Photograph by Gentl and Hyers Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero

Whole Salt-Roasted Fish

Mains from Issue 1 – Summer 2012 – Float

Fear not the whole cooked fish. Swaddled in a dense blanket of salt crystals to roast until you crack open its savory casing in a real abracadabra moment. The fish is succulent and moist, but not too salty, despite that thick crust. Truly something to behold.

serves 4

  • 1 (3 lbs) whole sea bass or other sustainable fish, cleaned
  • 5 egg whites
  • 2 ½ cups kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • several sprigs thyme
  • several sprigs rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 lemon
  • good olive oil for drizzling

  • 1

    Preheat oven to 450°F. Whisk egg whites until you have soft, billowing peaks then stir in salt and fennel seeds. Stuff fish’s cavity with herbs, garlic, and a few thin slices cut from the lemon reserving the rest for serving.

  • 2

    Spoon about 1 cup of salt and egg white crust mixture on a baking tray and spread to make a bed for the fish. Lay fish on top and cover completely with remaining crust mixture—it’s okay if the tail sticks out—making sort of a fish mummy.

  • 3

    Roast fish 25 to 30 minutes. To check if fish is ready, insert a small sharp knife through crust into the thickest part of fish then carefully touch it to your lip to see if it’s hot. If you prefer, use an instant read thermometer; temperature should be about 145°F. When done, let fish rest a few minutes in crust.

  • 4

    Whack the crust with a back of a spoon to break and carefully lift off from fish. Gently peel off the skin (it will be salty.) Divide fish between plates, discarding the bones and serve with a good drizzle of olive oil.