A fishing expedition aimed at bluefish produced only scup.
Scup have excellent flavor and texture; they’re mild and moist. The problem is that they’re small and bony, and something of a pain to process and eat. I wanted to cook them in such a way as to minimize those problems, and I decided to try baking them in salt.
I’d read about this method, and it had always struck me as a big waste of salt. It still strikes me that way, but it sure makes a nice baked fish. This is a variation on an Epicurious recipe for branzino:
Salt-Baked Scup (for 3 or 4)
3 lbs. salt
5 egg whites
3-4 small scup or other fish (ours were about 10 inches), gutted but not scaled, head and tail on
1/2 lemon, sliced thin
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the egg whites into the salt. It should be just enough to moisten the salt so it’s packable.
2. On a baking sheet large enough to hold the fish, spread a thin layer of the salt mixture. Put a couple of lemon slices in the cavity of each fish, and lay the fish on the salt. Completely cover with remaining salt., packing it around so that no fish is showing. (If a tail sticks out, you can cover it with aluminum foil to keep it from burning.)
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the fattest part of the fish reads 135 degrees. Let it sit for ten minutes, and crack open the salt crust and extract the fish.