Bar en Croûte de Sel is a classic French Mediterranean dish with Italian roots often made in France. The recipe calls for fresh sea bass baked in a salt crust. The term croûte de sel means “salt crust” in French, and it refers to the technique of wrapping the fish in a thick layer of salt before baking it.
In the dish, the sea bass is seasoned and placed in a large piece of parchment paper, which is then surrounded by a mixture of salt, egg whites, and olive oil. The parchment paper is then sealed to form a tight parcel, and the salt crust is formed as the fish bakes in the oven.
The salt crust helps to trap the steam generated by the fish as it cooks, resulting in a juicy and flavorful dish. When the fish is finished cooking, the salt crust is broken open, revealing the perfectly cooked sea bass inside.
Bar en Croûte de Sel is typically served with a side of vegetables, such as steamed asparagus or roasted potatoes.
How to Make Bar en Croûte de Sel
“Bar en Croûte de Sel” is a French dish that translates to “Sea Bass in Salt Crust.” It’s a traditional method of cooking fish that results in succulent, moist, and perfectly seasoned meat. The salt crust seals in the moisture and flavor of the fish while it bakes, and the result is truly delightful.
- One whole sea bass, cleaned and gutted (approximately 2-3 pounds/1-1.5 kg)
- 4-5 cups of coarse sea salt (you might need more or less, depending on the size of the fish)
- 3-4 egg whites
- A handful of fresh herbs (e.g., thyme, rosemary, parsley)
- 2-3 lemon slices
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Optional: some black peppercorns, bay leaf, or other desired seasonings
- Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Prepare the Fish: Rinse the sea bass under cold water and pat it dry. Stuff the cavity of the fish with the fresh herbs and lemon slices. If you like, you can also add a few black peppercorns or a bay leaf for extra flavor. Drizzle the fish lightly with olive oil.
- Prepare the Salt Crust: In a large mixing bowl, combine the coarse sea salt and egg whites. The mixture should have the consistency of wet sand. If it seems too dry, you can add another egg white. The egg whites will help bind the salt together, creating a crust around the fish as it bakes.
- Cover the Fish in Salt: On a baking tray, lay down a thin layer of the salt mixture. Place the prepared sea bass on top. Now, pack the rest of the salt mixture around and over the fish, ensuring it’s completely covered. You want to form a solid crust around the fish, but without making it excessively thick.
- Bake the Fish: Place the fish in the preheated oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes. The time can vary based on the size of the fish, but a good rule of thumb is approximately 10 minutes of baking time per inch of thickness.
- Serve: After baking, remove the tray from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. The crust will have hardened. Use a knife or a small hammer to gently crack open the crust. Brush away any salt from the surface of the fish. Transfer the sea bass to a serving platter, fillet, and serve immediately.
The fish itself doesn’t end up overly salty despite being encased in a salt crust. The crust serves more as a seal to trap moisture and flavor inside.
This dish pairs beautifully with a simple side salad, steamed vegetables, or roasted potatoes. Enjoy it with a crisp white wine for a complete French experience!