Striped Bass in Salt Crust wih Lemon Sauce

One of the simplest and most elegant ways of serving a whole fish is to bake it in a salt crust. The salt adds only a mildly salty taste to the fish while keeping it moist and delicate. For great results, it is imperative that the fish be super-fresh, in fact the fish done this way is often not scaled or gutted - in our recipe it is gutted but not scaled - the scales and skin will be removed before serving.

I cook this dish in a stainless steel fish platter that can go from the oven to the table. The fish is cooked at a high temperature, and it is best to let it rest afterwards and continue cooking in its hot crust after removing it from the oven. A sauce made of a simple emulsion of the best possible olive oil and lemon juice complements the fish, as does one combining melted butter, lemon juice and herbs. Any fish leftovers can be served cold with tartar sauce.

Be certain to warn your guests to be careful of any bones.

Serves 4

1 striped or black bass, about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds ungutted (3 pounds cleaned: gutted with fins trimmed) scales and head left on

Salt Crust
3 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 large egg whites
about 1/2 cup cold water

Preheat the oven to 425?F. with the rack set in the center of the oven.

Place the cleaned fish on a stainless steel platter or baking sheet. Mix all the ingredients for the salt crust together to form a pasty mixture that hold together, and using your hands pack the crust mixture on top and around the body of the fish (do not cover the head or underside of the fish). Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the fish is 125 to 130 degrees. Remove from the oven, and let the fish rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.

To serve: Hit the crust with a heavy wooden spoon or mallet and lift away and discard the crust. Lift one end of the skin and remove it from the fillet. It should come off very easily. Gently lift pieces of the fish fillet away from the bone to serve. Remove any visible bones. Drizzle a small spoonful of Lemon Sauce over the fillet.

When the top fillet is served, lift the center bone and remove from the platter; then serve the bottom fillets.

Lemon Sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, whisk all the ingredients together.

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