Salt-Roasted Whole Fish (Le Poisson du Paludier)
Roasting fish in a shell of salt has been a popular cooking method for centuries. The salt absorbs the heat from the hot oven to cook the fish, which comes out moist and flaky with just the right about of saltiness. Don’t skimp on the salt because the fish must be covered completely.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
4 whole fish, such as trout or sea bass, 1 pound each, cleaned with heads intact
3 pounds kosher salt
16 bay leaves
Lemon wedges for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle the inside of the fish with pepper.
Cover the bottom of a 13-x-9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with half the salt. Place 4 bay leaves in 2 rows where the fish will lie. Place the fish on top of the bay leaves. If necessary, trim the tails so that the fish fit in the pan.
Place the remaining bay leaves on top of the fish. Cover the fish with the remaining salt so that they’re completely covered. Gently pat down.
Place the baking dish on the center rack of the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
Remove the fish from the oven. The salt will have formed a hard crust. Tap with a large metal cooking spoon to break and remove the top layer of salt. Check to see whether the fish are cooked. If not, return to the oven and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Using two large spatulas, carefully lift the baked fish from the salt and place each on a serving plate. Carefully remove all the skin and any visible salt.
Lift the top fillet from each fish. Turn the fish over and remove the remaining fillet. Serve with the lemon wedges.