The City Magazine Since 1975

Snapper Baked in a Salt Crust with Charred Eggplant, Grilled Zucchini & Squash, & Pecan Pesto

Rate This Recipe: 

Chef’s Note: If using a different sized fish, just double its weight for the amount of salt and number of egg whites to use.

1 lemon, quartered

1 (6 lb.) whole snapper, gutted with head on

12 lbs. kosher salt

12 egg whites

For the charred eggplant:

2 large Italian eggplants, halved lengthwise

1/2 Tbs. salt

2 tsp. black pepper

2 Tbs. fish sauce

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil

For the grilled zucchini & squash:

Chef’s Note: The recipe can be prepared either in the oven or on a grill.

2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise

2 squash, quartered lengthwise

Salt and pepper for seasoning

2 Tbs. olive oil (optional)

For the pecan pesto:

1 cup chopped basil, stems removed

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves

1/4 cup pecans

21/2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese, shredded

11/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

11/4 tsp. lemon juice

Pinch of lemon zest


Charred eggplant, recipe follows Grilled zucchini and squash, recipe follows Pecan pesto, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Place lemon quarters into the cavity of the fish. In a bowl, mix salt and egg whites until well combined. Line a cookie sheet with half of the salt mixture. Gently bury the snapper into the salt mixture to form part of the encasement, leaving enough salt on the bottom so the fish doesn’t touch the cookie sheet. Add remaining salt mixture to completely cover the fish. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Remove and let rest for 20 minutes.

At this point, the encasement will be very hard and almost clay-like. Using a serrated knife, break the salt crust and carefully remove the top portion of the crust, as well as the cakes and skin from the top of the fish. Transfer filet and belly portion of fish onto a platter. Grab the tail and remove the tail and bones by pulling upwards. The head should remain intact with the tail and bones. Separate the bottom half filet and belly meat from the skin and scales and add to the platter. Also be sure to get the meat behind the head, collar, cheeks, and tongue.

To serve, place the charred eggplant on the base of a serving platter. In a separate bowl, generously dress the squash and zucchini with the pesto and mix well. Place on top of the eggplant. Place the fish on a separate platter.

For the charred eggplant:

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Place each eggplant half skin-side up on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until burnt. Flip eggplant over and repeat the process. Remove from oven and wrap tightly with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes. Remove foil and peel the skin off the eggplant and place flesh into a blender. Purée with salt, pepper, fish sauce, water, and olive oil until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste, strain, and keep warm.

For the grilled zucchini & squash:

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Place them in a skillet, flesh side down. Cook for five minutes then flip to the other flesh side. Cook for an additional five minutes then remove from oven.

For the pecan pesto:

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend well.