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Fish Baked in Salt Crust

Before coming to Italy, I was not keen on seafood; I was a red meat and chicken lover. My seafood culture would not go beyond a great Honduran ceviche (yes we do have great ceviche!!), or grilled shrimp on a skewer.  This was probably because, despite our beautiful Caribbean seacoast, in Honduras we mostly eat chicken and red meat, specially in San Pedro Sula – the city where I was born and raised – where people do not have the habit of eating seafood (unfortunately). However, in the Bay Islands area – off the North coast of Honduras, seafood is a very common staple. It is quite interesting that despite being a small country, Honduras has a vast and rich gastronomic culture: we have influences from Africa, Mayans, and Spain. Yet, someday I am going to go deeper on this argument, hoping I can blog from my country.

Let’s move to Italy, and specifically, to Amalfi Coast, where seafood is a relevant part of the culinary tradition of this region. In Italy, seafood quality is equal to freshness (no brainer here). Most importantly, to really appreciate its freshness, seafood need to be prepared in a very simple way; that is, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, citrus fruits (preferably lemons), herbs, and some vegetables. 

When preparing seafood in Italy, it is crucial to choose the right cooking method for every type of seafood. For example, calamari are at their best when fried; anchovies are best when marinated in salt, olive oil, lemon, and herbs; octopus is best when grilled or boiled; swordfish is great when grilled. As far as baking, I discovered a method using a salt crust, which a lot of Italian cooks appreciate since it brings out the best flavor of (white) fish such as sea bass, red snapper, sea bream, or sole.

Fish baked in salt crust is an easy, healthy, and tasty way of cooking fish, and I discovered the right way to make it in Conca del Sogno

Fish Baked in Salt Crust 

Ingredients

  • One whole fish such as sea bass, red snapper, sea bream, sole, or any type of white fish.
  • enough Coarse salt to cover the fish completely
  • Olive oil based sauce with fresh herbs and lemon

Method

For this recipe, we  used a Pezzogna, which is a type of sea bream found in the Gulf of Naples. First clean the fish and remove all the entrails. If you prefer not to do this, you can ask your fish vendor to do it for you. If not, go to Take me Fishing, where you can get a detailed step by step explanation of how to clean, scale, and skin fish.

Rinse all coarse salt to be used with water. On a baking pan or tray, cover the bottom with coarse salt. Place fish on top and cover it completely with salt.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 220 °C  (about 430°F).

When done, with the use of a wooden hammer, carefully crack the salt crust and remove it to uncover the fish. Skin the fish, and gently remove the flesh making  sure you remove all fish bones. Transfer fish fillets into a dish.

The fish fillets fresh flavor was  enhanced with this simple sauce made of olive oil, herbs, garlic, and lemon. Another great and delicious idea is to use a Salsa Verde recipe, which you can find in one of my favorite blogs –  Chica Andaluza . So go to this amazing blog, where you can also find great, creative, and tasty recipes directly from the fascinating region of Andalucia.

So here it is, a simple, fresh and delicious way to cook white fish – Mediterranean style.

Serving portions vary depending on the size of the fish.

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16 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve wanted to try this and never have. This is such a great post, so thorough and well photographed and described. Thanks for the inspiration.

    August 21, 2011
    • Thank you Greg!! It is so easy to make!! And thanks for the like!!

      August 22, 2011
  2. It’s wonderful to see all the photos of the stages of making this dish. I’ve had it in a restaurant and it looks so spectacular when it’s brought to the table…..one day I may try it at home!

    August 21, 2011
    • It looks spectacular as it is presented, yet it is so easy to prepare!

      August 22, 2011
  3. I’ve been tempted to try fish prepared this way before but now, thanks to your thorough instructions, I just may give it a try — and it would give me a reason to try Tanya’s salsa verde, too. Sounds like it would be one great dinner!

    August 21, 2011
    • Thank you!! I hope this is helpful and you really try it!

      August 22, 2011
  4. I love fish cooked like this and sometimes we do it at home. In the Spanish supermarkets they sell big bags of salt especially for this. The first time I ate it (in Majorca many years ago) I thought the fish they were going to serve me was going to be enormous (as big as the pile of salt!) until the waiter started chipping it all off and then filleting the fish…great explanatory pictures and than you so much for the lovely mention!

    August 21, 2011
    • I guess this is a Mediterranean way of cooking!!! You are so welcome Tanya!!! Your blog is so inspiring and awesome!!!

      August 22, 2011
  5. I too have heard about this method but was never clear on exactly how to do it. You’ve provided a great detailed post on this. I only wish we could get the fresh caught fish you find in the Gulf of Naples! It really looks so delicately tender and moist!

    August 22, 2011
    • Thank you!!! I am so glad my post was helpful

      August 22, 2011
  6. This looks wonderful. Oh how I wish we could get such good fish here.

    August 22, 2011
    • Thank you!! Oh..I am sure you can in London!!

      August 22, 2011
  7. I have had sea bass prepared this way at a wonderful restaurant in Coral Gables, Florida. It was amazing, the juice that came out when they boned and presented at the table.Thank you for the wonderful step by step directions. This post is wonderful for all of us that want to try this preparation at home.

    August 23, 2011
    • It is such a small world Karen!! My family knows Coral Gables so well!! Thank you for your lovely comment!!

      August 23, 2011
  8. I love baked fish but I never thought of using a salt crust.. I love this. You did a wonderful job with this fish and I can’t wait to try it out.

    August 23, 2011
    • According to many Italians, it is the best way for cooking white fish!! You should try it!! Thanks!!

      August 23, 2011

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