Once upon a time we were vegetarians…
It was a health thing – no principles. It was recommended to us by somebody we really admired, and we wanted to try. We were real vegans for a short period and we ate only dairy and vegetarian food. But it was too much for us, and soon we modified it, and added fish to our menu – just no meat. It was then that we began experimenting with fish. When we tried Salt Crusted Trout, that was end-game. Everybody loved it. It became our treat (the Trout) for Shabbat dinner, instead of the traditional meat. We actually had to ask a Rabbi if it’s allowed to substitute meat with fish, as There is no joy but in meat and wine (so said our sages), and it’s quite obligatory to have beef or chicken on Holidays. But we got our permission when we said it was for health reasons. Anyway it was such a hit, that even when these last few years, we’ve stopped being vegetarians and went back to eating chicken, our kids (who are really not fish fans) wouldn’t allow us to take out salt crusted trout from our Shabbat menu.
Now for the recipe:
HAVE NO FEAR!
This is not a salty dish. Fish don’t come out like the wife of Lot – pillars of salt! If you have health limitations on eating salty, this one’s not the dish you should avoid. It’s extraordinary – we were afraid too at the beginning – but the salt doesn’t penetrate the fish at all, and fish-meat stays absolutely delicious.
How does it work?
When the fish are buried completely in salt, their liquids are absorbed by the salt and cause it to solidify and become a kind of shell or crust, which in itself serves as a sort of oven, which cooks the fish-meat without letting any of its taste escape. When baking is done, the salty crust can be broken away in big chunks, leaving the fish almost entirely free of salt and terribly juicy and succulent.
Salt crust Trout or Sea Bass
For a fun slide show version.
3 Red Trouts or Sea Basses. Use whole fish, including head and bones. The fish’s skin is key in protecting the fish from salt infiltrating into its meat (then it’s really inedible!!!). That is also why I prefer Trout to other fish (Sea Bass is alright too) because apparently it has some kind of oozy thin film on its skin which makes it especially shielded and excellent for the job.
About 4-5 kilos rough salt. Fine wouldn’t do at all.
Dry parsley (optional)
And that’s it!
Heat your oven to 250°C
Choose a roasting pan or any other high brimmed dish, in which the three fish-guys can fit together snugly, and not feel overcrowded.
Pour about 1 kg of the salt into the vessel before laying the fish.
Wash the fish. If you wish, spread inside them a bit of dry parsley.
Put the fish on the layer of salt in the dish.
Cover the fish completely with the rest of the salt.
Put the dish in the oven (250 °C) for 40 minutes
If you wish to accelerate cooling (for example if Shabbat is at your heels on short winter days) you can put the dish, 30 minutes after taking it out of the oven, on plastic ice cooling packs to cool for about an hour, and then you can put it into the fridge. It may sound sacrilegious, but we eat it reheated on Shabbat dinner, and it’s just as great as straight from the oven. Perhaps even better because of the the mythical Shabbat spice, but about that – some other time. In order for it to be ready for Shabbat dinner, put it on the Shabbat hot plate right after lighting Shabbat Candles (some 20 minutes before sundown).
Releasing the fish from their salty crust (that’s the tricky part…)
Just before eating, break the crust and remove the fish from the dish to a clean plate, in order to avoid contact of salt with the inside of the fish’s meat. Do it with a knife handle, tapping gently on the crust taking care not to pierce the fish’s skin, letting the salt drop into the sink or some bowl, until the fish are uncovered enough to release them from the dish.
Then remove the fish carefully to another clean plate.
Funny thing. We’ve discovered that eating salt crusted trout straight from the oven makes removal from the crust much harder. It works much better after cooling and rewarming. Just fitting the Shabbat scene – and isn’t that what we call “Shabbat Blessing”?
Any questions? Have you tried it?
Please tell us in a comment here or by mail!
Cheers and –