Salt: A Cook’s Best Friend

Salt is the universal seasoning—it makes flavors pop and go “Wow!” Salt brings out other tastes, even sweetness! All creatures like to eat salt—except, as we know in the Northwest, NOT slugs!

Salt is either mined from ancient, now dry, salt lake deposits or evaporated from sea water. There are many varieties. Refined table salt has additives to keep it flowing freely and iodine to ensure thyroid gland health in inland areas. Kosher salt is additive-free; and chefs appreciate its coarse-grained texture. Pickling salt contains no additives, which could cloud the pickle brine. Less refined, rock salt retains more minerals; it’s used in making ice-cream, baking potatoes, and nesting baked oysters in pans.

Hand-collected from coastal France, sel gris, also called grey or Celtic salt, is moist and unrefined; its pale color comes from the salt flats clay. During evaporation, a light film forms on top; this is fleur de sel, considered the “champagne” of salts.

‘Alaea is the traditional Hawaiian table salt; this sea salt gets its natural color from volcanic red clay. Danish smoked salt is flavored by the woods used when the evaporation is done over an open fire.

Looking for big flavor—but from natural products—today’s consumers want gourmet salts from both culinary and health standpoints. And SaltWorks™, Inc., based in the Seattle area, does all–natural very well. The company buys directly from the farmers who produce the salt and imports it without a middleman. Founded in 2002 by owner Mark Zoske, SaltWorks now sells over 10 million pounds of sea salt a year. The company’s Artisan Salt Co. retail brand offers more than 30 varieties of salt and is available in hundreds of high–end retailers across the country.Salt can headline a menu item, such as in Chinese Salt & Pepper Squid or Whole Snapper Baked in a Salt Crust. We love to sprinkle a little salt in salads before tossing; it’s a natural with hard-boiled eggs; and, heaven knows, we all love our salty snacks. We even enjoy it with our drinks—from a simple Salty Dog to the very popular Margarita.

Brining has become very trendy for flavoring food and keeping meats moist. My recipe for Pacific Rim Style Brine for Salmon for the Grill is an easy way to try out brining—once the sun comes out—perhaps for your first cookout of the season. 

Pacific Rim Style Brine for Salmon for the Grill

Makes about 1 quart of brine

3 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup, packed, light brown sugar
4 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger

To prepare the brine: Add salt and brown sugar to water and mix until dissolved. Stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate unused brine for up to 10 days.

To brine and cook fish: Place salmon in brine, enough to totally cover fish. If needed to keep it submerged, weight down salmon by placing a plate or plastic bag filled with water on top of fish. Marinate fish in brine, refrigerated, for 3 to 4 hours only; DO NOT OVER-BRINE FISH! Remove fish from brine and lightly rinse off with cold water. Throw away used brine immediately!

Refrigerate fish, covered, till ready to cook. Grill the fish in your usual way, but do not salt the fish. Taste after cooking to see if salt is needed—it probably won’t be.

Chef’s Note: This brine is also great for brining chicken breasts, scallops or pork chops.

Copyright ©2009 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®

Posted by Kathy on April 22nd, 2009  |  Add Comment |  Posted in KOMO Radio, other, Recent Posts, Recipes

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