I am sure I am not alone when I confess to having projects and goals that are lined up on a neatly written list in my head. Sometimes I actually do write them down. Occasionally, during a summer vacation, or if an unusually industrious wind blows, I do cross one or two of them off…but the list still doesn’t seem to get any shorter. Most of these goals actually have nothing to do with food or cooking at all, but since we do have a cooking site, which I know people follow, it will hopefully be the impetus for getting at least my food goals accomplished. This list is basically comprised of different techniques I want to try and different ingredients I want to experiment with. I hope you follow this blog posting, and let me know what experiences you have with the quest we are conquering. If you have any goals of your own…let me know!
Quest #1 January 2012
Perfecting the technique of baking in a salt crust.
The truth is that I don’t know much about this yet, but I am hopefully about to find out. My friend Rifky told me she baked a fish one night in a simple salt crust she made, and it “was one of the best pieces of fish we ever ate”. I then saw an article in a magazine about baking chicken in a salt crust. Unfortunately I have no idea where that magazine is now, but regardless, I plan on doing a bit of research, and hopefully will master this technique without too much disaster. Check back to see how it went….I will probably procrastinate till the end of the month, but hey, you never know!
January 26, 2012
It’s a fine Wednesday morning (unseasonably warm) and I am about to finally set out to make that recipe I have been keeping an eye on for so long. Usually, if I put off making a recipe for an extended period, it’s because it looks difficult, or I have to shop in some obscure store for a special ingredient. But in this case, it was a matter of pure procrastination. It wasn’t so much that the recipe looked hard to follow. On the contrary it’s really quite easy. Why did I choose to keep this on my bucket (mental) list, you ask? Simple, I was really curious to taste it. Wherever I saw this recipe printed or reviewed, the people who tried it were always raving. My interest was piqued. Well, now, thanks to this blog, this curiosity is about to be squelched.
20 minutes later:
That was really easy! Aside from handling a whole fish, it was actually quite enjoyable. It took about 5 minutes, and as I write this, the salt crust is hardening in my oven, creating a hard crust around the fish.
20 minutes later:
Wow…this is really fascinating! And really simple to do…
I used a black sea bass, but a trout, striped sea bass and salmon are all good options. Mine weighed about 2 lbs., about enough to feed 2 people. So, basically, you ask the fish monger for a whole fish that has been cleaned. Take it home and rinse it. Pat it dry and rub the skin with a bit of oil to make it easier to remove the crust later.
1 whole fish, skin intact
4.5 cups kosher salt
3-4 egg whites
¼ cup water
Aromatics of your choice can include garlic cloves, lemon wedges, and sprigs of thyme, parsley, bay leaves or shallots.
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Mix salt, egg whites and water all together in a bowl to create a paste-like consistency. Using the paste, create a “bed” for the fish on a cookie sheet, spreading a layer (about ¼ inch thick) that is the approximate size of the fish. Lay the fish down on the “bed “and cover the fish completely with the salt mixture. (If the fish is too long for the tray, leave the tail uncovered.) Try to ensure that the fish is sealed on all sides.
3. Bake for about 25 min (for 2 lb fish) add 5 minutes more for every pound. Let rest for 10 minutes before opening. Remove salt crust and skin. Serve immediately.