I remember once Mr.S. commenting that he loved that my friends were such amazing cooks...and you know what? So do I! I'm a lucky girl indeed. Last night, I had the pleasure of dining at my friend Lacy's new house. When I got there, I found out she had picked up some whole branzinos at Sunh Fish and was going to cook them in a salt crust. I was totally excited since I'd been dying to try this method for quite awhile. The technique turned out to be quite simple. The salt crust essentially steamed the fish and the fish came out amazingly moist (and not overly salty at all). I think I may have to do this one for Mr.S. soon!
Pesce al Sale
1 (3 lb. box) coarse Kosher salt
5-6 large egg whites
3 (1 lb.) fresh whole branzinos, scaled & gutted (leave the head and tail intact)
3 fresh lemons, 2 thinly sliced and 1 cut in wedges
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. In a large mixing bowl, incorporate salt and egg whites together. What you want to end up with is a sand-like consistency.
3. Rub the exterior of the fish down with olive oil.
4. Stuff the cavity of the fish with lemon slices, herbs and garlic (optional).
6. Place the fish on top of the salt bed. Then cover it with the remaining salt mixture, making a salt shell. You want all of the fish covered. Firmly press the salt mixture into the flesh.
7. Roast for 20-25 minutes. (Until thermometer reads 135 degrees.) The crust will turn golden brown and hard.
8. Remove baking sheet with fish from oven. Let it cool for about 10 minutes.
9. Tap the salt crust with the back of a heavy spoon. The mound should crack and come apart. Lift the larger pieces of salt crust off and brush away smaller pieces. Gently using a knife or small spatula, peel off the skin of the fish. Lift the exposed fillet off the fish and transfer it to a serving plate. Then lift the tail and pull upward, lifting off the bones from the bottom fillet. Extract the bottom fillet from the skin and place on plate.