The freshness of the fish is the most important element. If Branzino isn't available and at its height of freshness, substitute black bass or red snapper.
The salt crust seals in the juices but does not make the fish taste salty. Serve the fish with simple roasted potatoes and fresh thyme or with wilted greens. The crust seals up the flesh and ensures impossibly fluffy and moist meat.
You could also serve this with some sauteed zucchini and a Caprese salad.
This recipe was featured on our Cooking of Campania episode.
3-pound box coarse kosher salt
5 (or more) large egg whites
1 pound whole Branzino or sea bass, gutted
8 fresh parsley sprigs
2 fresh thyme sprigs
4 thin lemon slices
Preheat oven to 400°F. Stir salt and 5 egg whites in large bowl, adding more egg whites as needed to form grainy paste. Press 1/4-inch layer of salt mixture (large enough to hold both fish) onto large rimmed baking sheet. Stuff cavity of each whole fish with half of herb sprigs and lemon slices. Place fish atop salt mixture on baking sheet. Pack remaining salt mixture over fish to enclose completely. Roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of fish registers 135°F, about 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.