How Homemade Ice Cream Leads to Salt-Crusted Snapper

by Marina Chotzinoff

A few days ago I made a batch of ice cream that required 9 egg yolks. This left me, of course, with 9 egg whites. My mom always froze them in perfect little containers for later use, but I am pretty sure I would just end up with old, frost-covered frozen egg whites that I would throw away. At first I thought I’d try my hand at macarons, those perfect little circles of crisped, fluffy, chewy meringues stuffed with a complementary flavored goo. But having just made the ice cream and a batch of caramel, I was not too keen to have yet more sweets beckoning. So I turned to the vast interweb, searching “what to do with leftover egg whites.” I found many, many collections of recipes but most involved sweets or only required a couple whites plus additional eggs. And then I found an incredibly handy article in the Washington Post that not only offered many options but broke it down by how many whites you needed to use…all the way up to 18.

I have always wanted to try a salt crust, but had just never done it, so I chose the Salt-Crusted Mediterranean Sea Bass recipe. It calls for Branzino which I don’t recall having, and was surprised to find at Whole Foods, but I decided to use two smaller snappers instead. The recipe simply calls for rubbing the fish with oil, then slathering it with the crust, but I decided to stuff it with a pile of herbs and garlic. I gathered basil, tarragon, thyme and fennel fronds, rinsed the fish and stuffed a wad of herbs and a slivered garlic into each.

I also had found some tiny red potatoes at the store which I halved, tossed in oil, s&p, thyme and tarragon and threw a few whole garlic cloves in as well. I roasted them at 400 for 30 minutes until they were browned. They were the sweetest, creamiest potatoes I think I have ever had and I continued popping them in my mouth the whole time I prepared the rest of the meal.

To make a salt crust, you simply whip a bunch of whites to soft peaks, then fold in an appalling amount of salt ( 3 1/4 cups!). We rubbed the fish in a healthy quantity of roasted onion, cilantro olive oil then spread 1/3 of the egg white mixture on a parchment-lined sheet pan and covered the fish with the rest. It was roasted at 425 for about 20 minutes, then let to rest for another 10.

Meanwhile I sliced up some tomatoes from the garden: deep red, green zebra, sungolds and recalled a tease for a Food52 recipe I had seen for brown butter tomatoes. I had not read the recipe but the title seemed simple enough so I browned some butter and stirred in some sherry vinegar and just a tiny bit of agave. I drizzled it on top with basil, salt and pepper.

The final touch was a sriracha mayo for the potatoes because…duh.

Despite the fact that we couldn’t start all this until our daughter was in bed and were, therefore, eating dinner at 10 pm, it was heavenly. The fish was incredibly tender and just perfumed with all the herbs. The sweet, creamy and crispy potatoes with slightly spicy mayo and very fresh, nutty and sweet tomatoes were amazing as well. Just a great end of summer meal.

I have some fish left over and am thinking of another recipe tease I saw somewhere recently mentioning fish with a sweet spicy sauce. It made me think of the vietnamese caramel clay pot fish we used to have in San Francisco and so for lunch I will be making a quick caramel with fried shallots, chilis, garlic, lime and fish sauce to drizzle over fish and rice. Can’t wait.

I am not quite set up with any kind of good lighting for evening photos, so these are far from great, but for once I took some pics along the way, so here they are. Official recipe follows.

Red Snapper

Red Snapper on Salt Crust

Red Snapper Covered With Salt Crust

Red Snapper in Cooked Salt Crust

Red Snapper

Red Snapper with Brown Butter Tomatoes and Roasted Potatoes

Red Snapper Bones

Salt-Crusted Snapper with Brown Butter Tomatoes and Roasted Potatoes
Serves 42 1 lb red snappers
Enough herbs to stuff cavities
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
6 T olive oil
9 egg whites
3 1/4 c kosher salt
Assorted tomatoes
2 T butter
1 t sherry vinegar
1/4 t agave syrup or honey
6-8 leaves basil, in chiffonade
2/3 lb. red potatoes
1/2 cup mayo
squirt srirachaHeat oven to 425.

Rinse fish well to remove any scales. Stuff each cavity with a mixture of herbs and the sliced garlic. Pat fish dry and coat evenly with oil.

Cut potatoes into even, one inch pieces. Toss with oil, salt, pepper and some herbs (thyme, tarragon are good). Place on sheet pan and roast 30 minutes.

Whip egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold in salt. Spread 1/3 of the salt mixture on a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Place fish on egg whites and cover evenly with rest of egg whites. Bake in oven about 15-20 minutes until crust has browned and is hard to the touch. Remove and let rest another 10-15 minutes.

Heat butter in pan until just starting to brown. Pour into bowl and stir in vinegar and syrup or honey. Slice tomatoes, drizzle with butter, and top with basil, salt and pepper.

Mix mayo with sriracha to taste.

To serve, crack salt crust and carefully remove. Remove skin if you wish (we ate some of it and it was ok, but that is your preference). Gently remove top fillet using a spatula, then lift up bones to get bottom fillet.

And, as hoped, I stirred up a sweet, spicy drizzle for lunch. One might not normally think of leftover fish as a good thing, but this was just what I was looking for. I did not bother with taking down any real proportions, but the gist is this:

  • Melt a couple tablespoons sugar in a pan until it starts to brown.
  • Throw in a sliced shallot, garlic clove, couple chilis and stir around until the edges are all sizzly.
  • Add a tiny splash of sesame oil.
  • Add a tablespoon lime juice (it will fizzle and steam- keep stirring until it all melts again).
  • Adjust with a dash of soy and rice vinegar.
  • Fry leftover sticky rice in breakfast’s leftover bacon fat because it is good!
  • Toss fish in sauce to heat through.
  • Serve crisped, now smoky, rice on a plate topped with fish and basil. Mmmm.

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