (fresh baby chervil, thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, chives, garlic cloves or scapes all work well). Directions are explicit & thus appear long - but really truly easy! Mmm good--there are so few foods that are so good & low calorie!
- 3 lbs whole fish (gutted, scaled & gills cut out)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1⁄4 cup fresh herb
- 8 lbs kosher salt (not rock salt)
- 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Line a pan 2 to 3 inches longer than the fish with aluminum foil (I have used cookie sheets covered in aluminum foil with aluminum foil lips for larger fish).
- Pour the eggs whites into a large bowl. Add salt--goal is consistency of wet sand.
- Layer 1 to 2 inches in pan. Make this layer several inches larger than the fish.
- Rinse fish & pat dry, then lay onto salt.
- Sprinkle 1/2 T zest over area fish will rest.
- Stuff fish with herbs &/or diced lemon (pith removed from lemon first).
- Lay fish onto salt bed, laying so that abdominal incision is covered (to avoid being filled with salt).
- Pack wet salt mixture on & around fish. Pat down gently.
- Bake 40 minutes (I add 10 -12 minutes for each additional pound of fish).
- Remove from oven & let sit for 10 to 15 minutes (perfect for last minute table arranging).
- Crack the salt shell with a mallet or heavy spoon & peel off chunks of shell to expose the fish.
- Inhale! Admire the color of the fish (red snapper, sheepshead, strawberry grouper & Spanish mackerel all look brilliant) then lift top fillet from bone & serve (some small bone from fins will be in fillets). Don't forget the cheeks! Mmm!
- Lift tail to remove back bone (often with the head) to get to the other side.
- Clean up is to lift the foil & throw salt crust, bones & skin away.
This is quite similar to my good ol' standby recipe from Patricia Wells' *At Home in Provence* cookbook and you are SO right that this is the only way to cook a fresh fish! Now, I do things a little differently: I squeeze a fresh lemon into the fish cavity, and stuff him (her?) with sprigs of whatever herb is handy in my garden---usually rosemary, parsley, thyme. Haven't used the egg whites, but that sounds as if it would bind that salt crust well. And I don't use quite as much sea salt---mainly because I never seem to have enough on hand! But less seems to work, and there is simply not a better way to enjoy a fat fresh fishy! Love your Buster photo, and your memoir about him, by the way. I'm a major kitty-lover myself.