This recipe is for Stacey and Julio and I want to see some pictures when you make this!
Roasted Salt Crust Fish
1 whole fish, head on, bones in, guts cleaned, scales removed.
Approx 1 pound of salt (use sea salt, but don’t some fancy salt, look for a good cheap sea salt. They do exist.)
3-4 thin slices of orange
3 sprigs fresh thyme, can also add basil and a sprig of mint
¼ cup melted butter
Juice of the remaining orange
1 sprig fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 350F
Choose a whole fish like red snapper, orata or bronzini. If the fish are small, you will need one per person. It must be a whole fish otherwise the salt will leach into the fish. You are creating a moisture (steam) absorbing crust that will seal in the fish flavor, so don’t even be tempted to get a filet, or a bone less fish.
Slide the thin slices of orange into the gullet of the fish. They will be overlapping. Add the fresh herbs. It sounds a little odd, but a leaf or two of mint in the bronzini just lifts all the flavors, it’s wonderful.
Pour a good thick layer of salt in the bottom of a heavy roasting pan. I like to use ceramic, pottery style roasting dishes.
Arrange the fish or fishes in the pan and cover with all the salt, you want the fish to be completely covered by at least ½” of salt.
Roast until done. OK, here’s the somewhat tricky part because you’ll need to be estimating how long to cook the fish. A 1 1/2lb fish, in a preheated 350F oven will take about 25-30 minutes. The outer salt crust will be hard and dry.
About 3-4 minutes before the fish is ready, melt the butter, don’t let it come to a boil, squeeze in the orange juice from the half of the orange that you have left, and stir the mixture with the fresh thyme branch.
Remove the fish from the oven. Show it off to the dinner guests because it does look pretty cool. Take it back into the kitchen and carefully remove the salt crust. It will easily crack off bringing the fish skin with it. Arrange the fish on a plate, pour the butter sauce over the fish and serve immediately.
A gorgeous crisp white wine would do very nicely, maybe an Old World Riesling, or a French Vouvray, or even a simple Grechetto from Italy.