Salt Baked Red Snapper with Chimichurri Sauce
I was surprised to learn how easy it was to make Salt Baked Fish - the resulting dish was incredibly moist, well seasoned and extremely delicate. With just a handful of ingredients, I was able to make a quick and healthy dinner and am excited to share this with friends and family at my next party.
What's interesting was that you don't even have to descale your fish. Once baked, the skin of the fish sticks to the salt crust - making it super simple to gently peel away the crust and the skin, revealing only the juicy flesh of the fish.
This recipe includes a fresh chimichurri sauce to add that added punch to the light flavours of the fish. I served it with herb and butter boiled potatoes to keep things fresh.
Recipe serves 2-3 people. 10 mins prep time, total cook time approximately 35 mins.
For the fish
1 whole red snapper, gutted but not scaled
3-4 lemon slices
3 whole garlic cloves
1 teaspoon fennel
1.5 boxes / 750g salt (I used this regular Pagoda brand salt)
1 cup water
For the chimichurri
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup coriander
3 garlic clove
1 chili padi (Optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper - recommended to use a tray that is rimmed.
2. Fill the cavity of the fish with lemon slices and garlic cloves.
3. In a bowl, combine fennel, salt and water until consistency is like wet sand. We're all master sandcastle builders, so you should know what I am talking about.
4. Lay the snapper on the baking tray. Cover the entire fish with wet salt, making sure it is packed tightly around the fish. You can leave out the tail when doing this.
5. Put the fish in the over and let it cook for exactly 35 minutes.
6. While the fish is cooking, grind 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup coriander, 3 garlic clove, 1 chili padi and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice in a mortar and pestle. Add salt and fresh black pepper to taste.
7. At 35 minutes once fish is cooked, let it rest for 5 mins before cracking open the salt crust. Use a knife to gently crack the top of the crust, and gently remove sections of the crust bit by bit. You will find that the skin and bones will be lifted out as you do this.
8. Remove fish fillets with a spatula and serve with a dollop of chimicurri sauce. Don't forget the juicy bits of meat on the head, cheeks and collar of the fish!
ALY'S COOKING TIPS
1. Use regular and cheap salt for this. There is no point in wasting almost a whole kg of sea salt or himalayan salt.
2. Always use fresh fish, and start the dish with a defrosted fish. If the fish is still frozen, there will be too much water that will melt into your salt crust - rendering it useless in creating a 'cave' for your fish to steam in.
3. You can add whatever aromatics you like in the cavity of the fish. I see some recipes using orange peels, fresh herbs and all sorts of fruits to flavour the fish from inside out.
4. You can omit the fennel from the salt mixture but I find that this adds to the aromatics of the finished product. More flavour - why not?
5. Leaving the scales on the fish ensures the fish is not too salty once cooked. It acts as another barrier from the fish absorbing too much salt. Recommended!
6. This chimichurri recipe is one for KEEPS. Use this for flavouring all sorts of meals - super easy and adds a power punch that's fresh and tasty. You can use a blender too, but I love the coarse consistency of using a mortar and pestle.