Monday, May 27, 2013

Salt Block Cooking

I never knew there was such a thing until one recent Saturday while listening to The Splendid Table on NRP radio. Lynne Rossetto Kasper is the host and has the most interesting people on her show. They aren't always chefs but people involved with food and for instance, may be experts in spices or as in this show, salt. Mark Bitterman, who has a store in Oregon and New York City called The Meadow which features salt - chocolate - wine & bitters - flowers -, was a guest who first introduced me to Salt Block Cooking. It was the most intriguing interview and I had to learn more so I checked the store out online and decided to buy some exotic salt and a salt block for cooking. Why not?
check out the store here:

Mark Bitterman's newest book is Salt Block Cooking...
So, I received my block of salt and followed the directions to make steak. It worked and was delicious...

It is important to cut the steak into thin strips for more even cooking. The salt block provides a light salt seasoning which is delicious. It takes about 45 minutes to heat up the Himalayan salt block starting at low and every 10 to 15 minutes increasing the heat.

As you can see the salt block is set directly on the gas burner. Here it is on low for 15 minutes.
Then it is on medium for 10 minutes. The Himalayan salt block eventually is on high heat and heats all the way through which allows it to act as a cooking utensil. There is no oil or preparation put onto the block before adding the protein which could also be seafood, eggs, etc. or even vegetables or fruit.
You can see the steak that has already cooked and also the final pieces cooking. It takes only a few minutes to cook these slim slices.

To clean the Himalyan salt block, you allow the salt block to cool completely and then just scrub the top with water, no soap; a light layer of salt will be removed and it will be ready for next time.

This is not something you would do regularly or especially if you are in a hurry, but it is a fun alternative. These are the types of experiments that make cooking so much fun for me. I like to be adventurous with cooking methods as well as food and spices.

Mark Bitterman's first book was Salted. "Mark Bitterman captures the nuance and beauty of salt in this stunning field guide featuring hundreds of artisan varieties with photos. From the elegant fleur de sel and flake salts to 500 million year old Himalayan salt slabs that resemble pink quartz, Bitterman explains the history and science of salt production. The book profiles over 150 salts, and includes 50 recipes that showcase this versatile and marvelous ingredient. Whether he’s detailing the glistening staccato crunch of fleur de sel harvested from millennia-old Celtic salt making settlements in France or the brooding sizzle of forgotten rock salts transported by the Tauregs across the Sahara, Bitterman’s mission in SALTED is to encourage us to explore the dazzling world of salt beyond the iodized curtain.
James Beard Award Winner! 2-times finalist for the IACP Cookbook Awards, including the IACP Julia Child Award for best first cookbook!"

I learned from his interview on NPR that even though people oftentimes need to reduce salt from their diet for various reasons, some salt as we all know, is critical to the human body's functioning. He suggests that a small amount of really excellent salt with its natural minerals rather than processed salt like Kosher or iodized table salt, totally satisfies the human palate. I ordered two trial size jars of the exotic salts and he is absolutely correct. I LOVED them. I will continue to explore through his store.

This weekends show on The Splendid Table included a fascinating interview of Lior Lev Sercarz who knows the power of a good spice blend: It can tell the story of a different culture. Plus, it makes cooking fun. The author of The Art of Blending creates custom spice blends, which he sells from his store, La Boîte á Epice. I'm on the spice journey too!
This kind of open mind for adventure in the kitchen is what makes cooking fun.Have you tried something fun in your kitchen recently?

1 comment:

Robin Kilgore said...

Can you use a salt block on an electric range?

Looks like a neat way to cook beef inside without having to scrub a pan!

*I'm a big fan of trying different salts in cooking. Who knew salt could have a smokey flavor!