salt-baked whole sea bass with roasted potato and tomato salad

I have always had a fascination with whole baked fish at restaurants. The few times I have ordered this dish (typically done for the whole table), it comes out as this mysterious and beautiful mound of salt. The server breaks into the crust and out comes perfectly cooked, steaming fish meat. My husband and I decided to try this adventurous technique on a casual Friday evening, and it turns out that it is surprisingly easy! The fish cooks evenly in its own juices and comes out moist, flavorful, and delicious. I would recommend getting very fresh fish and cooking it within a day or two to ensure optimal flavor and texture. You could scale up this recipe to serve a large crowd (buy a single larger fish that is 3 to 4 pounds), or you could do this just for yourself and cook one smaller fillet. 

 

  • Whole sea bass (2 whole fish, roughly 1 to 1.5 pounds each; cleaned and gutted)

  • Fresh parsley (1 large bunch; reserve 1/3 to roughly chop for salad)

  • Lemon (1 large, cut into thin slices)

  • Sea salt (4 cups)

  • Egg white (2)

  • Fresh tomatoes (8 to 10 tomatoes, cut in half)

  • Small white potatoes (2 cups, chopped in quarters)

  • Olive oil (3 tablespoons)

  • Green olives (1/2 cup, roughly chopped)

  • Arugula (1 cup)

  • Celery (3 large stalks, sliced on the bias into very thin pieces)

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Unwrap the fish; the fish should have been cleaned and gutted at the fishmonger or grocery store. Stuff each fish with 2 to 3 slices of fresh lemon and a small bunch of fresh parsley.

  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, blend the 2 egg whites with the 4 cups of sea salt to create a slightly moist mixture.

  4. In a non-stick baking dish lined with aluminum foil, spread 2 cups of the moist sea salt onto the bottom. Lay the fish into the salt and then top with remaining 2 cups of salt.

  5. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until salt becomes slightly sandy brown in color and has hardened. Remove the fish from the oven and let the dish cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

  6. To make the salad, spread the baby potatoes (cut in quarters) and the tomato halves onto a baking sheet; keep the potatoes and tomatoes on different parts of the tray as tomatoes will burst and emit some juice during baking (avoid getting potatoes soggy).

  7. Drizzle tomatoes and potatoes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt.

  8. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees (also can be done while fish is cooking) for 20 minutes, until tomatoes are fully wilted and fragrant and the potatoes have browned and become slightly crispy.

  9. Remove tomatoes and potatoes from the oven to cool.

  10. Transfer tomatoes and potatoes to a large mixing bowl and add the chopped fresh parsley, green olives, arugula and celery pieces. Mix until all ingredients are evenly combined. Add additional olive oil if necessary to ensure the salad is evenly dressed.

  11. To serve the fish, break into the salt crust and lift out the whole fish to a cutting board. Remove the spine with the small bones and then transfer the fish meat to a serving platter with the salad. 

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