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Salt-Baked Branzino | by ulterior epicure
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Salt-Baked Branzino

* Best of 2007 * Dish

Read about this dish and the other 25 Best Dishes of 2007 on my blog.

 

Branzino

Mediterranean sea bass baked in a salt crust. ($28)

 

Notes: I haven't a proper salt-baked fish since I was last in Milan (circa 2004). Earlier this year, I did enjoy a "salt-baked" cod at Felidia in New York, but that was baked on a bed of salt, not encrusted, as is this sea bass.

 

I love the salt-baking method. The crust seals up the flesh and ensures impossibly fluffy and moist meat, as it did here. The true skill of a server can be read in their filleting technique. Per tradition, this fish was presented to the table whole and was removed to the kitchen to be filleted (in fancy restaurants, its often done table-side) when the salt crust, skin and bones are removed and discarded leaving the precious meat.

 

I really wished that I had taken a picture of the filleted fish. It was fantastic: our server had deftly re-plated the entire fish as if some magical force had just simply zapped away the skin, crust, bones and head - both filets, laying one on top of each other as pictured here, were complete and unruffled. As a final touch, the server drizzled some extra virgin olive oil over the fish at the table.

 

The meat, as I stated, was extremely soft and moist. The flavor was clean and pure - with a slight saltiness along the surface - traces of the crust.

 

The vegetable accompaniment was very good - most of the vegetables had been just slightly cooked so that they were still sturdy.

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Taken on November 1, 2007