Even though half the country is bordered by a sea-shore, I find that people in Argentina don’t eat enough fish. And that is a shame because it is one of the few things you can make that will leave you satisfied. And it contains little fat. Provided, that is, you don’t fry it.
So, when I was over there last year, I tried to cook as much fish as I could. I was sort of on a diet and fish was quite a convenient thing to eat.
Whole Fish Baked in Salt – adapted from a recipe by Narda Lepes in Recetas y Secretos de Narda
You can do this with almost any big fish. Like for instance whole gutted bream which is what I used.
Season sea salt (about 1 kg) with chopped fresh chilli, herb trunks, lemon zest, any fresh herbs you like ( I used what I had handy: fresh chopped parsley, fresh chopped garlic, sage and rosemary) and egg white. The function of the egg white is to make it easier to remove the salt crust later.
Place half the seasoned salt in an oven tray. Place the whole fish on top and cover almost completely with the salt – you can leave the head and the tail out.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for around 20 minutes.
To see if the fish is cooked, crack a small hole in the salt crust in the thickest part of the fish and check the appearance of the flesh. (see notes below)
How to know when a fish is done
The appearance of the flesh of the fish clearly changes as it becomes hot.
Raw fish is translucent. Cooked fish, on the other hand, becomes opaque.
Therefore, the briefest inspection of the thickest part of the fish should tell you whether or not it is done. In the case of whole fish (round or flat, large or small) cooked on the bone, the tip of a round-ended knife or narrow palette knife is the tool for the job.
Pushed through the thickest part of the flesh on the lateral line until it touches the backbone, then levered gently to one side, it will expose the flesh to the bone. Take a look: opacity, or otherwise, and therefore doneness, is easily judged.