Bar en croûte de sel avec salade d’endives à l’orange
from Daniel Galmiche’s French Brasserie Cookbook
This is a typical brasserie dish found all over France and can be made with either sea bass or sea bream. When baking in a sea salt crust, it is always better to cook the whole fish rather than fillets because it makes the flavour so much better. It is slightly less practical because you have to pick out the bones afterwards – but what you lose in convenience you gain in flavour. The combination of the fish with the chicory and citrus salad makes this a light, refreshing dish that zings! And don’t worry about the salt content – it’s just a casing to bring out the flavour.
If you were to wander the coastal cities of France, you would stumble upon brasseries with some spectacular seafood. At the entrance you would probably see display tables of freshly caught fish and shellfish laid out on ice, and inside you might find a tank with live lobsters and crabs, ready to be chosen and cooked à la minute.
Sea Bass Baked in Sea Salt
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
2 egg whites
juice and zest of ½ lime
zest of ½ orange
1.8kg/4lb rock sea salt
1 whole sea bass, about 1.3kg/3lb, gutted
olive oil, for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Chicory & Orange Salad
1 orange (ideally a blood orange, if available)
2 heads of yellow chicory
2 heads of purple chicory
½ small handful of dill, roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp reduced balsamic vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Put the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Add a squeeze of lime juice, the lime and orange zests and the salt and mix by hand, or with a spatula if you prefer. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spoon one-quarter of the salt mixture over it in a layer. Place the sea bass on the salt, then cover it completely with the remaining salt mix, pressing the salt down firmly around the fish.
2. Bake the fish in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then remove and leave to rest for 2 minutes without touching the salt crust.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the salad. Grate the orange zest and set aside, then peel the orange and cut the segments from between the membrane. Do this over a bowl to catch the juices, adding the segments to the bowl.
4. Cut off the base and outer leaves of the chicory, then cut each head in half, lengthways, and remove the core. Put in a separate bowl. Add the orange zest, dill and oil and mix until combined. Just before serving, add the reduced balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the reserved orange juice and half the orange segments. (Adding the acidic ingredients at the last minute is essential to keep the salad fresh and crunchy.) Season with pepper and whisk until well combined.
5. To serve, break the top of the salt crust by knocking it gently with a wooden spoon. Remove the skin from the fish (it may come off with the crust). Lift the top fillet of fish off the bone with a fork and put it on a warm serving plate (one fillet should be enough for 2 people). Remove the bone from the fish, revealing the second fillet underneath, and transfer it to the serving plate. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the salad for a light, fresh and colourful dish.
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