As Thanksgiving looms, I find myself thinking of dishes to add to the traditional repertoire that might make our feast a little livelier. This year, I’m adding fish baked in rock salt to the menu. If you’ve never baked this way (I also like rock salt-baked prime rib), you should try it – it’s a marvelously simple technique and results in dreamily moist, flavorful fish. You can use a number of varieties of whole fish, including sea bass, Arctic char, and rock cod (ask your butcher for a recommendation). There’s no hard and fast recipe, and you can tailor it to your own taste. (Hint: if the fish is bigger, cook it longer. You may have to experiment the first few times).
Whole Fish Baked in Rock Salt
One whole fish weighing about two pounds – head, tail, and scales left on, thoroughly rinsed (including cavity) and patted dry
5-6 whole peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
Small knob ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 unpeeled lemon or lime, washed and sliced thin
Small bunch of parsley or cilantro, rinsed and patted dry
4 bay leaves
1 box rock salt (amount needed will vary with roasting pan used)
Need: One roasting pan with sides
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Stuff cavity of fish with peppercorns, sliced garlic, ginger and lemon/lime and parsley/cilantro. Cover bottom and sides of roasting pan with aluminum foil (this makes it much easier to clean up afterwards!). Spread a thick (1/2” to ¾”) layer of rock salt on the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle salt with approximately ¼ cup water. Place bay leaves on top of salt, then rest fish on top of bay leaves. Cover fish entirely with a ½” layer of rock salt. Sprinkle salt with another ¼ cup water.
Place in a preheated 375°F oven, and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Remove fish from oven. Allow it to cool slightly before cracking gently through the solidified salt mound. Lift off chunks of salt carefully – most of the fish’s skin will come off with it (remaining skin can be removed gently with a sharp knife). Lift fish flesh off bones (you’ll love how easy it is), and divide between warmed plates. Drizzle fish with olive oil and chopped parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.
Serves two as a main course, four as a delectable nibble