Sorry the blog was down for the last day- I am trying to build it upgrade a few things and we had a hiccup for a while there. Hang tight. Shiny new things are coming soon. Mostly, thanks to my talented brother, Reid. He is doing things that would take me a month and a half of headaches to work through.
But for now, here is your salty recipe. Yes, this does seem to be a special occasion one because you do need a lot of salt for it, but the results are beautiful. I have never had a better fish. Ever. The fish does not taste salty, it just moist, tender perfection. If you need a dish with a "wow" factor- this is it. The presentation when you remove the salt dome (which forms into a solid piece you break to lift off) is glorious.
Fish Baked in a Salt Crust adapted just barely from Alton Brown
1 red snapper, 5 to 6 pounds, gills removed, fins trimmed (stripped bass is also a great choice) 4 egg whites 1/2 cup water 6 lbs. kosher salt 1 handful parsley 1 fennel bulb, (with stem) quartered 1 lemon, sliced thin 1/2 orange, sliced thin Olive oil
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cover the bottom of a baking sheet large enough to hold the fish with parchment paper.
Rinse fish inside and out with cold water and drain. Dry with paper towels. Stuff body cavity with herbs and citrus, saving a few lemon slices for garnish. Set aside.
Pour half of salt into a large bowl, add egg whites and water, then the second half of the salt. Use your hands to work mixture to a mortar-like consistency. Lay down a 1/2-inch thick bed for the fish to lay on with a 1-inch clearance on all sides. Lay the fish on this bed and pile the remainder of the salt mortar on top. Work into a smooth dome completely encasing the fish. (Don't worry if the head or tail poke out a little.)
Cook approximately 35 minutes. Check for doneness by pushing the probe of an instant read thermometer through the salt into the fish. When temperature reaches 130 degrees, remove from oven, and rest at room temperature for 5 minutes. Open the fish at the table by hitting the dome several times with a small hammer and lifting off the slabs of salt. Brush away any stray salt. Gently pull out dorsal (back) fin. Using a fish knife or serrated pie server, make a single incision all the way down the back of the fish and around the gill plate. Then lift the skin off working from the head to the tail. Remove meat from top side of fish, going down one side of the spine then the other. Grasp the tail and remove the skeleton, (it should come up intact). The meat revealed below will slide right off the skin.
Sprinkle meat with a little virgin oil and lemon juice. Serve immediately.
Salt is common. It graces the tables and pantries the world over. We all know the scriptures that praise its savor. It the ingredient that can really make or break a dish. Ever had bread with the salt missing? Meh, that stuff is lacking. Over salt your entree? Inedible. There is something powerful about salt.
Salt has always been valuable because it is valuable for survival. Salt helps us regulate water flow in the body. The sodium ion itself is used for electrical signaling in the nervous system. Think of it as the stop lights for water and electricity in the body. We need a certain amount, but there is too much of a good thing.
As necessary as it is, salt gets a bad rap. A lot of that has to do with excessive consumption. I'm going to wager that most of us don't go crazy with the salt shaker- when we add salt to our food we can only add so much and then the taste is off. Processed food isn't the same as your tabletop shaker. Processed food is jam packed with salt. The reason why our sodium intake has skyrocketed in the last fifty years has more to do with what packages we are eating out of then what we are sprinkling on home cooked foods. This article on NPR's mainpage, clearly illustrates the point- they point out how much sodium is in a deli meat sandwich, and then how there is an equal amount in the store-bought white bread that meat is on. The point of the article was to limit our salt intake, and yes you could do that, but for me it was about eating the foods where I control the salt shaker.
Another key factor playing into the problem with too much salt is too little potassium. This piece by the associated press points out that the combination of the two is worse than each problem isolated. The long and short of it: replacing fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables with ultra-processed snack foods is unacceptable.
So, cut up some potatoes, toss them with some good sea salt and roast them instead of opening a bag of potato chips. Pass on a packaged power bar and make your own trail mix of nuts and dried fruit. Save the salt for when you really want to enjoy it.
There are lots of varieties of natural salts without additives, that each have distinct flavors coming from their natural mineral content. Those nuances aren't in the common iodized salt canisters. If you have never tried sea salt, head to the bulk bins and buy a little bit. The cost is much less than the fancy shakers and canisters. I love flaky sea salt to sprinkle on the top of a dish, the impact is fantastic.
Want to know more about salt? Check out a lot more information here.
And hang tight for this week's recipe. It's all about the salt.
What are your thoughts on salt? Do you have any in your food storage?
Trust me- with all those beans you are going to want some.
Lentils aren't expensive, but don't let their price make you are getting something cheap. As far nutrition goes, it is the best bang for your buck. Even Esau famously sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of the stuff. Yep, biblical pottage was lentils. And would I ever love to have that recipe.
The easiest to cook of all legumes, lentils make a simple dinner. Unlike most beans that need at least an hour to cook and do best with an overnight soak, lentils need no special treatment. They cook up with no soaking in about 12-15 minutes. Lentils can be last minute, but are also fantastic when cooked slowly until they become a bit of a savory porridge, like a typical Indian daal. I wrote about my favorite one already here. The texture is mellow and smooth, a reason why this is the most common first solid food for babies around the world.
Lentils are rich in fiber and just one quarter cup gives you more than a quarter of your daily fiber needs. Folate is also another of the lentil's superpowers. Folate is the magic stuff that promotes growth of new cells, which is why it recommended for babies and those who are growing babies, the pregnant and breast-feeding mothers. Folate also does good for those with anemia, but promoting the growth of healthy red blood cells. Lentils are also a great source of iron, which helps you feel full and energized as it cells loaded with it can carry more oxygen than those running on empty. Yes, you can get iron in other places, but lentils provide it without much in the way of calories, fat or expense.
If you are new to lentils and wary of their tendency to turn to mush or porridge quickly, I recommend trying French green lentils or lentils de Puy. This lentils are my favorite and the most attractive of them all. Up close these lentils look like tiny stones, dark green, flecked with dark gray spots. They cook up firm and flavorful. I love making these into a simple salad tossed with homemade vinaigrette that is as good cold as it is hot, packable for lunches and picnics, french green lentil salad is a staple.
Whatever lentils you like, they are pantry essentials; they store forever, cook up quickly and are packed with nutrition.
Do you like lentils? What is your favorite thing to do with them?
By way of announcement, for those who don't know, I also write and edit for Segullah, a literary journal with a blog and bi-annual print publication. Today, I have a blog post up with some musings about bread for the sacrament. Read it here, and check out the rest of the site, it is jam packed with good stuff.
I loved this piece up on CNN right now. My favorite line: "Dark, sulfurous, bitter greens, to excise the sins of the flesh and remind ourselves that while any shoemaker with salt, a Boston butt and an oven can make a passable pulled pork sandwich, it is through vegetables that cooks show intelligence and intuition." I've believe that one to be true- to me that is the mark of a real cook and a stellar restaurant: respect and attention to vegetables- especially the green ones, which are in season right now.
If you are looking for an easy new recipe this week I recommend one of these::