Lunchbreak: Salt crusted branzino prepared by Nico Osteria chef Erling Wu-Bower

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Erling Wu-Bower

Nico Osteria
1015 N. Rush Street
(312) 994-7100

Chicago Chef Week goes from April 17-April 22

Salt Crusted Branzino

1 1.25-1.5 lb branzino
1 box kosher salt
1/2 cup egg whites
salt and pepper

Have your fish monger clean/scale/gill the fish. Preheat oven to 450. Mix the salt with the egg whites. Add water and mix until it feels like damp sand. Lightly season the cavity of the fish with salt and pepper. On a lined sheet tray, place a 1″ layer of the salt mixture large enough to outline the fish by .5″ all the way around. Place the fish on the salt and cover the fish tightly with a .5″ layer of salt. Cook for 15 minutes. Let the fish rest for 5 minutes outside of the oven and then crack off the salt. Use your hands and quickly move the fish to a work surface. Brush the fish off with a towel. Move it to a warm plate and the top layer of skin will peel right off. Drizzle with your best olive oil, and some good aged balsamic if you want some sweetness. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

To Go Along With The Branzino:

1 pound of fingerling potatoes

1/2 C  leek. Cut into ½ inch dice, rinsed well

1/8 C pancetta. Cut into small dice

1.5 C Chicken stock

1 T balsamic Vinegar

1/8 C white wine

Lemon juice to taste

¼ C toasted breadcrumbs

Picked basil leaves


Cover the potatoes in cold, well seasoned water. Bring to a low simmer and poach the potatoes until fork tender. Remove from water and allow to cool on a tray. Cut the potatoes into ¼ inch coins. Set aside

Render the pancetta in a sautee pan over low heat until crispy. Be careful not to burn. Remove from pan, leave all rendered fat in the pan and fry the potato coins in the pancetta fat. When the potatoes are crispy remove from pan and set aside. Sweat the leeks in the remaining pancetta fat over low heat until extremely tender. They should not brown at all. Leave the leeks in the pan and pour off the excess fat.

Deglaze the leeks with the white wine and reduce until almost dry. Add the chicken stock and the vinegar, and mount with 1 T of butter. Return the potatoes to the pan. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste.

The sauce should be thick, and rich, coating the potatoes and leeks. It should not be greasy. If your sauce is separating, simply add a splash of water and bring it back to a boil. Spoon all the sauce and vegetables on top of the fish.

Take the crispy pancetta and combine it with the toasted breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle the pancetta crumbs over the sauced fish and garnish with the torn basil leaves.


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