Recipe # 127
WHOLE FISH BAKED IN SALT
Regardless of the salt you use here, whether it be kosher, rock or sea salt, it will rarely be put to better use than encasing an entire fish while it bakes. The fish emerges succulent, with every ounce of flavor and texture intact, and the salt breaks away leaving just the perfect hint of saltiness.
One whole fish weighing about 1 1/2 pounds, cleaned, head, tail, and scales left on
10 whole Tellicherry peppercorns
4 bay leaves
2 pounds coarse salt (I recommend sea salt)
Extra virgin olive oil for serving
Chervil sprigs for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Rinse the fish with cold water, pat it dry and refrigerate until just before cooking.
3. Pour a fine layer of salt in the bottom of an oven-proof baking dish that is just slightly larger than the fish. Lay two bay leaves on the salt, then place the fish on the bay leaves. Place the peppercorns inside the belly cavity of the fish, then top the fish with the remaining 2 bay leaves. Pour the remaining salt over the fish to cover it, leaving the tail fin exposed if necessary.
3. Place the fish on the middle rack in the center of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. You cannot test the fish for doneness — you simply have to trust the timing. Remove the fish from the oven and gently crack off the layer of salt, removing as much of it as you can. Most of the skin will come off the fish as well — what doesn't come off when you remove the salt you need to remove gently, using a sharp knife. 4. Remove the fillets divide the fish among four slightly warmed dinner plates. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with the chervil, if desired.
Makes four servings.