Today was a rainy day, and this kind of weather makes me so excited for autumn! But what I am trying to savor is this — where we are now — what I think is the best part of summer in Colorado. The heat waves are gone, and every afternoon a huge thunderhead rolls in and puts on an amazing show of lightning and rain.
While I was out this morning, I found beautiful whole Yellowtail Snapper wild-caught from the Gulf on special at the market. This I cannot pass up. And when I see whole fish, I go on auto-pilot and think of an incredible late afternoon lunch of salt-encrusted fish we enjoyed eight years ago on the sidewalk patio of a casual little restaurant in Sirmione, a small town at the south end of Lago di Garda. Nothing could have been better. I love to repeat that and don’t do it often enough.
So, with the cool temps blowing through the windows, I decided this was a night for turning that oven on and treating that fish right.
The beauty of salt-encrusted fish is that it comes out perfectly seasoned, and incredibly moist. No dry fish here. I love the flavor of thyme, if you haven’t noticed, and so there I was, out at the herb garden, picking thyme leaves as fast as humanly possible as the thunder and lightening cracked above my head (I had serious thoughts of how stupid I would be marked, if a bolt actually got me this time). With just over a tablespoon of leaves picked, the deluge began, and as I sprinted inside, I decided: one tablespoon will be plenty. Sometimes, I think this is how recipes are born!
The key here, as with any fish is this: use a thermometer (thickest part of the fish should be 120-125° F). I whipped up a quick salad of baby arugula, and sliced into a crusty loaf. Dinner was served in no time, and a very happy family sat down to eat it.
Salt-encrusted Yellowtail Snapper with Thyme
by Stephanie Kunstle
Note: feel free to use any kind of whole fish. Fresh trout is delicious as is any salt-water fish. Just needs to be whole!
- one whole wild-caught fish (2 lbs feeds 2 adults and 2 children), gutted and scales removed (most fishmongers do this anyway)
- 5 egg whites
- 1 cup coarse sea salt
- 1 heaping Tbsp. thyme leaves, chopped
- 1 small handful of Italian parsley
- butter (for greasing the pan)
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a large heavy baking sheet.
- Whip egg whites until very stiff (I basically just turn on my Kitchen Aid mixter and let them go while I run out into the rain and pick herbs!).
- Fold in salt and thyme leaves.
- Spread about 1/3 of the salt mixture along the length of the baking sheet (wide enough to provide a bed for your fish to nestle in).
- Place the fish on the salt mixture, and then generously salt the cavity and stuff with parsley.
- With remaining salt mixture, cover fish, using a spatula to completely enclose it.
- Bake for 30 minutes or so, until it reaches about 120-125° F. The salt crust will be golden and hard.
- Using a fork and spoon, gently remove the salt crust and the top layer of skin to reveal the moist, flavourful fish. Scoop out pieces, and enjoy hot!