Mermaid Garden: Salt-Baked Porgy & Roasted Swordfish!

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A few weeks ago, I learned about this great community program – a community supported fishery or CSF to be exact. Much like a community supported agriculture program (CSA), this CSF, run by husband and wife team, Mark Usewicz and Bianca Piccillo, sources sustainable seafood directly from fishermen through their business, Mermaid Garden. This CSF is the first of it’s kind in Brooklyn (possibly in the Manhattan area as well?) and Mermaid Garden also functions as a wholesale and consulting business.

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As if the very idea of this program wasn’t cool enough, learning more about Bianca and Mark made me love it even more – she’s a Harvard trained marine biologist and he’s a chef. New Yorkers originally, they recently moved to back to the area, setting in Brooklyn from Boston (gotta love fellow Bostonians).

I signed up for a half share for four weeks, which would include 1 – 1.25 pounds of fish a week  and comfortably feeding two people once a week. I saw it as a great value and a great way to eat more fish (to be honest, cooking fish has always intimidated me). And honestly, it’s been great so far!

The first week the fish available was swordfish, caught in Boston by Captain Mike Santos on the F/V Iron Maiden. (I should note, I love that Bianca and Mark make this type of information known as well as including recipes for each week in case you are in need of inspiration!).

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Mermaid's Garden Swordfish

I got this fish while the Turk was here visiting and we had that for dinner that evening. As I am a fish cooking novice, he took charge – marinating it, searing it and then baking it in the oven – producing an amazingly moist and perfectly cooked piece of fish. (Sadly, I can take no credit for this).

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Swordfish

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Roasted Swordfish

I should also mention, there’s been some great extras in addition to these fillets of fish available. Along with my swordfish that week, I could have gotten little neck clams (though I opted not to) and instead I added a pound of Wild Pink Florida Shrimp (which I’ll be cooking with later on). This week, they offered oysters and next week, bay sea scallops (along with whatever fish we get in). Really, I am in love with this CSF!!

But back to this week… they had whole fish available so, of course, I jumped at that opportunity. Bianca and Mark suggested salt baking this whole fish… which happens to be on my culinary wishlist.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Salt-Baked Porgy

I mean I’ve always read about baking fish in a salt crust, but never thought I’d have a chance to do it – I mean how often does one have access to a whole fish OR decide to “splurge” on one? So, of course, I was going to salt bake this whole fish! (This stuff actually makes me giddy!)

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Salt-Baked Porgy

My roommate (who I force feed fish to… just kidding!) was out of town this weekend so I decided to cook the fish a few days later. I was a little wary of keeping the fish fresh until then, but with the guidance of Mark, Bianca and my dad, it was fine. The secret – place your fish (fillet or whole) in a ziplock bag and put in a bowl of cold water with ice.

I decided to use Tom Colicchio’s salt baking recipe (as I trust him and he loves to fish… side note everyone should check out his web-series Hooked Up — just Tom fishing with celebrities, you know). I also referenced this great LA Times “Master Class” video on this technique.

Salt-Roasted Porgy

Adapted from LA Times

1 (1 1/2 pounds to 2 pounds) whole porgy, cleaned and scaled, head and tail intact

3 cups kosher salt

1/4 cup egg whites (I used liquid egg whites)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove fins from fish. *You can stuff the cavity with thyme or other aromatics, but I decided not to.

Mix together salt and egg whites until the salt has the consistency of wet sand.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Salt-Baked Porgy

Make a bed of salt on a sheet pan and lay the fish on top. Mold the rest of the salt mixture around it tightly, sealing the fish. You can leave the tail and head exposed.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Salt-Baked Porgy

Bake fish for 25-30 minutes or until the fish registers an internal temperature of 120 to 125 degrees.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Salt-Baked Porgy

Crack the salt crust and gently remove the fish from the bed of salt onto a clean work surface.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Salt-Baked Porgy

Fillet the fish by slicing diagonally near the gills, and then straight down the middle of the back. Fold back the skin and lift the fillets off one at a time, followed by the skeleton, then retrieve the bottom fillets. (This took a little bit to figure out, but I got it!). 

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Serve immediately.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Salt-Baked Porgy

My roommate and I basically devoured this fish – it was perfectly seasoned (not salty at all) and super moist. We were both amazed how well it turned out! Feeling pretty proud of myself!

Salt-Roasted Porgy
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 (1½ pounds to 2 pounds) whole porgy, cleaned and scaled, head and tail intact
  • 3 cups kosher salt
  • ¼ cup egg whites (I used liquid egg whites)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove fins from fish. *You can stuff the cavity with thyme or other aromatics, but I decided not to.
  2. Mix together salt and egg whites until the salt has the consistency of wet sand.
  3. Make a bed of salt on a sheet pan and lay the fish on top. Mold the rest of the salt mixture around it tightly, sealing the fish. You can leave the tail and head exposed.
  4. Bake fish for 25-30 minutes or until the fish registers an internal temperature of 120 to 125 degrees.
  5. Crack the salt crust and gently remove the fish from the bed of salt onto a clean work surface.
  6. Fillet the fish by slicing diagonally near the gills, and then straight down the middle of the back. Fold back the skin and lift the fillets off one at a time, followed by the skeleton, then retrieve the bottom fillets. (This took a little bit to figure out, but I got it!).
  7. Serve immediately.
  8. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove fins from fish. *You can stuff the cavity with thyme or other aromatics, but I decided not to.
  9. Mix together salt and egg whites until the salt has the consistency of wet sand.
  10. Make a bed of salt on a sheet pan and lay the fish on top. Mold the rest of the salt mixture around it tightly, sealing the fish. You can leave the tail and head exposed.
  11. Bake fish for 25-30 minutes or until the fish registers an internal temperature of 120 to 125 degrees.
  12. Crack the salt crust and gently remove the fish from the bed of salt onto a clean work surface.
  13. Fillet the fish by slicing diagonally near the gills, and then straight down the middle of the back. Fold back the skin and lift the fillets off one at a time, followed by the skeleton, then retrieve the bottom fillets. (This took a little bit to figure out, but I got it!).
  14. Serve immediately.
 

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