Salt Crust Fish
with "Caprigon Sauce"
Often the simplest preparations turn out to be the best. This Sunday
supper is totally effortless to assemble and to cook, yet it's elegant, light and lively.
Roasted bulb fennel and roasted sweet onions are perfect accompaniments to the baked fish
and take well to the lemony Caprigon Sauce. If you plan to serve the fish with these
vegetables, then start them first because they will take about 1 hour to bake while a
small whole fish (about 2 lbs.) will take about 40-45 minutes.
Ever heard of "Caprigon Sauce"? Probably not. The name was
coined by my husband Bart to describe the sauce I made for this baked fish.
Roasting the vegetables:
Cook the onions and fennel in separate containers so you can easily
remove one if it cooks faster than the other:
- Pre-heat the oven to 425°.
- Cut bulb fennel in half lengthwise and place cut-side down in a ceramic
baking dish that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Coat the top surface of each bulb
with a little oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the fennel
(don't crimp the edges) and bake until done, about 45-60 minutes. They should be very
- Cut the top off the onions , cut the root end only
enough to enable the onion to stand upright and peel. Place the onions in a ceramic baking
dish just large enough to hold them snugly. Using the sharp tip of a knife, cut a small
cone out of the top of the onion and fill it with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with olive
oil and lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the fennel (do not crimp the edges) and bake
until done, about 45-60 minutes. They should be very tender.
Preparing the Fish:
- Select a whole fish suitable for the number of people you are serving. Any large-flaked
whole fish is fine (we used a 2 lb. rock cod which was just enough for 2 people). It's
better to use a fish that has not had the scales removed.
- Clean the cavity as necessary, then rinse the fish thoroughly and pat dry.
- Salt and pepper the cavity and stuff it with any assortment of vegetables (fennel tops
trimmed from preparing the vegetable accompaniment, slices of lemon, etc.)
- Put the kosher salt in a large bowl and add enough water to
make it into a "paste". Add water gradually, stirring after each addition until
you get a spreadable paste.
- Lightly oil the bottom of a ceramic baking dish large enough to hold the whole fish.
- Spread some of the salt paste over the bottom of the dish in the shape of the fish.
Place the fish on top of the paste and then pat the rest of the salt paste around the
sides and top of the fish to cover it completely with a layer of salt paste.
- Bake in a 400° oven until done (a 2 lb. fish takes about 40 minutes). To time the fish
and vegetables to be ready at the same time, put the fish in the oven 20 minutes after
starting the vegetables.
While the fish is cooking prepare the sauce:
- In a food processor, finely chop a shallot, a small fistful of fresh tarragon and a
large teaspoon of capers (rinsed under cold running water to remove some of the vinegar).
- In a separate bowl, add the juice of one small lemon and then gradually whisk in enough
olive oil to make a sauce.
- Mix the chopped caper-tarragon ("caprigon") mixture into the oil and lemon
- Put the Caprigon Sauce in a warm oven or on a pilot light so that it will be slightly
warm when you are ready to serve.
- Remove the fish from the oven.
If you are a skilled carver and want to impress your guests, you could
execute the following steps at the table:
1. Gently crack the salt crust, which will have hardened during baking so it will break up
2. After removing the salt crust from the top of the fish, gently remove the skin and
carve out fillets of fish.
3. Place the fish fillets on warm plates or in bouillabaisse bowls and nap with the warmed
Slice the roasted vegetables into thin wedges and serve along side the
- Onions: We used large Yolo onions which are very sweet. You could
use Maui or any other very sweet variety. Standard yellow or white onions would not be
sweet enough. The cooking time will vary depending on the size and variety of onion you
- Scales: When grilling or baking a whole fish, I prefer to leave the
scales on so they will help to keep the fish moist during cooking and also to make the
skin easier to remove prior to serving.
- Kosher salt: This is a large-granule salt that is relatively
inexpensive so you can use it liberally in recipes such as this. Diamond brand is the most
commonly available in California and can be found either in the baking section of the
grocery store (along aside regular salt) or in the kosher foods section.