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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Salt Crusted Whole Red Snapper

During our journey to the Gulf we picked up a beautiful Whole Red Snapper.  It's been years since I've cooked a whole fish and this was a bit of a science experiment, so I was a little nervous about the end result.  My main worry was the fish would be salty.  Alton Brown used this same method on Sea Bass so we thought it was worth a try.

When the fish is encased in salt, the mixture becomes a sort of hardened shell, like an adobe oven while it cooks.  This holds in all of the juices and flavors and delivers a moist and perfectly cooked fish, with no salty flavor.  I can't wait to try this with a larger fish.  The Sea Bass or even Salmon would be a great choice next time.

1 Whole Red Snapper, cleaned
1  Lemon, sliced
Lemon Pepper or other seasonings of your choice
Optional:  Fresh Herbs of Your Choice (dill, parsley, etc)
6 cups  Kosher Salt
3  Egg Whites
1/3 cup  Water

To prep the fish, sprinkle the inside cavity with lemon pepper and arrange the lemon slices and herbs so they fill the fish.  (We just used the lemon slices and the taste was amazing.)  Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the salt, egg whites and water.  Blend by hand until you have a mixture that holds together well.  You want a consistency that sticks together like a snowball of salt.

Place a 1/2 inch layer of the salt mixture on the bottom of a foil-lined pan, forming a bed for the fish.  Place the fish on top of the salt bed and scoop the remaining mixture onto the fish, pressing lightly to encase the whole fish, but not packing it.  Smooth the top of the salt to make sure there are no spaces for air to get in.

Bake at 450 for about 25 - 30 minutes depending on size and thickness of the fish.  Check for an internal temp of about 130, remove the fish from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Using a large spoon, tap on the outside of the salt crust and crack the shell.  The shell came off easily in 2 pieces.  Discard as many large salt pieces as you can, then brush off the fish using a pastry brush.  The skin peeled back easily to reveal a moist and juicy fillet.  Using a spatula, remove the top fillet to a plate, then the center bones can be removed in 1 long piece, then the remaining fish can be transferred to the plate. 

Served with clam shells and fresh steamed asparagus, this was an awesome piece of fish. Enjoy!

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