Last night I got back from LA (4 hours, a missed flight and a rebooking later than planned) but regardless, I made it. I barely made it in time for a dinner I’d had planned for a good friends birthday, but Matt saved the day when he ran to the market for me to grab everything I needed for the meal.
My friend loves salt crusted baked branzino which we’ve had the pleasure of eating together at a fabulous Italian restaurant in Hong Kong several times. I did a practice run a few weeks ago to be sure that I could successfully pull this off and I’m here to tell you that the hardest part of this dish is ordering the fish from the seafood counter. Luckily, the men a whole foods really know their stuff and when we told them what we were making with the fish, they were able to point me in the right direction.
Truth be told, this photo isn’t a depiction of my actual fish. When it came out of the oven last night (it was beautiful!) but we were all so excited to see it, in all of it’s fish glory, and we were pretty hungry, so I broke rule #1 of food blogging and that is I ate the dish before photographing it. When researching recipes a few weeks ago, however, I’d stumbled upon this one from Skye over at From My Dining Table and it’s a great alternative to mine as it doesn’t use egg if you’re not an egg person. (also, Skye’s blog is gorgeous, so snoop around over there too!)
Like I said, when researching this fish, I meshed together multiple different recipes and the one I landed on is pretty wonderful. Matt, who didn’t eat fish when I met him, said it was phenomenal. And he doesn’t really use words like phenomenal, so maybe it was the wine speaking!
Salt Crusted Baked Branzino
- 2 whole branzino (italian sea bass) 1 lb each – ask that the fish be de-scaled, de-finned, and ready for a ‘whole’ preparation. The fish guys will know what to do.
- 4 egg whites
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 lemon – cut into wedges
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Black Pepper
Preheat the oven to 450. Prep the fish by first drizzling their cavity with olive oil, then stuff with the thyme and half of the lemon. Set aside. Separate the egg whites into a glass bowl. whisk them on medium-high with an electric mixer until soft peak stage. This means that if you lift the whisk out of the egg, it will form a little peak with a curled over top. Here is an article about soft vs hard peaks! Onward… Once the eggs are whipped, carefully fold in the 2 cups of salt 1/2 cup at a time until fully incorporated.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread about 1/4th of the egg mixture on the bottom of a baking sheet just big enough for the fish to rest on, but not covering the whole sheet. Lay the stuffed and drizzled fish on the salt mixture, then cover the fish with the rest of the mixture forming an oblong dome.
Stick the fish into the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the edges of the crust turn a deep golden brown and the top of the crust is a nice golden brown. Remove it from the oven and lift the parchment carefully to transfer to a serving platter.
Use a sharp knife to cut off the top of the salt and reveal your perfectly cooked fish! Carefully peel back the top layer of skin and you can remove the whole top filet, then flip the fish and repeat on the other side with the other filet.
It is a very impressive meal to make for guests, but it’s so easy! Start to finish is only takes about 30-35 minutes. I like to make a salad ahead of time and set the table once the fish goes in so that we’re all ready to eat once it’s done. And clearly, we were all ready to eat seeing as how the only photo I got was the destroyed fish with only salt and bones remaining.
If you’re nervous to try this, do it one night at home with just 4 fish