Salt Crusted Fish (a recipe)

Here is a recipe that I keep getting emails about. And please, go ahead and use the post feature on this blog to ask questions. Make it look like there are actually people that read my blog. Any and all questions are welcome. I will do my best to answer them in a timely manor.
This recipe is also one of my absolute favorite ways to cook whole small fish.

I will start off with this: All measurements are approximate. I rarely measure anything and for me to post this, I cooked this tonight and measured as I went.

1 or 2 whole Thai Snapper (happens to be my favorite. You could also use any small fish. Really. ANY small fish will work with this)
3 - 4 cups Hawaiian gray Rock Salt (coarse kosher salt will also work)
2 cups Orange Juice with a squeeze of fresh lemon
3 egg whites
Fresh tarragon
Olive Oil

You will need to make enough paste to completely cover the fish including the bottom.
Starting with the salt in a large bowl, add about 3/4 of the orange juice and egg whites and mix using your hands. Keep adding the orange juice until you get a thick-paste consistency. It should hold together while forming it. Set the mix aside.
Remove all fins from your fish using kitchen shears (of course your fishmonger would not mind doing this for you). If you are lucky enough to be using fresh fish you caught, make sure it is gutted. Remove the scales (your fish monger would be happy to do this as well) by running your knife across the grain of the scales, tail to head. WARNING! This makes a huge mess! Make three or four slices in both sides of the fish about 1 inch apart. Using the olive oil, rub the entire fish liberally. This helps keep the salt from sticking. Coat the bottom of your 9 x 13 pan with a thin layer of the salt paste. Lay fish on top of the paste. Lay your fresh tarragon on top of the fish and then finish coating the entire fish with the salt paste. Make it kind of thick. About 1/4 inch thick or more.
Throw it in a hot oven. I like to cook this way at about 450 degrees. Depending on the thickness of the fish, it takes from around 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Unfortunately, you will not be able to get a thermometer through the crust. You are just gonna have to use your best judgment for this. It is hard to over cook this way. The fish will come out amazingly moist.
Let it stand for about 5 minutes.
Using a hammer or the back of a heavy spoon, whack the salt crust. It should crack like ice. Peal away the layer of salt on the top side.
Pull the skin off. Using a thin spatula, you should be able to lift the flesh from the back and rib bones. Be careful not to get too much of the salt on the flesh.
Pull the back bone with all the bones attached right off the rest of the fish.
Here is the tricky part. Doing your best not to lift the salt off the bottom, use your spatula to lift the remaining flesh from the pan.
Please, post your comments on this so everyone can see them. Let me know if this did not turn out right for you. It is the only way that I will know I need to revise the written recipe. Let me know if it did turn out for you.


yoganinja said...

How coarse should the salt be? Also could you use just water instead of oj?


Randall said...

The salt I use is Hawaiian Rock Salt. Sort of hard to come by, so if I cannot get that, I use Kosher Salt or Grinder Salt (large dry crystals). What you do NOT want, is fine table salt. And, yes, you can substitute water for the OJ. I like some citrus with most fish I cook, that is why the OJ. Try a squeeze of lemon in your water to freshen it up a little. Let me know how it works for you.

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"The health benefits of eating fish, far out-weigh any risks of eating it"