Ever since visiting Porto, Portugal last October, I have been fantasizing about recreating one of my favorite dishes from the trip – a whole fish encrusted in salt that arrived at our table (literally) on fire. While the flambe element I’m happy to leave to the pros, I wanted to recreate how incredibly tender and juicy the fish was when baked with that salt crust. So I turned to a food pro, Mario Batali, whose recipe was surprisingly simple. The key here is good fish – both Citarella and Whole Foods sell whole fish like snapper that are perfect for this dish. Ask them to clean and gut the fish for you to the recipe’s specifications. Other than that, prepping the fish and popping it in the oven is all you have to do. This is a particularly great recipe for entertaining, as it has a lot of “wow” factor when brought to the table (bring it out and crack the crust in front of your guests), but is very easy and quick to make. Read on for the recipe.
Whole Fish Baked in Salt Crust
Yield: 4 servings
1 whole 3-pound fish such as snapper, bream, sea bass or porgy
4 egg whites
2 cups kosher salt
1 bunch fresh thyme
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Clean and gut fish, remove top and bottom fins, scale and remove gills.
Whisk egg whites to soft peaks and fold in salt. Place thyme in body cavity and set aside. Place 4 tablespoons of egg white mixture on a large platter, suitable for oven to table use. Place fish on top of mixture and spoon remaining mixture over top of fish. Place fish and platter in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. remove and strike crust to crack.
Carefully remove salt crust from top of fish and divide flesh among two plates. Serve with good oil and lemons.
(An excellent accompaniment would be an arugula and tomato salad.)
Original recipe can be found here.