Chef Massimo's Kitchen: Salt - the magic ingredient

Few ingredients in a dish can extend through the entire preparation process, from initial seasoning, through cooking and finally serving. Salt is one such ingredient.

A powerful element of a dish, salt can increase the flavour compounds that are too subtle for our palates to otherwise detect. Adding a small amount heightens our taste receptors to flavours that may not be as pronounced beforehand. This makes salt the most widely used culinary ingredient not just for seasoning, but also to elevate the experience of eating food.

The appreciation of how a finishing salt is used has expanded, including its appeal as a strategic ingredient. Although all salts are similar, they are not the same.

Consider trying an artisan salt such as Fluer de sel, flake salt such as Maldon Sea Salt, rock salt, Japanese shio salt or sel gris to finish a dish.

The goal in choosing a finishing salt is to brighten, intensify flavours and to add a savoury textural crunch on certain items. You should decide on which salt to use based on its texture, flavour and size and the dish you're serving it with.

I recommend the following types of finishing salts for specific ingredients:

Fluer de sel — poultry, fruits, vegetables, fish
Sel gris
— beef, lamb, pork, game meats, baking
Flake salt
— vegetables, fish, breads
Shio
— fish, shellfish, soups
Kosher salt
— general salt good for all purposes

Citrus sea salt and spice mix

(Makes 1 cup)

¾ cup sea salt, fine to medium grind
3 lemons
3 oranges
3 limes
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 tablespoon dried fennel
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 335
  2. In a small bowl, add the salt and all the spices.
  3. Use a Microplane or similar tool to zest the lemons, limes and oranges in the same bowl and mix citrus zests with the salt and spices.
  4. Layer mixture and dry in oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Take out and let cool, then store in tightly sealed spice jar.
  6. Use to sprinkle and season your veggies, salads, fish, seafood and poultry items.

Sea salt caramel sauce

(Makes 1 cup)

1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon sea salt

Method:
1. In a medium pot, add the sugar and water.
2. Bring to boil on high heat. Reduce to medium heat. Do not stir or move.
3. Simmer for 10 minutes or until water becomes amber coloured.
4. Add heavy cream and stir. Continue heating until volume is reduced by half.
5. Remove from heat, stir in the butter and sea salt and continue to stir until smooth.
6. Serve warm on top of your favourite breakfast breads, pancakes or waffles.

Massimo de Francesca is the executive chef at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

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This article appears in print in the March 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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