Can you remember the best thing you ever ate? I can—a few of the “best things”, actually. I have a list of about five meals that I know I will never forget, and one of them took place on our trip to Italy this past summer.
On our final night in Sorrento, we ate at Ristorante Bagni Delfino, situated right on the water overlooking Mount Vesuvius. The location alone was amazing, but what really made it memorable was the branzino both my Dad and I ordered for dinner. It was killed when we ordered it (I know—insane) and it was so incredibly moist and flavorful, I think I almost cried. I knew that once I came home, I needed to recreate it.
The secret to a crazy-flavorful branzino? Salt baking it! It sounds crazy, but crusting the fish in a ton of salt leaves it so juicy and flavorful—it’s a method that makes it look like you spent hours perfecting the branzino, when really it’s the easiest method ever.
- One large carton of salt (3 lbs)
- 6 egg whites
- Two whole branzino fish, scales removed and sliced down the belly
- 2 lemons
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy. Fold in the salt until it forms a thick mixture, similar to wet sand.
Lay the branzino, stuffed with lemon and rosemary, onto a layer of the salt on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the filets with the remaining salt, ensuring that each fish is covered with a thick layer around all sides of the branzino.
Bake the branzino in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the salt has hardened completely and has browned. Allow the fish to sit for around 10 minutes, then start cracking the salt shell with the blunt end of a spoon, being careful not to bruise the fish.
Brush off excess salt and serve on a separate dish, removing the bones and sprinkling with a dash of lemon and your best olive oil. Hint: it tastes even more delicious if you close your eyes and pretend you’re on the Italian coast!