Sea bass baked in salt crust
(count on 250g of deboned fish per person to work out how many fish you need)
1 x sea bass (or similar fish) 750 grams minimum or other large fish weighing in total up to 3 kilos
1.5kg – 3.5 kg coarse salt (depending on the weight and shape of fish)
optional stuffing : sprigs of fresh thyme or a few leaves of verbena or parsley
and / or 2 cloves of garlic
3-4 tablespoons capers
a little olive oil
salt in flakes
1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
2. Prepare the fish:
Ask your fishmonger to gut the fish, remove the gills and rinse it/them. You must leave the scales on, as they are protecting the salt from over-seasoning the fish, through osmosis via the skin, while being cooked. Place the herbs – parsley or verbena – inside the fish along with 1-2 finely chopped cloves of garlic (optional) and then close it, bringing the two parts of the belly together, folding one edge on top of the other, so that salt does not enter.
3. Cover the fish with salt
Now, take the baking pan that you’re going to cook the fish in, line with greaseproof paper to make it easy to clean (you’ll thank me later!) and pour in a layer of salt to create a base on which the fish will sit. Place the fish on the salt base and cover it/them completely with the remaining salt , sprinkling with just a bit of water, so that the salt sticks to the sides, making sure there are no gaps. Put the fish in the preheated oven.
Note: The original recipe called for a mixture of salt and egg white to ensure that the salt makes a solid crust. I have experimented with plain salt selectively sprinkled by water and found that it gives exactly the same result without the fuss of beating egg whites and mixing them with salt. You might end up using a bit more salt because it is not as malleable as the mixture with egg whites, but a few minutes in the oven and the salt crust becomes airtight!
4. Baking – Filleting:
Allow 25 minutes for 1 sea bass fish weighing 700-800g, 35 minutes for one or two fish totalling 1.5 kg or 45 minutes for three fish totalling 2.2kg.
Once the fish is ready, take the pan to a worktop in the kitchen (it’s a bit messy to do it in the dining room) and, using a sharp knife and a tenderising mallet or regular hammer, break the hardened salt crust, putting the pieces in another bowl to be thrown away (see video above).
Remove all of the salt from the upper side of the fish. Pick the fish up carefully out of the crust and transfer it to a serving dish to fillet it and serve.
Serve at the table onto warmed plates. You could accompany it with steamed/grilled vegetables or a rocket salad with olive oil and lemon juice. Place a few capers on top of the filleted fish, drizzle a little olive oil over it, and sprinkle a few salt flakes.