Corina Weibel has been serving this salt-roasted branzino at Canelé in Atwater Village for quite some time, as she likes to have a whole fish on her menu. The branzino are cooked at a high temperature, buried in a mound of plain kosher salt. Weibel says that she used to make a more complicated crust, adding egg white and herbs to the salt, but that the last time she was in Italy she saw chefs making it this way, so she changed her recipe. Under the category of Simpler Is Better. The salt ensures that the fish cooks evenly and stays moist. And no, it does not make the fish taste salty. Unless, of course, you forget to brush it off.
Salt-roasted branzino with parsley, celery salad and caperberries
From: Corina Weibel, chef-owner of Canelé.
Note: This recipe calls for a whole box of salt. You can save the salt after cooking the fish, cool it and reuse it.
1 3-pound box of kosher salt
2 8-ounce whole branzino fish, cleaned and gutted, head-on
olive oil for brushing
1. Pour the entire contents of the box of salt into a rectangular baking pan large enough to hold both fish with room to spare. Spread the salt out evenly and place in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
2. Brush the outside of both fish with a little bit of olive oil. While you're waiting for the oven to heat, make the salad and the caperberry relish (recipes below) and set each aside. Allow the fish to come to room temperature.
3. When the oven has heated, remove the pan of salt and bury both fish in the salt. Using oven mitts, arrange the fish so that they don't touch each other. Both should be covered evenly with the salt. Bake the fish for 20 minutes. (Note: if you haven't finished the salad when the fish is ready to come out, don't worry. It will hold under the salt for probably 15 or 20 minutes if necessary.)
4. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the fish from the salt, breaking the salt crust and gently removing the fish. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the remaining salt from the fish. Place each fish on a plate, mound half of the celery salad on one side of the fish, and spoon half of the caperberry relish over the fish. Serve immediately.
2 medium stalks of celery, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1/4 small red onion, sliced in crescents
7 Picholine olives, cracked and pitted
5 caperberries, halved
1/2 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
juice of 1/4 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fleur de sel to taste
1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to combine. Reserve until ready to serve.
2/3 cup caperberries, sliced into rounds
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
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1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Reserve until ready to serve.