Salt-Crusted, Herb-Stuffed Sea Bass
This is easy to make and will impress anybody that doesn't know how to cook. But getting the fish to remain intact as you remove it from the crust is hard. You might need to practice. I know I do.
1 small sea bass, weighing approx. 3 pounds, head and tail on
2 pounds coarse salt (in the U.S., Kosher is best; in France I used gros sel)
1 egg white
1 cup water
1 cup unchopped herbs of your choosing; I used basil, cilantro, rosemary and thyme, all on the stalk
2 limes, peel and pith removed, sliced horizontally
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil.
Rinse out fish in cold water and pat dry. Make a long cut up the length of the belly of the fish and stuff the cavity tightly with herbs and 1 lime.
Beat egg white briefly in a medium bowl; add salt. Pour in enough water to make a coarse, sandy paste. Spread about 1/4 of the salt mixture on the foil-lined pan to create a bed for the fish. Place the fish atop the salt, and pat the remainder of the mixture around the fish so that it is entirely covered.
Bake approximately 45 minutes.
Using a small mallet or hammer, crack off the top of the crust, taking care to avoid sprinkling the flesh of the fish with any excess salt. Make a small cut behind the gills of the fish and a longer cut down its backbone. Lift out the top layer of flesh. Remove the layer of bones as carefully as you can, and then lift out the lower layer of flesh. This can be difficult, so don't expect to produce perfectly shaped fillets on your first try. Your meal might look more like flaked tuna. But it will still taste moist and delicious. Garnish with remaining lime.
January 23, 2006