Whole Fish Baked in Salt
The salt crust acts almost like a steam chamber, so the fish is perfectly steamed and stays moist and juicy. Serve this at the table, breaking open the salt in front of your family to show off. Try to lift off the top of the salt crust in one piece for maximum effect. My dad always crushed the salt and looked stupid, but my mom and I were masters at it. My dad has chubby fingers and was not able to sneak one underneath the salt. You have to be gentle.
- 1 whole fish, about 3 lb., such as sea bass, red snapper, loup de mer, or sea bream, gutted, scales on or off.
- A few sprigs of fresh herbs (basil, parsley, rosemary)
- 2 lemons, sliced
- A handful of mustard seeds
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 5 egg whites
- 6 lb. salt (2 lb. of salt for every 1 lb. of fish)
- 1 tbsp. pepper
- 2 tbsp. lemon zest
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 425° F and set the rack in the middle.
- Place the herbs, lemon slices, and mustard seeds into the fish cavity. Then, rub the skin with some of the olive oil and place the fish onto a baking sheet or into a pan.
- Combine the egg whites, salt, pepper, and lemon zest in a bowl and mix with your hands until all the salt has been moistened.
- Cover the whole fish with the salt mixture, starting with the body and then covering the head and the tail if you have enough salt left over.
- Bake the fish for 20-40 minutes, depending on its weight. It should take about 10 minutes per pound of fish.
- Transfer the fish to a platter and serve by breaking the salt crust and filleting. To remove the fish correctly – and most dramatically – chip the edges of the salt crust, gently lift the salt off the top of the fish in one large piece, then lift the whole fish out of the salt.
- Serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Caper Sauce with Burnt Lemon
(makes 1 cup)
This is great on chicken dishes, and you can also use it on fish. It's very sour and a little salty. It also adds pizazz to vegetable dishes. Make some roasted or grilled vegetables and drizzle it on top. It's amazing. It will keep for about a week, but why would you make it and let it sit there for so long?
- 1 whole lemon, sliced into 10 rounds
- ½ cup unbleached flour
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup capers packed in water, drained
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1 tbsp. butter
- Salt and pepper
- Flour the lemon slices. Put the oil and lemon slices in a hot pan over medium heat and cook until the lemons are caramelized and nicely browned on all sides. The flour will stick to the bottom of the pan a bit (but it's all good).
- Add the garlic and capers, then deglaze the pan with the stock, scraping the bottom to release any flour bits. Reduce the sauce over medium heat until it has thickened a little and has a denser consistency. Add the butter at the end to make the sauce smoother and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When you cook a sauce or meat, you get little caramelized brown bits and drippings stuck to the bottom of the pan. These have a lot of flavor, so when you deglaze, add wine, stock, or some other liquid to get them off the bottom of the pan and back into the dish.
When you roast citrus, you bring out the sweetness. Try some iced tea with caramelized lemon; make some vinaigrette dressing with it. From now on, every time you are going to use a raw lemon, unless you're using a slice in your water, try a roasted one instead.
- 10 lemons, cut in half crosswise
- 2 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Butter or olive oil for roasting (if using a pan rather than a grill).
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Place the lemons open-face down on a really hot grill or in a hot sauté pan with a touch of olive oil or butter over medium to high heat.
- Grill for about 10 minutes, moving the lemons around, until the open side is caramelized.
Fabio's Cucumber, Lemon, & Mint Cocktail
- 4 slices of cucumber
- Juice of 1 burnt lemon
- 3 mint leaves
- 1 tsp. of brown sugar
- 3 count of rum (I just turn the bottle upside down and when the rum starts to pour I count on normal speed ONE....TWO.....THREE)
- Soda Water
- Use a muddler to crush the mint.
- Mix with all other ingredients.
- Add ice; gently mix with a Boston shaker (don't shake it).
- Top with a splash of soda water.
For more with chef Fabio Viviani, please visit www.fabioviviani.com and pick up a copy of his cookbook, "Fabio's Italian Kitchen."
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