Fish baked in Salt
Gigliola for this feast decided to make the Fish baked in salt a Sicilian classic recipe. When you first cook this dish it seems impossible to believe that it will not be unbearably salty. But fear not: the salt sets to a crust, holding the moisture in the fish, and when you crack it open, it peels off in large chunks. Do this at the table, and simply brush away any crumbs. You don’t even need to scale the fish, as the salt crust will pull the skin off with it.
Any fish can be cooked whole in salt. We use seabass, but whole salmon is good, as are snapper and turbot. Ask your fishmonger for salt – they generally buy it in bulk. Fine sea salt works, as does coarse. It sounds obvious, but check that you have a baking tray large enough for the fish to fit in and that it fits in your oven.
1½ kg whole seabass or sea bream, cleaned
2 lemons, sliced
3 bay leaves
A bunch of fennel fronds or dill
2-3kg coarse salt
Preheat your oven to 200C°. Wash and dry the fish well. Stuff the cavity with the lemon and herbs. Sprinkle a layer of salt for the fish to sit on, about 1cm deep. Place the fish on the salt and pour the rest of the salt over and around the fish so most is covered. It is OK for the head and tail to be visible.
Place the fish in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Then remove it and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. It is quite nerve-racking trying to guess if the fish is cooked – but a meat probe inserted into the flesh will tell you the internal temperature if you are worried. You can also insert a metal skewer and feel if it is hot (or not). The fish will continue to cook during the resting time.
To serve, crack the salt and pull it away from the fish – it should take the skin with it. The fish can be served whole or the flesh removed to a serving platter.
Gigliola suggests to pare this simple dish with:
Collio Sauvignon Branko – Branko Estate
Vermentino di Toscana IGT “Campofitto – Serni Estate
Grechetto dei Colli Martani DOC – Romanelli Estate
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico DOC – Marchetti Estate
Colli Maceratesi Bianco DOC Ribona – Saputi Estate
Pecorino IGP “Armannia” – De Luca Estate
Chardonnay Salento IGP “Alba Chiara” – Schiena Vini Estate
Acqua di Toscana San Felice