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A Grain of Salt by Paul Lindemuth

“With a grain of salt” is an idiom, which means to view something with skepticism or to not take it literally. An interesting history of this phrase reaches as far back as Roman times when General Pompey believed he could make himself immune to poisons by ingesting small doses of poisons with the addition of a few grains of salt to assist in swallowing the poisons.

A loose correlation of this philosophy tells us that everything tastes better with a little salt. Fast forward to the current day kitchen and we are in the middle of a salt revival. Salting food is one of the most fundamental and ingrained habits in cooking. But never has there been such an array of salts available.

Mark Bitterman, author of “Salted” writes, “salt can be a revelation” and he urges, “no food is more potent, more nutritionally essential, more universal, or more ancient. No other food displays salt’s crystalline beauty, is as varied, or as storied”.

That’s quite a tribute to what many consider so mundane and everyday. Once you look past the habit of picking up the salt shaker and start thinking creatively about working with salt, you will be better equipped to understand the differences between salts. In “Salted”, Bitterman includes a 19 page salt reference guide which compares more than 150 different salts and their origins, colors, flavor profiles and applications.

Coming right on the heels of my recent class “Prep School-Perfecting Salt”, I want to share the knowledge that you can not only cook WITH salt, but also cook ON it or IN it. My students eagerly waited as the Himalayan salt block reached the proper temperature and then enthusiastically seared thinly sliced flank steak directly on the block. The perfectly cooked steak flavored by the block itself and a little freshly ground black pepper was devoured and disappeared as fast as it could be cooked. Another technique that we explored was roasting a whole fish in a salt crust. 6 cups of kosher salt bound together with water created a rock hard salt “oven” and yielded perfectly cooked, juicy and delicious fish after the crust was cracked and removed.

With today’s focus of arming ourselves with the knowledge of where our food comes from, it is just as important to explore the most fundamental element that brings out flavor and makes those other already great ingredients taste even better.

I’ve shared a delicious recipe here, using the same technique to prepare a bone-in porterhouse steak in a salt crust.Salt-Roasted Porterhouse

Salt-Roasted Porterhouse
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 3 bay leaves, crushed
  2. 1 T. whole black peppercorns
  3. 2 t. whole coriander seeds
  4. 2 t. fennel seeds
  5. 2 t. dried rosemary
  6. ½ t. dried crushed red pepper
  7. 1 t. plus 3 cups kosher salt
  8. one 30-ounce porterhouse steak, about 2 to 2 ¼ inches thick
  9. 1/2 cup water
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl combine the bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Transfer the mixture to a spice grinder or coffee grinder and process until finely ground.
  2. Measure 2 tablespoons of the ground spice mixture into a small bowl and mix in 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Rub the ground spice and salt mixture evenly all over the steak. Wrap the steak in plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours. Reserve the remaining ground spice mixture, separately, covered, at room temperature.
  3. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
  4. Unwrap the steaks and place them in a large, ovenproof skillet.
  5. In a medium bowl combine the 3 cups of kosher salt with the reserved ground spice mixture. Add the water and stir to moisten.
  6. Pack the salt mixture over the top and sides of the steak. Roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into the steak registers 130 degrees F for medium-rare, about 25 minutes. Remove the steak from the oven and allow to stand at room temperature for 8 minutes.
  7. Using a wooden spoon, crack the salt crust. Discard the crust and brush away any remaining salt. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and carve into ½-inch thick slices.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

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