Salt-crusted snapper, potatoes

Salt-crusted snapper, potatoes

By
From
Finding Fire
Serves
4

Cooking in a salt crust encases and protects ingredients from the extreme heat of the fire. I first experienced this method in a restaurant in Spain, where the dish made quite a dramatic entrance; the fish was served whole and the crust was broken open at the table. Inside there lay the most beautiful sea bass trapped within the hardened salt, which had formed the perfect oven. The flesh inside was rich and moist and, in spite of the incredible amount of salt, perfectly seasoned. The insulation of the salt enables the fish to retain all its flavour and juices while it is gently smoked from the wood fire. The potatoes are placed around the fish and are a delight to discover – like hidden jewels among the baked salt.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 x 2kg snapper
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch fennel fronds
400g baby potatoes (mixed varieties)
100ml fruity, mild extra-virgin olive oil, such as arbequina or koroneika
1 lemon, cut into wedges

For the salt crust

Quantity Ingredient
3kg rock salt
6 egg whites, lightly beaten
100g ashes from the fire
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 head fennel flowers
2 oranges, zested and sliced (reserve slices for fish cavity)
150ml filtered water

Method

  1. 1. Prepare your embers. Remove 100 g (3½ oz) of the ashes and allow to cool completely.
  2. 2. Scale and gut the fish, and remove the gills. Rinse quickly and dry well.
  3. 3. Prepare the salt crust. Combine the rock salt with the egg whites, reserved and cooled ashes, fennel seeds, fennel flowers, orange zest and water to form a paste with the consistency of damp sand.
  4. 4. On a large, flat, heavy steel baking tray, spread half of the salt mix to form a bed the same size and shape as the fish and approximately 1 cm (½ in) thick.
  5. 5. Stuff the cavity of the fish with the orange slices, bay leaves and fennel fronds, and place the fish on the bed of salt. Nestle the potatoes around the fish and cover with the remaining salt mix, ensuring that the fish and potatoes are well sealed top to tail.
  6. 6. Place on a bed of embers, raking the embers around the edges and on top of the salt-crusted fish to cover completely.
  7. 7. Leave to bake for 20–25 minutes, at which point the crust will have hardened.
  8. 8. Remove from the fire and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  9. 9. Take to the table and crack open the salt crust. Carefully lift the crust, which should come away in one large piece. Peel off any skin remaining on the fish to expose the succulent flesh, which should separate easily from the bones. Serve with good olive oil and fresh lemon wedges.
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