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Salt-Crusted Tilapia with Lemongrass


Thai cooks love tilapia for its versatility. "You can steam it, fry it or grill it." Ricker says about this mild white fish. At Pok Pok, he stuffs whole fish with lemongrass, encases it in a salt crust, and cooks it over a char¬coal fire. Be sure the heat stays relatively low, or the crust will burn before the fish is ready to emerge, moist and fragrant.

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  • 4 lemongrass stalks, tender inner bulbs only, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 4 2-pound tilapia, scaled and cleaned
  • Slurry made with 1/2 cup cornstarch dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 4 Thai chiles, minced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro


Servings 8


Step 1

1. In a mortar, lightly pound the lemon-grass. Arrange the fish on a work surface and pat dry. Stuff the cavities with the lemongrass. Brush 3 tablespoons of the cornstarch slurry over one side of the fish. Spread V4 cup of the salt over the slurry to form a thin crust. Let stand at room temperature until the crust is dry, about 20 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over and repeat with the remaining 3 table¬spoons of slurry and V4 cup of kosher salt. Let stand for another 20 minutes, until. completely dry.
2. Light a grill. Carefully place the tilapia on the grill and cook over moderately low heat, turning once, until the fish is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Trans¬fer the tilapia to a work surface. Using your fingers or 2 forks, peel off the tilapia skin. Transfer the fish to plates and serve with the Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce. WINE For light, simple, grilled-fish dishes like this one, look to a region famous for grilling seafood: Galicia.on Spain's Atlan¬tic coast. Crisp and lemony Albarino. Gali-cia's iconic white wine, is ideal here. Try the grapefruit-scented 2007 Burgans or the zesty 2007 Martin C6dax.

Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce
In a medium bowl, combine the water with the sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the lime juice, orange juice, chiles, garlic and salt, stirring to dissolve the salt. Stir in the cilantro and serve right away. MAKE AHEAD The sauce can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Add the cilantro just before serving.

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