Friday, December 02, 2005

Baked Sea Bass in salt

2-pound sea bass, cleaned, leaving head and tail intact2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
3 1/2 cups coarse salt (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water plus additional if necessary

Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Rinse sea bass under cold water and pat dry inside and out. Sprinkle cavity of bass with 1/2 teaspoon tarragon and pepper.

With a sharp knife trim ends of lemon to expose flesh and, standing lemon on one end, cut from top to bottom to remove peel and pith. Cut lemon crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange in cavity.

Preheat oven to 450°F. and lightly oil a baking pan.

In a bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons tarragon, coarse salt, and flour. Stir in 1 cup warm water plus additional as necessary to form a slightly stiff paste (paste should resemble wet sand).

Arrange bass in oiled pan. Coat top of bass completely with half of salt mixture, patting it on, and turn bass over. Coat other side in same manner (bass should be completely covered).

Bake bass in middle of oven 30 minutes. Crack salt crust with a sharp knife or hammer and remove top crust, discarding it. To serve,lift bass in pieces off bones and discard bones. Lift out remaining bass. Serve bass with lemon wedges.

Serves 4.