Tastē Tuesday: Fish has always been a bit intimidating to me. It has never been one of my favorite food groups...until I became married to a man who loved fish and under the auspices of how healthy it is, insisted we eat it once a week. Going from a once a year fish consumer to a weekly one has taken some time...and a few arguments! Living near the water for the past seven years, I must admit I am converted.
Nonetheless, walking up to the seafood department and seeing an entire fish laying there with its eyes bulging out me still kind of makes me uncomfortable. I prefer to slide on over to the nice fillets and just pick out a couple. Thanks to a cooking method I discovered, I can now prepare an entire fish, leaving the cleaning and gutting to the seafood clerk of course!
Having prepared this dish multiple times now, I cringe at the memory of a trip to Greece where I turned down the freshly caught and expertly prepared fish just because there was no way my dinner plate was going to have an entire fish laying on it. I hope that if you have always stopped short of this seafood culinary adventure, this inspires you to take a leap into the ocean and try something new :).
The best thing about this recipe: one fillet (each fish provides two fillets) is only 140 calories. This a great start to a healthy dinner!
Adapted from Wegmans with a few modifications of my own.
6 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
1 small lemon, thinly sliced & divided
4 fresh bay leaves, divided
2 whole bronzini, cleaned & gutted (striped bass and snapper also work)
6 egg whites
3 cups Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
1. Place 3 sprigs thyme, lemon slices, and 2 bay leaves in the cavity of each fish. Set aside.
2. Whip egg whites with electric mixer until soft peaks form; gently fold in salt and season with pepper.
3. On a baking sheet large enough for both fish to lie flat, spread a piece of parchment paper (very helpful for post-dinner clean-up). On top of the parchment paper, divide one-third of the salt crust to form two "beds" for the fish. Place fish on top of salt crust; be sure fish sits completely on top of the crust.
4. Cover each fish with remaining salt crust, spreading with a spatula. Bake 20-25 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. Let rest at least 2 minutes.
5. To serve, crack salt crust with back of spoon and remove the crust, dust excess salt off with a pastry brush; discard. Peel off skin, if desired (it slides off of the fillet quite easily). Using a flexible spatula, run along the spine to separate the flesh from the bones, starting at the head. Remove the top fillet from the bones with spatula and place on a plate. Lift bones out in one piece. Remove the other fillet from pan with spatula.
*Watch out for small bones that may remain in the fillet.
*After you remove the fish from the oven, reduce oven temp to 180 degrees and warm plates while filleting the fish.