The technique of baking in a salt crust seals in the moisture and essentially allows the fish to steam in its own juices. Because you remove as much salt as you can before plating the fish, it doesn't get overly salty and is just seasoned perfectly. Best of all, it makes for a really impressive main course at your next dinner party.
When the fish is done, the crust should be really hard; don't be afraid to give it a couple of good whacks to break it open. If you're lucky like I was, the top of the crust will come off in one big piece. I recommend doing this in front of your dinner guests, receiving yours oohs and ahs, and then bringing the fish back to the kitchen to plate. —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
whole salmon, gutted and cleaned, with skin on
large fennel bulb
(3 lbs.) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
Slice one of the oranges and juice the other one. Cut the feathery tops off of the fennel bulb and save.
In a large bowl, mix the salt, egg whites, and a 1/4 cup of water. It should feel like wet sand. Add more water if needed, to get a consistency where you can pack the salt together. Spread about half of the salt on a large sheet pan in the approximate shape of the fish.
Remove the fins from the salmon and pat dry. Stuff the fish with the orange slices and fennel tops. Place on top of the salt. Use the rest of the salt to cover the body of the fish entirely; you may leave the head and tail uncovered. Pack the salt tightly to seal. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
In the meantime, slice the fennel bulb in half, remove the core, and slice the rest thinly. Toss with the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, and capers. Salt and pepper to taste.
When the fish is done, allow to rest in the salt for 10 minutes. Using a knife or spoon, tap the salt crust sharply to crack. Remove the crust and brush off any remaining salt. Portion out the top half of the fish. Remove the bones, orange slices, and fennel tops, and portion out the bottom half. Serve the fillets with the orange fennel salad.