a home cook with notions & an appetite
Next to the taste (of course), the thing I love most about this recipe is that it’s one of those really impressive tricks for next to no effort recipes. If you’re looking for the ad hoc version of a “fantastic dinner in less than an hour!” recipe, this is the one.
I did make one minor change to the ingredient list. In my search for the 4 pound whole black bass the recipe called for, I was striking out (again, did I mention Mr. Keller’s proximity to the coast and my status of “living in Ohio”?). Whole Foods ended up having smaller (read: 2 pound!) black bass on sale, so I went with two of those instead.
Simple ingredient list:
First things first, it’s all about making the salt crust. Eight egg whites and what ended up being the whole box of kosher salt. In reading through the book, I’ve been finding out that different brands have different weights for each volume. So 4 cups of Morton’s isn’t 4 cups of generic or anyone else’s. In the end, the salt crust will have a slushie-like consistency.
Onto prepping the ingredients. There was this whole step in the recipe about gutting, scaling and cutting the fins off the fish, but PROTIP: Whole Foods (or any good fish monger) will do that for you while you wait. Woo! At this point, it’s just a quick chop of fennel and parsley along with slicing the lemon and orange. Stuff into fish cavity and then crust the fish.
It’s a bit hard to tell because my oven-safe platter is white, but there’s a layer of salt crust on the bottom. From this point, I just started layering on the salt mixture until it was a dome all over the fish.
There’s some final prep sopping up excess moisture with paper towels – that was a lot of excess moisture! In fact, I really should have patted down the fish more, but otherwise, into the oven. The smell? Really good.
After 40 minutes (there’s a turn of the platter halfway in there, so it’s not completely “set it and forget it”), the crust is hard as a rock. You really have to whack it to get the crust open. Where the fish was fairly dry, the salt crust didn’t even stick to it (see, I should have patted it down even more). But the real surprise was in the flesh of the fish – moist, soft and succulent. Not salt-filled at all.
If you’ve got the ad hoc book in front of you and you’ve been wondering if there’s a no-fail main course to start with, this is the one.