Salt-Baked Snapper with Risotto

12th May 2015

Interview: Adam Park
Photographs: James Scheuren

“We had this dish on a really special trip to Italy. It was our last night in Milan and we had gone to La Scala for the opera. Afterwards we found a random little restaurant and sat down, just expecting some fettuccine or something, but the waiter had other ideas. Half an hour he rolled out this little trolley to our table with what looked like just a mound of salt. He cracked the salt crust, dug out this fish and plated it with risotto and wilted greens – it turned out to be the most simple and delicious meal we’d ever eaten. Making it has become part of our family tradition. It’s amazing how it steams itself in the salt and is kept so moist.”
David Ansel, soup maker, Austin

Serves 4


Whole red snapper (alternatively, you can try salmon, sea bass, or bream)
2 egg whites
1kg rock salt
A bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, sliced


1 small onion, chopped
25g butter
800ml beef stock
A good pinch of saffron
50ml dry white wine
400g arborio rice
Parmesan, grated


4 handfuls of rocket
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper


Preheat the oven to 230C/450F. Make sure you have an oven tray big enough for the fish to lie in.

Put the salt in a large bowl and add the egg whites. Mix them together to create a sticky cement-like mixture. Use some of the salt to create a flat bed on the baking tray big enough for the fish.

Take the whole fish and, without washing or descaling it, stuff the cavity with the sliced lemon and parsley, then place it on the salt base. Using the rest of the salt, cover the fish thoroughly so it’s set in what looks like a white, fish-shaped sarcophagus. Don’t worry if the tail is peeking out a bit. Sprinkle water over the salt and put the fish in the oven.

It should take about 15 minutes. David used a thermometer and took the fish out when it reached 60C/140F, but you can also test it by inserting a knife – if the tip is hot, the fish is ready. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minute.

Meanwhile, start the risotto. Heat a wide-bottomed pan and fry the onion in butter until just softened. While the onion is cooking, bring the stock to the boil. Add the saffron and unwashed rice to the onion and stir until the rice is glossy. Add the white wine and cook until it has evaporated.

Then start adding the hot stock liquid to the rice one ladle at a time, only adding more when each previous amount has been absorbed. This should take 20 to 25 minutes – it’s done when rich and creamy with a slight bite to each grain. Season with salt and pepper, then cover the pan with a lid and set aside for a few minutes.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a separate pan and add the rocket, stirring a few times to make sure all the rocket is covered in the oil. Season with salt and pepper, then remove.

By now the crust of the fish should be rock-hard. Crack it and remove the chunks, revealing the succulent fish within. Dish up the fish with a mound of risotto topped with grated parmesan and some wilted greens on the side.





Posted 12th May 2015

In Recipes


Interview: Adam Park
Photographs: James Scheuren