Whole-animal cooking recipes: Salt-Baked Grouper

Nothing will go to waste with this delectable seafood dish.
Whole Animal Cooking Salt-Baked Group

Photography by Gary Payne.

Recipe by Urban Kitchen Group’s (UKG) executive chef Tim Kolanko.

Serves 6

  • 3 lbs. kosher salt
  • 8 egg whites
  • Water, as needed
  • 5-lb. grouper, innards and organs removed and saved to make fish sauce, perhaps
  • 2 lemons, sliced; plus 1 lemon cut into wedges for serving
  • 1 head fennel fronds, torn
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • 2 oz. high-quality extra-virgin olive oil

To make the crust

In a large mixing bowl, combine the salt and egg whites, and mix. The mixture should be the consistency of packable wet sand. If it seems too dry to pack, add just a bit of water at a time until the mixture is packable.

To make the fish

Rinse the fish under cold running water, making sure to rinse the cavity and gills.

Stuff the cavity with lemon slices, fennel fronds and basil.

On a baking dish, spread a layer of the salt mixture about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Lay the fish on top of the salt and pack the rest of the mixture around it to cover.

Roast the fish in a 400°F oven until the inside of the fish is hot when tested with a skewer—about 30-45 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and let the fish rest for 10 minutes before opening the crust.

Break the crust open gently with a mallet or heavy kitchen spoon. Carefully remove the top of the crust, then peel back the skin and discard.

Serve the fish filet with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Pair it with: Charred Summer Squash & Cherry Tomatoes with Shelling Beans

Serves 6

Charred Summer Squash  and Cherry Tomatoes with Shelling Beans

Charred Summer Squash and Cherry Tomatoes
with Shelling Beans

  • 2 cups dry gigante beans
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and diced into medium pieces
  • 1/2 small onion, diced into medium pieces
  • 1/2 rib celery, chopped into
    1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 shallot, chopped and seasoned with salt
  • 1/8 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch parsley, 1/4 of it chopped, divided use
  • 1 bunch basil, 1/4 of it chopped, divided use
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 summer squashes, sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices and tossed with salt
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes


Soak the beans overnight, then rinse the next day.

Add the beans, carrots, onion, celery, thyme, bay leaf and broth into a stockpot, and cook gently, covered, until the beans are tender. Season to taste with salt near the end of cooking, and let beans cool in the cooking liquid, then drain.

Rinse the seasoned shallot, then add vinegar and let it sit for 10 minutes. Add the chopped parsley, basil and olive oil and whisk together.

Grill one side of the squash on a very hot grill until marked and about half cooked and immediately toss with the vinaigrette.

Char the tomatoes in a hot skillet on the grill until they blister and the skin splits, then season with salt.

Arrange tomatoes and squash on a platter. Dress beans with vinaigrette and add them to the platter. Tear the rest of the parsley and basil and sprinkle on top.

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