I had my first experience with salt crust when we visited the Amalfi coast in Italy 2 summers ago. A short (and winding) Vespa ride from our villa was my aunt & uncles favorite restaurant in the little village of Nerano called Conca Del Sogno. On our last evening before returning to the states we visited this gem of a restaurant and my Uncle told our waiter that we would like to start with the "salt fish". I didn't think twice about it, honestly I assumed that "salt fish" was an actual type of fish- UNTIL two men wheeled out a cart with a massive dome of hardened salt on top. Being the only one who was a first-timer to visit Italy, I was given the honor of cracking open the salt encased 'Brazilian Seabass' (see below). It was one of my favorite experiences from our trip and I will never forget it, or the perfection of flavor from this fish! It was so tender and flaky and tasted phenomenal. Considering how its prepared, you would expect it to be salty but the salt is only meant to create an "oven" around the fish and to contain the moisture and natural flavor.
Recently, following a trip to Charleston, my family brought back some fresh caught red snapper to try our own hand at doing a salt fish! The technique we used involved making a sand-like mixture of salt and egg whites. We first baked a bottom layer of salt and egg white mixture, placed the fish on top and proceeded to bury the fish in a 1/2 inch thick layer of the salt mixture. Baked is on 400 degrees and the salt insulates the food, cooking it gently and evenly. When the dish comes out of the oven, you crack open the hardened, golden brown salt shell to unearth the perfectly cooked fish. This evening was a feast, as our friend Agu was in town visiting from Italy. We had a killer charcuterie board with all the fixings (including caper berries which I tried for the first time- SO good!), a huge salad and Agu prepared some authentic pasta pomodoro. We whipped up a delicious Sicilian sauce for the fish using EVOO, lemon, parsley, salt, pepper and butter..... To. Die. For. Check out our entire spread below :)
As always, thank you for reading and reliving this fun evening with me. I have also read that you can use this salt-encasement cooking method for ALL types of foods from potatoes or vegetables to steak or pork loin. You should definitely give it a try (and let me know if you do!)