Salt-roast a fish and keep all the pristine flavor and juiciness. The surface is a tad salty, but nearly all the meat is perfect. Testimonials for this technique go back to ancient Rome.
Keep flavors simple — roasted asparagus and scallions, steamed little potatoes and extra virgin olive oil for flavoring everything complete a menu.
Cook to Cook: Measure your oven and your cookie sheet before buying your fish.
6 to 7 pound whole fish, or a piece of a larger fish (check www.seafoodwatch.org for choices)
1 small lemon, thin sliced
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 3-inch branches of fresh rosemary
Heat the oven to 400ºF. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Wash and dry the fish. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Grate some pepper into it. Measure its thickness because that will be your starting point for timing its cooking.
In a large bowl, moisten the salt with enough water so it is like wet sand. Do a little water at a time so it doesn’t become too moist. If you’ve ever built a sand castle, that consistency is what you are going for—the salt holds a mound when you scoop some up on your palm.
Pat enough salt onto the cookie sheet to make a 1-inch-thick bed for the fish. Set the fish on it and pat the rest of the salt all around it so it’s totally sealed in.
Roast the fish for 15 minutes per inch of thickness. Test for doneness with an instant reading thermometer. Push it through the salt into the thickest part of the fish. You want a reading of about 145ºF to 150ºF. Remove the fish from the oven and let it stand about 5 to 10 minutes.
To serve it, cut the outline of the fish into the salt and with a large spoon, lift off chunks of the salt so the whole fish is revealed. Tease off the skin.
With a knife and a spatula, cut the top fillet into pieces and lift off the bone onto dinner plates. Cut loose the bone and do the same thing with the bottom fillet, leaving behind the skin.
Pass the olive oil and lemon at the table, and enjoy.
Copyright 2011 Lynne Rossetto Kasper
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