It’s been a strange few weeks for me, cooking wise. I’ve been getting back to the food I love, remembering why I ever picked up a whisk in the first place, challenging myself as a cook and remembering the food I fell in love with. If you follow my other blog, you are aware of this shift I’ve taken.
I’m happy, and relived in a way, chasing the Traffic Dragon is exhausting and cooking what I love makes me happy, and for the first time in a while I’m excited to share a dish.
The first time I ever had a salt packed roasted anything was while traveling through Italy as a broke college student. I’d worked three jobs and saved for six months to send myself over seas and had ended up in the small city of Trieste. I’d wandered into a restaurant that was far too fancy for my tiny budget. I saw pesci listed on the menu and just pointed to it. There weren’t any prices on the menu and I just hoped that the fish I order wasn’t too expensive.
What came to my table was a salt packed whole fish on a cart. I panicked for a second and then decided to order a glass of wine and enjoy it. It ended up costing $60, a small travelers fortune, but it was worth it. I lived off bread and cheese for a week, but I’ll never forget that fish.
Lately I’ve been trying to remember food I’ve fallen in love with and that fish came to mind. It’s a classic, old world, technique that isn’t used much in the US, but it’s brilliant at locking in flavor with zero added cooking fat.
I found a video online by Tom Colicchio about salt roasted fish, just like the one I had in Italy. It paired well with the artichokes, and grilling is my absolute favorite way to make artichokes now, something you need to try this summer if you get a chance.
The fish is simple. Just start with a whole fish that’s been gutted. Most markets sell these cheaper than large fillets because there is less labor involved.
Mix the salt and the egg white, make a bed of salt on an oven safe serving platter (or rimmed baking sheet)
Put lemon and herbs in the cavity, then pack the remaining salt around the fish before roasting.
It comes out of the oven a light golden brown and steamed to perfection. Very impressive, and pretty easy.
For the artichokes, just cut them in half down the center
Use a melon baller and a sharp paring knife to remove the hair and the purple leaves, then boil for 25 minutes,
baste with melted butter and grill until you get those beautiful grill marks.
- 2 lb whole fish, gutted and cleaned (sturdy fatty fish like: salmon, arctic char, whitefish, sablefish, bass)
- 3 thin slices of lemon
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 4 egg whites
- 2 cups coarse Kosher salt
- Pre heat oven to 400.
- Whip the egg whites with a fork for about 1 minute. Add the salt, mix until it resembles wet sand.
- Lay about ¾ cup of salt mixture on an oven safe serving platter (you can also use a baking sheet with sides) add the fish to the top of the salt bed. Stuff the cavity of the fish with lemon slices and rosemary.
- Add the remaining salt to the top of the fish. Pack the salt around the fish (it’s fine if the head and tail are sticking out).
- Roast at 400 for 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 125F and the salt pack is light brown.
- Remove from oven, the salt pack should break away cleanly.
Adapted from Tom Colicchio Master Class: Salt Roasting Fish (video includes tips for serving)
- 2 large globe artichokes
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 4 tbs unsalted butter, melted
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- vegetable oil for grill
- Dipping sauce, if desired
- Prepare a pot of lightly salted boiling water.
- Slice the artichokes down the center, lengthwise. Using a melon baller and a paring knife remove the hair from the choke as well as the inner purple leaves, leaving a cavity in the center of the each artichoke half.
- Boil in the pot of lightly salted boiling water until the outer leaves tear away easily, about 20 minutes.
- Mix the lemon juice, melted butter, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Brush a preheated grill (or a grill pan) with vegetable oil. Brush artichokes lemon butter mixture, grill cut side down, until nice grill marks appear, about 8 minutes. Baste artichokes with melted butter while grilling.
- Serve warm with dipping sauce, if desired (pesto butter, garlic aioli, herbed mayonnaise, lemon butter).