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
- 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
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.