Salt-baked fish is a very simple and healthy way to cook fish, which enhances the fish's flavour without compromising its appearance, texture and taste. What's more, it's very simple to make and requires no special cooking skills.
Cooking time varies according to the weight of the chosen fish, but once you have mastered the knack you can never go wrong.
The ancient technique of cooking fish in a salt crust hasn't changed over the decades. It's important to cover the fish with abundant salt so that a hard crust forms during cooking which will protect the flesh of the fish, without making it salty.
Which salt to choose?
When cooking salt-baked sea bass or sea bream, the amount of salt required should be proportionate to the weight of the fish. It's important to never use too little.
In fact, the fish must in fact be completely covered with an even layer of salt. Use a simple sea salt, which can be mixed in different ways.
To compact the salt, you can add a whipped egg white which will act as a glue and help the formation of the crust. Adding white wine is also a great way to compact the salt for this cooking technique. Alternatively, you can mix a little coarse salt with fine salt.
To flavour, you can add finely chopped aromatic herbs or spice powder to the fine salt. Combining dried seaweed is also an excellent idea.
Which fish to cook in a salt crust?
Sea bream and sea bass are most suited to salt baking. Snapper is also excellent, however, you can prepare many types of fish with two fillets. Most importantly, the whole fish must exceed a weight of 500-600 grams.
Oven or pan
It's best to cook salt-crusted fish in the oven, which will allow the salt to compact and form a sort of cover that will retain the right humidity and preserve the fish's delicate flesh.
Cooking times for salt-crusted fish
Cooking times for fish in salt vary according to weight. For perfect cooking, it takes about 25-30 minutes for each kg of weight.
For example, a two-kilogram sea bass requires approximately one hour's cooking time.
Tip and tricks
To prepare fish in salt, remember to thoroughly gut the fish and flavour the belly with herbs and spices. It's very important not to de-scale the fish. The scales serve to protect the meat from salt. Another trick for cooking salt-baked sea bass (and for all other salt-baked fish in general), is to let the fish rest for ten minutes after cooking - so don't break the salt crust immediately.
To break the salt crust, use a small kitchen hammer or the back of a spoon.
Sea bream in salt: the recipe
Sea bream is a delicate and tender fish, which lends itself perfectly to being salt-baked. Here's the easy recipe and other preparation ideas:
Fill the belly of a cleaned and gutted sea bream with mixed aromas (for example; a nice mix of sprigs of rosemary and thyme, garlic, salt and pepper).
Prepare a baking sheet: line with parchment paper and an area of coarse salt sufficient to lay the fish down.
Place the fish on the bed of salt then cover with an even layer of salt (about 1/2 an inch thick) and pat down gently to make sure the fish is covered.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes at 180 °C.
Gently crack open the salt to uncover fish.
Remove the skin, being careful not to get any of the salt crust on the flesh.
Fillet the fish and transfer to a plate, then serve.
How to prepare whole salt-baked sea bass
Ingredients: 1 1 kg sea bass, 2.5 kg of fine salt, aromatic herbs.
Wash and gut the fish, but don't remove the scales.
Stuff the belly of the sea bass with aromatic herbs.
Put a layer of salt in an oven proof pan and level it out with your hands.
Place the fish on top and cover it with salt, compacting it well with your hands.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 ° C for about 30 minutes.
Remove the fish from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before breaking the salt crust.
Now clean the fish with a sheet of kitchen paper, fillet it and serve it with a side of potatoes or vegetables of your choice.
Season the fillets with a drizzle of oil and a few drops of lemon juice.
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