When the waiter rolled a trolley up to our table containing a large molten lump of salt, I wasn’t sure what to think. With a heavy spoon, he thumped the top, and the whole thing cracked open. Buried inside was a beautifully cooked sea bass. He quickly brushed away the coarse grains of salt, and with quick, deft hands, skinned and de-boned the fish onto our plates lickety-split. Then he grabbed a nearby bowl, gave the contents a swirl, and drizzled a wonderfully seasoned olive oil over our pieces of fish.
Here’s your list of ingredients: (for two people)
Sea bass, whole (cleaned by your fishmonger, but head, tail, and skin definitely left on)
Lots of coarse salt
Olive oil, about ¼ c.
Balsamic vinegar, about ½ T.
Fresh mint, chopped, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Let’s get started:
Preheat the oven to 350.
In order to not waste, or have to use too much coarse salt, it’s best to use a pan that fits your fish as perfectly as possible. Since I rarely have the exact size pan I need, I just improvise as you see in the pictures. I have baked as many as three fish at one time in a 13 x 9 pan. But in this particular instance, I was only baking one fish, and didn’t have a smaller pan to fit. So you will see that I’m simply “building” my own pan with tin foil. So simple.
Once you have your pan “built”, pour a layer of course salt to cover the bottom of your pan; a bed, for your fish to lay on. Rinse the fish, pat it dry with paper towels, and lay it down on the bed of salt.
And every time I make it, I think of Praiano. Golden sunsets, warm waters, glistening suntanned skin, rocky shores, cactus, watermelon granita, buffalo milk mozzarella, Ferdinando’s Beach, striped lounge chairs, men in Speedos (which in Italy, is usually a good thing).