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JEFF KOEHLER

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August 14th, 2007

Recipe: Salt-Baked Whole Red Snapper with Quick Pumpkin Puree

Roasting an entire fish in a salt crust ensures that it remains moist and that none of its natural flavors escape. Serve it with a spoonful of rich pumpkin puree as a contrast to the lean but flavorful fish.

Salt-Baked Whole Red Snapper

Serves 2 to 4

1 (2- to 4-pound) whole red snapper, cleaned and gutted but with head, tail and scales intact (may substitute sea bream, grouper, rockfish or another non-oily white fish)
3 pounds coarse sea or kosher salt
2 large egg whites
Quick Pumpkin Puree (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400ยบ Fahrenheit. Have ready an ovenproof baking dish large enough to accommodate the entire fish (it may be necessary to trim the tail from the fish).

Carefully rinse the fish under plenty of cool running water. Pat it dry with paper towels.

In a large bowl using your hands, mix together the salt and egg whites until thoroughly combined and the salt feels completely dampened.

Spread about 1/3 of the salt in the baking dish forming a 1/2-inch-thick layer. Pat it down into an even layer. Lay on the fish and then cover the fish evenly and completely with the remaining salt, patting the salt firmly onto the fish into an even 1/2-inch-thick layer.

Bake the fish until just done and the salt forms a hard, lightly browned shell, about 15 minutes per pound of whole fish.

Remove the dish from the oven and bring it to the table with the fish still encased in salt. Bring a large bowl for the salt crust. Using a hammer or wooden spoon, carefully break the shell open by tapping gently. Pull off the larger chunks of salt and discard. Using a pastry brush, brush away any remaining salt. Using a spatula and a knife, carefully lift off the top side of the fish and transfer it to a platter. (If desired, the skin can be removed using a sharp knife.) Remove the backbone and discard. Carefully transfer the bottom side of the fish to the platter. Cut into portions and serve immediately with the Quick Pumpkin Puree on the side.

Quick Pumpkin Puree

Serves 4

Although this pumpkin puree is intended as a rich-tasting garnish for fish, it is so simple yet delicious that you may wish to double the recipe and serve it as a side dish.

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound pumpkin, acorn squash or butternut squash, seeds and peel removed, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup water
1/2 tablespoon heavy (whipping) cream (optional)

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the pumpkin, season with salt and black pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin just begins to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the water, cover, and gently simmer over moderate-low heat until the pumpkin is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding salt or pepper if needed, and, if desired, add the cream and puree again until smooth. Serve warm.

Posted by jeffkoehler in  recipes  |  

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