Sea Bass or European Bass, Is both fished and raised commercially, and is considered to be the most important fish currently cultured in the Mediterranean. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, the popular restaurant fish sold and consumed as sea bass is exclusively the European bass. But in North America, it is widely known by its Italian name, Branzino.
Easy to find at Whole Foods, it is usually very good and fresh. Not cheap, but nothing is cheap at Whole Foods.
Branzino in Salt Crust is a classic of Italian cuisine. A really simple recipe that brings back all the flavors of the sea.
It may sound scaring at first. The idea of using about 2 lb of salt is a concerning one! It seems difficult and there is the fear that the fish would be too marked by salt, or that the salt will be difficult to remove.
But do not be afraid, once cleaned, the fish will have only a memory of the salt, a hint, indeed with this cooking technique the fish is even drier, in fact the salt absorbs juices, but also fats and you will not use oil for cooking, just to lightly grease the sea bass.
Adding two egg whites, slightly beaten will keep the salt together, and it will make the removal of the crust very easy.
For a big fish of about 2 and ½ lb (it is easier to cook a big one rather than two small ones ), you may need about 2 lb of coarse salt.
If desired the fish can be studded with garlic, rosemary, lemon, or whatever erb or spice of choice. I like to keep it simple.
How to prepare sea bass with salt.
Wash the sea bass with cold water and gently add the parsley and a slice of lemon in the inside, or any herb of choice. Lightly grease the fish with olive oil.
Beat the egg whites and add the salt a little at a time; you should get a decent amount of ”paste” with which to cover the fish (or two). Form a bed on which you place the sea bass and cover it completely.
If you have problems shaping the “cover” of salt, you can help by wrapping everything with aluminum foil, leaving an open-end, although with the salt+egg whites “paste” it is really easy to cover it up nicely.
Put it in the oven at high temperature, 200 degrees (400F), for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Meanwhile prepare the sauce: emulsify oil, salt, pepper, lemon and the zest.
This is optional, I like mine as plain as it gets, just out of the given and crust!
The sauce must accompany, but also refresh the dish, so avoid buttery sauces that would flatten the delicate taste of the sea bass and the nuances of the salt.
When cooked, bring the fish directly to the table: breaking the salt crust is an integral part of the charm of this recipe.
There are no particular recommendations for this simple, but truly exceptional recipe, which focuses on just a few, carefully chosen ingredients. Do not overcook the fish and be careful not to spread salt around when you break the crust. 😏
The fish’s skin comes off very easily, leaving the fish completely clean of salt.
Once finished cleaning the sea bass, serve the fillets, accompanied by the sauce and a side of steamed vegetables.
Which wine to combine with sea bass with salt?
The ideal wine is a dry white, with good minerality, with floral and medium-bodied aromas.