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Salt-Crusted Branzino with Agrumi Sauce
Recipe adapted from Paul Bartolotta, Bartolotta, Ristorante di Mare at the Wynn, Las Vegas
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Total Time: About 1 hour
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 1½ oranges)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about ½ lemon)
Zest of ½ orange
Zest of ½ lemon
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
5 basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2½ pounds course sea salt (about 4 cups)
¼ cup anise seed
½ cup star anise, crushed in a mortar or food processor
Zest of 1 orange, cut using a zester tool (or grated)
Zest of 1 lemon, cut using a zester tool (or grated)
5 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 (2-pound) branzino or 2 (1-pound) branzini, cleaned
½ to 1 orange, sliced into ¼ inch half moons
Several sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Make the agrumi sauce: In a medium bowl, stir together all the ingredients, bruising the herbs with the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve.
2. In a large bowl, combine the coarse sea salt, anise seed, star anise, orange and lemon zests and egg whites; it will have the consistency of wet sand. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Stuff the fish's cavity with the orange slices and parsley sprigs. Spoon ⅓ of the salt mixture onto a baking dish large enough to hold the fish. Set the fish on the salt mixture (if using 2 smaller fish, set them side by side over the salt mixture.) Cover the entire fish with the remaining salt mixture and pat it down into place.
4. Bake until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish reaches 130°, about 20 minutes for a 1-pound fish or 25 minutes for a 2-pound fish.
5. Using a knife or spoon, crack the salt crust off the top of the fish and discard. Lift the fish from the salt and place on a work surface. Fillet the fish by removing the skin and large bones. Transfer the fillets to plates and serve with the agrumi sauce. Garnish with additional mint and basil leaves.