Monday, October 24, 2011

Salt-baked whole fish

There are fishes buried under there. Three of them. Branzino, if you must know, a type of bass that came from the Mediterranean Sea.

They are encased in a mountain range-like mass of kosher salt. More important, I am pretty certain that these fish are the moistest that I have eaten.

They were baked for about 20 minutes in this wood-burning oven, but any oven will do. The temperature only needs to be in the 400 F range. 

The full recipe is below, but this is what you will see after cracking open the salt crust once the fish is cooked.

And if you enlarge this pic you will see how moist the flesh turned out to be.

I had always meant to try this cooking method but was somehow convinced that it would be too big a production. It wasn't, I swear. The only downside, if you want to call it that, is the large amount of salt you'll go through, which does add to the dish's cost.

Other than that, it's a major cool method of preparing a super moist fish. Dramatic, too, if you're out to show off for your friends. (Speaking of friends: Yes, Fred, this might work with one of those big-ass stripers you show off on FishTales from time to time. I'd just cook it longer. And maybe buy more salt. And a giant-sized pan.)

Salt-baked whole fish
2 whole 1 lb. fish, cleaned and gutted (branzino is what I used)
4-6 lemon slices, cut crosswise
4 rosemary sprigs
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 or more 3-lb. boxes of kosher salt
Cold water as needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour a 1/2-inch layer of the kosher salt onto a baking sheet.
Set both of the fish on top of the salt and stuff each one with the lemon, rosemary and parsley.
In a bowl, pour about a box of the salt, then mix in a little cold water, enough to moisten the salt just enough to hold it together. Don't make it wet; the idea here is that you'll be molding the mix around the fish to create a thick crust.
Pile the salt onto the fish and form a mold around them. If the salt mix isn't enough to cover the fish completely make some more mix with the leftover salt.
After the fish are properly coated place them in the oven for 20 minutes.
Break open the salt crust, remove the fish and serve whole or filleted, whichever you prefer. You could also drizzle some olive oil or further season the flesh if you like. I didn't. The branzino were plenty flavorful just as they were.


Ciao Chow Linda said...

This is way cool and I'm sure way delicious. Is that your oven in those pix? If so, can I come up when you make pizza?

Mister Meatball said...

Yep on the oven.

And the pizza.

Claudia said...

I searched for this in Italy and never did find it. I have decided I don't have the proper oven here - so will need an invite the next time you make this.

Mister Meatball said...

Happy to invite you, C., but I'm not so sure a regular oven wouldn't do the trick here. I mean, it only needs 400-degree heat.


"Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid."

Fred said...

No backing out Meatball face! we're ALL coming to dnner at your place. I'll bring a 15 pound striped bass. How much salt do you think THAT will require?!

Mister Meatball said...

Wondered when you'd show up, Fred.

On the 15-pounder, I will back up the salt truck methinks.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I made fish like tbhis once and you are so right that it cooked so moist and flavorful!

I love your wood buring oven ..I'm sure the smoke must add to the flavor of whatever cooks in it.

Anonymous said...

I must say I am intrigued by this method of cooking. I know it doesn't come out tasting really salty, but many people might think so and shy away from it.