You can’t build a sand castle with dry sand
You can add cracked spices into the salt. This creates a wonderful scent and adds flavor to the dish. When I baked duck breast, I used black pepper, coriander, and star anise.
Spread a half-inch layer of the salt mixture on the bottom of your sheet pan or casserole dish.
Add food and aromatics
This bronzini was cooked with lovage from my local community garden. The red snapper was stuffed with a few slices of Meyer lemon and some rosemary. You could use bay leaves, other herbs, shallots, garlic—anything to infuse the food with added flavor.
A protective layer of fat or skin helps prevent the food from absorbing too much salt. If you are cooking skinless chicken breasts, you can wrap them in cabbage leaves.
Tuck cavities closed or cover them the herbs.
Cover food completely and bake
Cover the food entirely, with about a half-inch layer of salt all around it.
I use an oven temperatures between 400° and 450°F. (The snapper cooked in about 30 minutes and the bronzini in 15 minutes at 450°F. Small duck breasts took 25 minutes at 425°F. A four-pound chicken was done after about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 420°F. Potatoes took 50 minutes at 400°F.)
Inadequate coverage = uneven cooking
Crust becomes golden in the oven
Crack the crust open
Dust off excess salt with a dry pastry brush and allow meat to rest.
Results are moist and the inherent flavor of the food shines through
If you want a tan
When I first made the duck breasts, I sliced them and put them in sandwiches with watercress so the lack of browning wasn’t even visible. The next day, I had a leftover breast for a salad, and added some hard-boiled eggs. I wanted some color on the skins so I seared the skin side in a hot skillet for a couple minutes before slicing the meat.