August 6, 2008

Salt-Crusted Whole Roast Salmon With Salsa Verde

6 fresh thyme sprigs

1 whole wild or farmed salmon (about 4 pounds), gutted and scaled

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fennel fronds

3 large egg whites, beaten until frothy

1 lemon

6 anchovy fillets

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed

1 small shallot, minced

1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan or rimmed baking sheet large enough to fit the salmon with parchment paper.

Strip enough leaves from the thyme to make 1 tablespoon; set the leaves aside. Rinse the salmon inside and out and pat dry. Season the cavity with salt and pepper and lay the thyme sprigs and fennel fronds inside.

In a large bowl, stir together 6 cups salt with the egg whites to make a paste. In the bottom of the pan, spread half of the salt paste about the length of the salmon minus the head and tail. Place the salmon on top of the paste. Mound the rest of the salt paste on top of the salmon, leaving the head and tail exposed, and pat down firmly. Place in the oven and roast for about 35 minutes. To test for doneness, poke an instant-read thermometer through the salt crust and into the thickest park of the fish; it should read 130 degrees. Remove the pan from the oven and let the salmon rest for 10 minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, make the salsa verde: Use citrus zester or vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon. Chop the zest finely; set aside. Squeeze 1 tablespoon juice from the lemon and set aside. In a mortar and pestle, pound the anchovy fillets into a paste with the oil. Add the lemon juice and mix well to continue.

Transfer the anchovy mixture to a bowl and add the shallot. Combine the parsley, thyme leaves, rosemary and pinch of salt in the mortar and pound into a paste, adding olive oil as needed to help loosen the mixture. Add the herb paste to the anchovies and shallots along with the reserved lemon zest and the capers. Mix well and add enough olive oil to bring the salsa verde to the consistency of pesto -- not too runny but not a thick paste.

Carefully chip away the salt crust from the salmon and remove the skin. Remove large pieces of the flesh from the bones and place on warmed plates. When the whole skeleton is exposed, lift the tail and pull the bones up toward the head; the entire skeleton should come in one piece. Then divide the bottom portion of the fish, leaving the skin behind. Top each serving with the salsa verde and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.

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