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Salt-Encrusted Baked Fish, Perfect with Sauvignon Blanc

Looking to impress your friends at your next dinner party? This salt-encrusted fish makes for quite the spectacular presentation as you pull it out of the oven and reveal the beautiful whole fish from underneath the salt. It also makes for a simple intro to cooking and eating a whole fish. Served with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, you can sit back knowing there was really not a lot of effort that went into preparing this perfect dinner.

Ingredients:  serves 3-4

  • 3 pounds of coarse sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cup of water
  • 2-pound whole fish scaled, gutted, and cleaned (I used a yellow tail red snapper; rockfish or striped bass can also work)
  • 1 lemon
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4-5 Thai chilis, sliced
  • Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450° with a rack in the center. Add 1 cup of water to the salt mixture in a bowl and combine with your hands. Spread it out onto a baking sheet in a rectangle large enough to lay the whole fish on.

Rinse your fish thoroughly in cold and water pat dry. Stuff with several lemon slices and the thyme. Lay fish on the salt and spread the thai chilis on top. The chilis will only add  just a hint of heat. For more heat once the fish is cooked, pull the chilis out of the salt and add again to the top of the fish before serving.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of water to the salt and spread the remainder all over the fish, covering the head completely.

Place the fish directly into the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

The above picture on the left shows the fish before going into the oven, and the photo on the right is after it is done. The salt will harden and the moisture will be completely removed from the salt, forming a hard shell around the fish. This seals the fish and keeps it extra moist while cooking.

With the back of a spoon, crack the edges of the salt all the way around the fish. Pry from the bottom and gently fold the salt crust off of the fish.

Gently peel the skin away from the fish. At this point, you can plate the fish on a serving platter. However, I simply like to...

...squeeze lemon juice and splash on some olive oil, and pass the pan  around the table for people to help themselves. Once the top of the fish is eaten, you simply remove the center bone, and the bottom half of the meaty fish is waiting without the need to flip it over.

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