A couple of notes to kick off tonight's post: first, on behalf of Jason and myself, sorry about the lack of a Windy City Cooking edition this week. Jason will be back with another edition next Monday, so please stay tuned for that. Secondly, today's post contains pictures of whole dead fish, to be blunt, so if that wigs you out you're probably best off skipping this one. Tomorrow's post will be a nice breakfast pizza, no dead fish, I promise, so if you're skipping this one, I'll see you tomorrow and we can share a slice. Sound good? Okay, onto the aforementioned fish, which serves as the basis for our Whole Striped Bass Roasted in Salt.
I got the recipe for this salt-roasted fish from this great seafood book I've been reading, Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore's Fish Without a Doubt. I saw Rick Moonen on Top Chef about a month ago and was very impressed with what he had to say about sustainable seafood, and eagerly picked up his book at the local library. It's a lengthy read, with not as many pictures as I'd like--I'm all about cookbooks with lots and lots of photographs--but it's great, and pretty all-encompassing, with 250+ different seafood recipes in the whole book. In fact, I'd say this cookbook's recipes will definitely be making a repeat appearance or two on this site.
And speaking of Top Chef, they did a reunion special at the beginning of last month wherein the unlikely pairing of Ilan Hall and Marcel Vigneron prepared a whole fish roasted in salt. It looked great, and I've actually been meaning to make this dish ever since I saw it in Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio's cookbook, Think Like a Chef--the very cookbook our very own Jason Hissong sent me a couple months back. See how everything comes full circle? Pretty cool. Okay, onto the recipe.
First, set your oven to 400º. Then crack four large egg whites into your largest mixing bowl.
Next, add 1/2 cup water--
--and whisk until the mixture bubbles up to twice its height.
Dump in 4 cups of kosher salt.
Mix everything up until the mixture has the texture of "wet sand" (according to the book, and this is exactly how it comes out).
Next, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Empty a cup of your salt mixture onto your baking sheet--
--and spread it out so it's a little taller and longer than the fish you'll be using.
We almost always buy our fish at Quality Seafood, the local open-air fish market at the Redondo Beach Pier, and the largest of its kind on the West Coast, I believe. I think this was $6 or so? They always have great deals on very, very fresh fish. You might recall them from some of the very first post-ending photos on this site.
Their fish always seems to come wrapped in obscure discarded Asian-language newspapers.
Here's that whole Striped Bass. You just want to place it in the center of your salt crust base. The book says you can also use any small whole fish for this recipe, especially Branzino or Turbot.
I'm just posting this one so you can get a better look at the gills--see how they're very red? That means the fish is very fresh. When buying a whole fish, you can always ask the person at your local fish market to show you the gills so you can make sure your fish is sufficiently fresh.
Next, pour the remaining salt mixture over the fish--
--and pat it out so it covers the fish entirely. Don't leave any gaps or the fish won't roast in the salt correctly. Okay, you can go ahead and put it in the oven now, for 30-35 minutes, depending on the size of your fish--30 minutes for a small fish, 35 for a large fish.
When you take your fish out of the oven, it should look something like this. The salt creates a thick crust for the fish to roast in.
After letting your fish cool for a few minutes, you can pretty much just peel off the salt crust. Feel free to make a mess, because at the end all you have to do is pull together the ends of your aluminum foil and toss the whole thing out. Underneath, it'll look like not much has changed, but when we peel off the skin--
--we can see a perfectly-roasted fillet. Carefully remove this to a plate.
Before we can get to the other fillet, we'll have to remove that pesky bone in the middle. To do so, pick it up from the tail end, and carefully pull it away from the fish.
Take the remaining fish out of the salt crust, and flip it over and onto a clean surface.
Finally, remove the skin, and you're left with the second fillet. This would be great with a salad and some crusty bread and butter. Enjoy!
Thanks for stopping by Beach City Cooking, and I'll see you all very soon for another post. Have a great night, and stay cool!