Whole Fish Baked in a Salt Crust
1 3-pound box of kosher salt . Do not use fine grained salt because the crust will not hold
6 egg whites
1 whole fish, about 2 pounds. Red fish, bream or snapper are perfect choices; the fish should be left whole but cleaned and scaled
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs fresh dill
1/2 fresh lemon, cut into thin slices
1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 425 F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the salt with the egg whites. Mix the salt and egg whites together until combined. The texture will seem like wet beach sand.
Use a large rimmed sheet pan and line it with a piece of parchment paper.
Remove the fish from the refrigerator and rinse it with cool water. Pat it completely dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Place the fish on the parchment-lined sheet pan.
Season the fish cavity with salt ,freshly ground black pepper and cayenne. Add the sprigs of fresh herbs and 3 or 4 slices of fresh lemon. Rub the fish with a teaspoon or so of olive oil.
Using your hands to scoop the salt-egg white mixture, cover the fish with the salt until it is completely covered. The salt will make direct contact with the fish's skin and should create a covering that is about 1/2-inch thick. Pat the crust all over to make sure it's intact and sturdy and that every bit of fish is covered so that when the crust bakes it makes an air-tight surface that keeps in the moisture.
Place the pan in the center of the pre-heated oven and roast for 25 minutes. The crust will become a light golden brown, especially around the edges, and it will have completely hardened.
Remove from the oven and let rest for about 20 minutes (it will stay warm for up to an hour). When ready to serve, use a small hammer, the back of a chef's knife, or another kitchen tool to crack the salt crust which will have become hard during the roasting. Break the crust off in pieces until the fish is entirely revealed. Discard all the pieces of the salt crust.