3.07.2011

Salt Crusted fish

The gorgeous blue shimmering pattern of mackerel.


An old preparation for a new lot.  That lot is my family and hopefully soon yours!  In the 1990's Clarissa Dickson Wright (The blonde of the Two Fat Ladies) with all her ancient recipe collecting knowledge brought to the forefront some amazing recipes.  This is a favorite.  This is up there with smoked fish (cold and hot smoked) for me.

Clarissa uses her favorite fish and other fillings.  Sea Trout and I think dill fronds. So, go nuts.  The only thing that I don't recommend is making the outer crust any more difficult.  I've gone through some "fancy" rehashes of Clarissa prep and it is a lot more fuss for a not-better result.  Try it with Snapper and hot chilis if you wish, just keep the exterior simple in the name of kitchen sanity and anti-wastefulness.

I used quite possibly the most sustainable of all Ocean fish that has a horrible reputation for being "fishy" - that fish is Mackerel.  It is abused by being canned and used as a feeder fish for all sorts of animal foods and the impoverished.  I would like to clear this fish's good name because this fish has a few things going for it 1.) its numbers are VERY high and doing well.  This can't be said for many fish on the market. 2.) This fish is cheap because very few folks understand how incredible it is 3.)  This fish tastes smoked and buttery. 4.) This is a "fatty" fish meaning no saturated fats and high in Omega 3 fatty acid, good for your hair, skin, heart, blood circulation, especially the brain and a load of other things including anti-cancer properties. This fish must be eaten the day of catch or immediately cured or frozen.  It is highly recommended by another favorite chef of mine, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (of River Cottage fame) for smoking, drying, curing.  He does all this with it and even cooks it directly on the beach.   I figured this fish would really shine with this old-styled prep Clarissa gave me since Hugh uses it in simple applications.  What I didn't know is that this fish would have a smoked flavor BY ITSELF!  I was astonished at how buttery rich and smokey this fish turned out.  Thank God this is an unpopular fish because it was 5.99 a lb.  Making my monster mackerel a whopping 8.50 and could have easily fed 4 very hungry souls. More with sides and what have yous.

For this magic you'll need:

1 to 1 1/2 Cups Coarse Sea Salt
Your choice of fish (preferably an oily or fatty fish like trout or salmon if you don't have mackerel)
1/4 - 1/2 Cup of whatever herbs you wish to use

I cut the head off behind the gill and tossed it in a pot with 1/2 Cup water for the puppy.
I then gut the fish and removed the tail (you can leave the head and tail on for dinner parties as it does a fancy fine job of making you look nifty) and rinsed the stomach cavity with cool water.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In my pan I placed about a 1/4 -1/2 inch "fish shaped" pile of coarse sea salt. Lay the fish on the salt bed you prepped.

I removed the tiny forefins for ease of eating later.
 Fill the cavity with whatever flavorful herbs, or onions you like.  I used chopped leek and parsley.


Cover the top of the fish in another 1/4 - 1/2 inch of coarse sea salt.



Using very wet fingers sprinkle the salted top with water this will keep the salt from sliding off the top of the fish while it cooks.  It will create a crust which when you remove it will pull the skin with it and unveil the loveliest baked fish you've ever had the pleasure of dining on.



Place in the oven and leave for at least 40 minutes.  You can stab through your salt crust into the fish with a knife to test it and if the tip of the knife is hot then your fish is cooked.  If not put in for another 10 minutes.

The time depends mostly on the size of the fish, but any caramelizing you witness will tell you your fish is done.  This is also a tough recipe to overcook since the goodness is rather sealed in until you crack the crust.

Crack this baby open in front of guests and watch their faces glow like Christmas morning.  (Or of course your holiday what-have-yous) The interior will be soft enough to spoon or spatulate from the skeleton.  Simply remove the spine once visible and be mindful of remaining bones.



I served this with chimichurri (minced parsley with olive oil)  over rice and an over easy egg to spill it's yolky goodness all over my fish and rice.  It was heavenly.  It isn't pictured because we had to smell this amazing food and couldn't handle it any longer.

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