Fish In A Salt Dome

Somebody mentioned this dish at the Eat Club dinner Tuesday night, and everyone at the table was fascinated. I was, too, the first time I saw it. The late Chef Jamie Shannon did it for a dinner at Commander’s Palace some ten years ago, and I’ll never forget it.

What we have here is a whole, gutted fish on a baking pan, sitting on a layer of salt, and then completely covered with a pile of salt. Any fish in the two-to-four-pound range will work. I recommend pompano, red snapper, Spanish mackerel, or other nice fatty fish.

The presentation is very dramatic. The salt will form a shell, which you will need a hammer or another heavy implement to break. The inside will not be salty–mirabile dictu!

1 whole fish, 2 to 4 pounds, gutted
2 boxes kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  1. The best pan to use for this will be an oval pan about 18 inches long by
    12 inches wide, and about three inches deep. Cover the bottom with about a
    half-inch of salt. Place the fish on top of the salt. Now cover the fish
    with salt so that it mounds up about a half-inch thick at its thinnest part.

  2. Using a clean spray bottle, spray water all over the salt until it’s
    glistening with dampness. Put the pan into the oven at 375 degrees and bake
    for between 40 minutes (for a two-pounder) to an hour (for a four-pounder).
    If you want to be exacting, shove (this will not be easy) a meat thermometer
    through the salt and into the fish when you think it’s nearing doneness.
    Look for an internal temperature of 125-130 degrees.

  3. Remove the fish from the oven and allow it to stand for 10-15 minutes.
    Then break the salt shell, brush off the excess salt and, as you carve the
    fish, remove the skin. This fish will be so juicy and delicious that I
    recommend no sauce.

Serves two to six, depending on the size of the fish. (Figure about ten
ounces per person of whole fish.)

Tom Fitzmorris

New Orleans