The technique of encrusting whole fish with a salt-and-egg white mixture keeps the fish incredibly moist as it roasts. This dish is based on one from chef Jody Adams of Rialto in Boston.
- 1 1⁄4 cups roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus 3 sprigs
- 1⁄3 cup roughly chopped celery leaves
- 1⁄3 cup soaked, rinsed, and chopped salt-packed capers
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp. roughly chopped tarragon leaves
- 3 oil-packed anchovies, rinsed and minced
- Zest of ½ lemon
- 3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 rib celery, peeled and minced
- 1 cup kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1⁄2 cup roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1⁄4 cup lightly toasted coriander seeds
- 1⁄4 cup lightly toasted fennel seeds
- 3 cups coarse sea salt
- 4 egg whites
- 1 whole black sea bass, branzino, or porgy (about 1½ lbs.), cleaned, and scales left on
- 2 thin slices of lemon
Make the salsa verde: Combine parsley leaves, celery leaves, capers, tarragon, anchovies, and lemon zest in a food processor. Add ½ cup oil and pulse into a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl along with lemon juice, garlic, and celery. Season lightly with salt and pepper and stir in remaining oil; cover and set sauce aside.
Make the fish: Heat oven to 400º. Combine kosher salt, pepper, thyme, coriander, and fennel, in a food processor. Process until herbs are minced and salt takes on a green tint. Add the sea salt and pulse to combine. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy. Stir in the salt. Arrange 1 cup of salt mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Lay fish over top of salt and stuff cavity with lemon slices and parsley sprigs. Top fish with remaining salt mixture and pat with your hands to form a smooth, sealed mound (keep fish mouth and tail uncovered, if you like). Bake fish until an instant-read thermometer inserted into fish reads 140º, 20—25 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
To serve, crack open salt shell by tapping it with the back of a spoon. Peel away and remove top layer of salt. Peel off skin and transfer top filet of fish to a warm serving plate. Remove bones and transfer remaining filet to another warm serving plate, leaving skin and bottom layer of salt behind. Spoon reserved salsa verde over fish.
Pairing Note: Dry Domaine Tempier Rose 2008 ($34) from Bandol is a great match for this flavorful fish.