Stéphane and I agree on many things, one being that cooking should be simple.
In order to truly taste and fully savor all the dimensions of the multitudes of fresh foods the world has to offer, it is essential to allow each and every element to shine in its own way. Rather than masking flavor and texture, the key is to enhance ~ with just a little of this and only a touch of that.
and fresh veggies, of course.
I chose a European sea bass this time, of course I did, if only to re-immerse myself and illicit fond memories of our day in French Heaven.
The European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) is a primarily ocean-going fish that sometimes enters brackish and fresh waters. It is also known as the sea dace. Highly regarded as a table fish, it is often marketed as Mediterranean seabass, loup de mer, robalo, lubina, spigola, branzino, or bronzino.
The process was the same, and the outcome glorious once again.
Salt Crusted Sea Bass
1 1/2 lb. fresh, whole (EVERYTHING ON), gutted Branzino (European Sea bass)
2 lb. coarse kosher salt
2 egg whites
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 large lemon
juice of 1/2 large lime
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the kosher salt with the egg whites until all salt surfaces have been touched by the white.
Create a 1/2″ bottom crust in a large baking dish from the salt mixture just the size of the whole fish. Lay fish over salt crust and cover with remaining salt, creating a crusted “cave” around the fish and ensuring all surfaces are covered and that sucker is locked inside.
Bake about 30 minutes.
Once removed from the oven, use a sharp paring knife and fork to break the crust.
This is where it gets tricky.
Do not be so robust as to pierce the skin of the fish, but it’s important to be forceful enough to break through the crust. It’s TOUGH!
Sweep away all salt once the unbearably messy task of removing the major crust has been completed.
Gently remove skin and begin flaking away the delicious flesh. Once the spine has been revealed, carefully pull up from the tail, removing all the bones in one fell swoop.
Flake away the remaining fresh and transfer to serving plates.
While the fish is baking, combine the tomatoes, oil, citrus juice, and seasonings.
Liberally spoon the simple vinaigrette, of sorts, over the fish.
Simple – but so amazing.
**By the way, the salt is a nightmare to clean ~ those with a cleanliness compulsion (i.e., ME), beware… It’s so worth it, don’t worry.