This makes for a delightfully moist fish and a dramatic tableside presentation. The original recipe called for a 2-pound black sea bass; if you use that fish, increase the oven time to 12 to 15 minutes.
Do not skip the step of letting the fish rest after roasting; it's essential to achieving the silky texture that this old cooking technique imparts.
Make Ahead: The salt crust mixture needs to rest for 30 minutes before roasting the fish.
- 20 stems flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons fennel seed
- 4 cups kosher salt
- 5 large egg whites
- 2 large lemons
- 1 whole yellowtail snapper, about 1 1/2 pounds, cleaned (scales can be left on)
- 2 large cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 stem rosemary
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
Combine half the parsley (including tender stems), all the fennel seed and the salt in a food processor; pulse until the parsley is coarsely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl; add the egg whites, stirring to incorporate. Rest at room temperature for 30 minutes so the salt has a chance to completely dissolve.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Spread half the salt crust mixture vertically along the center of the baking sheet.
Cut 1 lemon crosswise into thin slices. Juice the remaining lemon.
Fill the cavity of the fish with the lemon slices, the remaining parsley, the garlic and the rosemary sprig. Place the fish on top of the bed of salt mixture, then use the remaining salt mixture to pack/cover the fish, leaving the head free and open. Roast (middle rack of oven) for 8 to 10 minutes; the salt will be browned. Rest the salt-crusted fish, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
To serve, use a serving spoon to crack the salt crust. Remove it and the fish skin, which will have fused to the crust during roasting.
Discard the lemon slices, garlic and rosemary from inside the fish. Use two spoons to lift the top fillet off the bone and transfer to a serving platter. Use your index finger and thumb to remove the bone, then tease away the rib bones. Transfer the remaining fillet to the serving platter. Discard all the salt crust.
Drizzle the fish with the oil and lemon juice. Serve right away.
Adapted from "Classico e Moderno," by Michael White and Andrew Friedman (Ballantine Books, 2013).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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