Monday, July 25, 2011

ingredient: DORADE

There are some highly talented people working in Aquatic Public Relations. The most famous example might be the transformation of the Patagonion Toothfish

i.e this guy:

to "Chilean Sea Bass." What's in a name? You ask. Well, after it gained its much more user-friendly name, the species became so popular that it's now completely over-fished. Having seen the huge differences a simple name change can make, the P.R reps for Gilt-head Sea Bream got on the case. They decided that henceforth on menus everywhere, this Mediterranean fish would now be called by its much more pleasant French name: Dorade.

Dorade are a relatively small fish, usually ranging from 6 to 9 pounds. They have shiny silver scales and a tender white flesh. The flavor of the fish is meaty and slightly sweet. Though the Italians call them orata and the Portuguese call them dourada and the Greeks call them tsipo├║ra, there are a few sure-fire ways to cook these fish. The first option is grilling the fish whole, which is no surprise given how Europeans love presentation. You'll often find this fish stuffed with herbs and laid on a platter so a bevy of men can fight over who gets to eat the cheeks and eyes. Another popular method is to throw Dorade in a seafood stew. It holds up well to cooking so it's a staple of Provencal bouillabaisse and zuppa di pesce alla Romana. But my new favorite method involves a whole lot of salt.

Salt-Crusted Dorade Stuffed with Herbs

I've always wanted to make salt-crusted fish. You can't really beat the wow-factor of packing a whole fish in a few pounds of salt, baking it, then cracking open the salt casing like an Arctic explorer uncovering long-lost natural treasures. Or baby penguins.

Luckily one of the benefits of having to pump out new recipes every week for a themed-menu column is that I have the perfect excuse to try out new techniques. So it was about a week ago, with many pounds of salt and some whole Bronzino in hand, that I first attempted salt-crusting. The results were amazing. It was fun, easy, and, most importantly, the fish turned out supremely moist and delicious. Unlike some other recipes I've done once and will never attempt again (let me warn you now: making jam to store for the winter just isn't worth the sterilization process), salt-crusting is now a favorite technique. The salt keeps all the moisture trapped inside the fish, but because the salt is outside of the flesh, there is no salt actually imparted into the flavor.

The best thing about my local fish store is that they're always bringing in new varieties of fish, leading me to discover fishy wonders I didn't know existed (hello, sablefish). When I saw some Dorade in the ice-packed window display, I knew that these pretty silver fish had to come home with me, and that they would end their days roasting in a block of salt. Well, the results was just as delicious as the bronzino. After cracking open the salt and removing the flesh, we had tender, sweet fish fillets scented with rosemary and lemon.

serves 2, easily doubled


one pound Dorade, scales on, insides cleaned
2 sprigs rosemary
1 lemon, half cut into 1/4 inch slices, other half reserved
2 pounds kosher salt
6 egg whites
extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, salt and 1/4 cup water. Lay half the salt over the parchment paper, creating a rectangle that is just larger than the fish.

Gently stuff fish with rosemary and lemon slices. Lay fish on top of salt bed. Pat the rest of the salt around the fish, enclosing it completely in the salt crust.

Bake the fish until the salt is golden brown and
the fish is at an internal temperature of 135 - 140 degrees about 15 minutes.

Take fish out of oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Use a knife to crack open salt crust. Discard. Gently remove the two fish fillets.

Serve each fillet with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.