03 October 2010

One Last Goodbye to Summer Flavors

I know it's Autumn now.  I know that I should be cooking all kinds of spice cakes and hearty stews by now.  You know, the foods gracing the cover of this month's Food Network magazine:

But it's hard to move on to a new season without first saying goodbye to the old one. 

So that's what last night's dinner was all about.  Saying goodbye to Summer. 
On the menu:

Salt Crusted Baked Snapper (a combo of an Epicurious recipe and one from Tyler Florence)
Fried Smashed Potatoes with Lemon-Thyme Dressing (from Giada De Laurentiis)

I've never cooked a whole fish before.  I always just buy filets.  Fewer bones to deal with, no guts and no eyeballs staring me down.  Not that the staring makes me feel bad for stuffing, cooking and eating the little guy (I'm a high school teacher, I'm immune to sad eyes), it's just that they can be messy if your husband decides they need to be "popped". 

Meet Bob.  He's a simple guy, he needed a simple name.

The fishmonger kindly gutted and scaled him for me.  I just needed to cut off his fins.  (By the way, they are surprisingly sharp, so be careful.)

I stuffed him with some thyme, parsley, minced shallots, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, olive oil, salt, pepper and toasted fennel seeds.  Smelled sooooo good. 

The key to this cooking method is to create a salt dome around the fish so that it doesn't lose moisture as it cooks.  I laid down a bed of salt, put a few extra slices of lemon and sprigs of thyme and set Bob on top. 

To make the dome set as it baked I folded 3 beaten egg whites in to about 2 pounds of kosher salt.  I packed it down on top of Bob and tucked him in tight, making sure there were no holes or cracks.

He went in to the oven for about 30 minutes at 450 F. 

Meanwhile I made Giada's Fried Smashed Potatoes.  So easy and so good.  I think Deb, over on Smitten Kitchen, has a more fall friendly version of Fried Smashed Potatoes.  (Making a mental note to try those next week)

Before I knew it the timer rang and it was time to see how Bob did. 

The salt dome was so fun to remove, even the Hubs got in on the act! 

And I know his little face looks dried out, but the meat that was cooked in the salt dome was so moist and flavorful.  Delicious.  The only down side... all of those little fish bones.

I feel as though I have some closure now.  I have said my goodbyes to Summer flavors and can move on to Autumn without any baggage. 

Next Up: Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream

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