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Whole Fish Baked in a Salt Crust
12-14 cups rock salt
2 cups water
2 (2 pound whole striped sea bass, scaled and gutted, head and talils lefts on
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 thin lemon slices
8 sprigs fresh Italian parsley
8 sprigs fresh thyme
8 large fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1 recipe Provencal Red Pepper Sauce
1 recipe Aioli
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread 2 cups of the rock salt in the bottom of 2 (9 x 13 inch) baking dishes. Sprinkle each dish with 1/2 cup of the water. Place one of the fish in each dish at an angle - it's okay if the tail is sticking out a little. Sprinkle the inside of each fish with the table salt and the pepper. Stuff each fish with 4 of the lemon slices, 4 sprigs of parsley, 4 sprigs of thyme, 4 basil leaves and 2 sliced garlic cloves. Top each fish with 4-5 cups of the remaining rock salt, covering so that no skin is showing, other than the tail. The layer of salt will be about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of the water.
Place the baking dishes side-by-side in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and chip the crust away with a wooden spoon to expose the fish. Lift the fish out of the dish with a large spatula and brush away any remaining salt. Place both fish on a large platter, bring to the table and serve with the red pepper sauce or aioli on the side.
If you bring the dish whole to the table, have a cutting board and an extra plate for the scraps and bones. Of course, if you don't want to fuss with filleting the fish at the table, do it in the kitchen.
Wine Suggestion - Cabernet Sauvignon
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