This week we thought we would take this column in a new direction. Our other articles have focused on a recipe and the inspiration behind it, but this week we would like to answer the number-one question that is posed to us on most nights that we work, the salt question: What kind of salt should I use? Kosher, table, or sea salt? When and where should I use a particular salt? So here are some basic guidelines in dealing with salt, followed by a quick recipe showcasing salt.
Kosher salt is the preferred salt of many chefs. The large crystals make it easy to sprinkle out of hand. (No, we do not use a salt shaker in professional kitchens). It contains 50 per cent less sodium than iodized table salt and contains no additives. Kosher salt dissolves easily into foods – it is the salt most used before, during and after cooking all kinds of food. We even use it for baking. We use Diamond Crystal brand which we buy in a three-pound box at Vincenzo’s for $4.99.
Sea salt, for the most part, is a finishing salt. Not only is it more expensive, but the unique flavours of the sea salts will be lost in the dish if used too early. Therefore, once a dish is complete, seared scallops, for instance, finishing it with a few grains of sea salt will elevate the dish to its best level. There are many different types on the market these days, from pink sea salt, to smoked sea salt, and sea salts infused with mushroom and maple flavours. Larger crystal sea salts do not easily dissolve – this makes them particularly desirable when crusting a thick steak or a roast lamb.
Salt is a fundamental ingredient in any dish. When we cook, we control the salt. We always begin with fresh, unprocessed ingredients, including unsalted butter; that way we know exactly how much salt is being added. We love our Emile Henry ‘Salt Pigs’ on the counter to easily grab a pinch whenever necessary. We like to refer to a pinch of salt as a good four finger pinch – that way you get a good amount going into your dish.
Salt-seared Fresh Cod Serves 2
- 1-12 oz cod filet
- 1-2 pinches kosher salt
- 2 tbsp cornmeal
- Grapeseed oil, as needed
- Fine sea salt, such as Fleur de Sel, as needed
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Season both sides of the cod filet with kosher salt; press one side into the cornmeal;
Heat a good, heavy pan over medium-high heat; add a thin layer of grapeseed oil;
Place fish in pan, cornmeal side down and sear for 2-3 minutes;
Carefully turn fish over and finish cooking for another 6-7 minutes, or until fish begins to flake;
Serve with a fresh green salad, and sprinkle with sea salt and serve with lemon.
Chefs Kirstie Herbstreit and Jody O’Malley are both Red Seal certified chefs. Together they run the company YouCanCook2, specializing in interactive dinner parties. You can also find them cooking at Entertaining Elements in St. Jacobs, where they hold private dinners for eight people. To contact the chefs, visit their website www.youcancook2.com.