When my friends, the brave ones, prepare food for me, they’re always quizzical as to my opinion of their output. They queue up as I slowly, bull-like, chew their offering often staring off into the distance while I carefully weigh the deliciousness.
My response is always the same “that’s tasty…” then I explain what needs to be done to maximize the flavors of the dish.
It’s almost always under-salted.
Yes, there’s generally salt on the table, but if I have to reach for salt and pepper to season my freshly prepared food then the battle’s already over. I like my food hot from the pot and I really don’t want to have to balance the seasoning myself after so much effort has been put into the cook-down.
A good restaurant can be measurably better than even the most ardent home-cook’s abilities for a variety of reasons (professionally trained cooks, access to homemade stock (s), stoves that can generate enormous amounts of heat) but perhaps the biggest factor is that a skilled cook is unafraid of salt.
A common thread in the professional kitchens in which I’ve worked is that we salt early in the cooking, during the cooking and sometimes right after the cooking (while the food is sputtering hot with fat.)
The effect can be gratifying when you send a couple hundred patrons out the front door with tales of culinary excellence being tweeted into the nether as they load the kids into the Taurus.
A few suggestions:
1)Buy good salt. Morton’s Iodized salt is not in this category. It could possibly be used for scrubbing a cast iron pan but it is in no way edible. I canceled my subscription to Cook’s Illustrated after they began mysteriously championing this weird salt substance.
2) There are dozens of good salts on the market now. Unless you feel a big goiter forming I suggest you steer clear of iodized salt.
3) A good jumping off point would be procuring a box of kosher salt. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or not, Kosher salt is delicious and using it is an easy way to enhance your cooking. You don’t have to sit around reading the Torah to enjoy Kosher salt. Two common brands are Morton’s and Diamond Crystal. Each has its camp of adherents. Both are good.
4) Once you’ve worked your way through your first box of Kosher salt, it’s time to move up to sea salt. Good types of this salt include Maldon from Great Britain, Halen Mon Gold from Wales and of course Fleur de Sel from France. One salt that I’m intrigued by is Turkish Black Pyramid from the Mediterranean. I’ve never tried it, but much like hunting for an album you’ve always wanted, it’s nice to have something to pine for making the eventual capture that much sweeter.
5) Stop buying processed, canned and frozen foods. They are filled with the cheapest, iodized salt the manufacturers can lay their hands on. By eliminating these frankenfoods from your diet you’ll free up all sorts of space for deliciousness.
This is just a tiny primer on salt. Now that various hand-wringers have decided salt is one of the great evils of modern cookery it’s important to balance the issue with some level headedness.
Here’s a good piece I dug up from Michael Alderman, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Just like anything else copious amounts of salt is bad for you. But the proper,timely application of salt in your cooking can turn your normal, bland- tasting food into something your friends will clamor for.
Eat more salt.
The good kind.