after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Salt-Entombed Striped Bass (with pix)

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t says:  We saw this beautiful salt-entombed fish on Iron Chef America (followed by raves from tasters), and Thomas Keller has a great photo of one in Ad Hoc at Home; but it never occurred to us that we could actually do this ourselves.  g and I rarely cook fish – it’s not that we don’t like it, but we fear screwing up when cooking it (no one likes dry fish) when it’s way more expensive than, say, chicken (and it doesn’t keep that well, either).  Our friends who have no such fears and share similar television-viewing tastes to ours, were also intrigued by salt encrusted fish; however, they actually had the activation energy needed to make a plan and execute a Sunday night dinner.  They invited us to join their scheme and off we were to Reading Terminal Market to purchase a large [to us] striped bass.  We settled on Wan’s seafood (despite the better reputation and cleaner appearance, John Yi’s striped bass had a little glaucoma) and watched as they scaled and gutted it.  We joined up with our friends, k and cm, and, guided by a few recipes, we prepped the fish, we cooked the fish, and we ate the fish.  Poor Herbie never stood a chance.  The whole procedure ended up being quite simple (with minimal prep time, as the fishmonger did all the hard work), but the results were phenomenal – both for our eyes and our mouth.  Why hadn’t someone told us that this is the easiest way to cook tender, juicy fish, ever?  Below is the recipe that we constructed (adapted from Thomas Keller’s and Alton Brown’s recipes).  It was so easy and delicious that we did it again the following day (with Herbina) just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke – it wasn’t (g’s cousin, d, informed us that indeed, it wasn’t … it was a striped bass).

Ingredients:

__ 1 striped bass gutted and scaled, fins and gills removed, head and tail intact (4-4.5 lb in weight before gutting).  We have read that snapper and tilapia are similar to striped bass and therefore may be substituted – we haven’t tried it [yet].
__ 3 lb kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand is what we used – we used Morton’s once and the proportions were all wrong – stupid variable coarseness between brands) (n.b. If you use a larger fish, you will have to use more salt, as the listed amount was perfect for the size fish we purchased)
__ 4 egg whites
__ 0.75 c water
__ handful of flat-leaf parsley
__ 0.5 bulb (+ fronds) of fennel, cut in half (so you’ll have two quarters of the bulb)
__ 0.5 lemon, sliced into at least four slices
__ 0.5 orange, sliced into at least four slices

Methods:

0)  Set oven to 425 degrees.

1)  Rinse and pat the fish dry.  Stuff with fennel, lemon slices, and parsley.

Meet Herbina. Isn't she pretty?

Herbina's stuffed.

2)  Combine salt, eggs, and water in a bowl.  Hand-mix.

3)  In a pan (lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup), put a half-inch thick layer of salt mixture to lay the fish on (just a little bigger than the fish’s actual size).  Place fish onto its salt (kind of like a body in a chalk-outline at a crime scene).  Lightly pack salt to completely cover the fish.  We used the entirety of the salt mixture for our sized fish.  Some exposed tail is ok (we had to cut the tail because of the small oven).  You don’t have to suture the slit where you stuffed the fish, just close the wound manually and cover with salt to keep closed.  When you’re done, give it a look over to ensure there are no obvious cracks.

"It's like burying your feet in sand at the beach!"

Where'd she go? Into her sarcophagus! (macabre, I know)

4)  Transport fish to oven.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Rotate pan 180 degrees.  Cook for 20 more minutes.  If you have no faith that the fish is done, you could attempt to penetrate the crust with a fork or skewer into the thickest part of the fish, wait 5 seconds, and then remove the object and touch it to your lip to ensure it’s warm.  Alternatively, you could just test the temperature of the thickest part with a thermometer (I think 125 degrees is the desired temperature, but I don’t know for sure – obviously we did NOT use a thermometer).  Let rest for 10 minutes (this is vital).

Herbina's in a sauna.

5)  In a dramatic fashion, crack the crust with a stern stroke of a large spoon or a mallet or a [clean] hammer.  Attempt to remove the crust in large pieces if possible; try not to accidentally pierce the skin and introduce salt to the tender meat underneath, especially when removing salt from the open slit where you stuffed the fish.

Hammer and chisel (i.e. butter knife).

Look inside! It's Herbina!

She's almost free!

Free at last.

6)  Remove the skin from the exposed side of the fish.  Remove the exposed fillet of meat resting on the ?spine?.  Remove the ?spine?, bones, and stuffing (the stuffing doesn’t taste good – we tried it).  Remove the remaining fillet of meat.  Depending on your meat-removal skills, you may have to eat with a little bit of caution, but most of the bones in a fish this size are large, so it’s not as bad.  The trickiest bones are the ones where the fins (if your fish still had fins) would connect to the body.  Brush up on your fish anatomy (google works) if you want to be an expert filleter.

Herbina's beauty is more than skin-deep.

"Fish have layers ... like ogres."

After you remove a fillet, remove the shrubbery.

Yikes - Herbina's looking a little ... thin ...

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Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 February 2010 at 10:33pm

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