I can kind of see “finishing salts” as the punchline for some redneck stand up. I can see Sarah Palin disparaging it at a town hall meeting – Joe Six Pack isn’t puttin’ any of your city salts on his potatoes. But Joe Six Pack doesn’t know what he’s missing out on!
Salt is a very personal thing – everyone has their perfect salt point, what the Germans call piekenseltzen. Actually, I just made that phrase up, but I am sure the French have a word for it. You need to incorporate salt into your dish while it’s cooking, be it a sauce or a soup or a marinade. But I am typically an undersalter because once on the plate, it’s easy enough to sprinkle on to your liking.
These fancy shmancy boutique salts go a long way to adding new dimensions to your food. I have a few favorites I’m gonna’ share with you so that you too can feel like a big yuppie.
Smoked salt is perfect for roasting vegetables. If you have the option of choosing a grind, keep it coarse so that the salt holds its shape while roasting. A few of my favorite veggies to sprinkle smoked salt on are cauliflower, eggplant and baby potatoes. I also love it sprinkled on juicy, sliced tomatoes. There are so many varieties of smoked salt but my two favorites are applewood and hickory. That just refers to the kind of wood used to smoke it.
Yeah, black salt is actually pink. Nothing gets passed you, does it? This is what started it all for me. I had heard that the sulfuric taste of black salt was akin to egg yolks and I had to try it. And it’s true – the taste is pretty much identical, making this salt perfect for tofu “egg” salads. I also use it in my omelet recipe. But I try not to go too crazy with it – the taste is very strong and you might be paying for it hours afterwards. I usually get this in a medium grind, because sometimes I want it to dissolve completely and sometimes I want it to stay a little crunchy. My friend Eppy swears by black salt and avocado, which I’m sure is good but I haven’t tried it. There are other kinds of black salt but the kind you want is Indian black salt, also called kala namak. You can often find it in Indian grocery stores for much cheaper than at a foo-foo shop.
This is my most prized possession and probably the salt that I use the most. Truffle salt is a blend of dried, ground truffle and sea salt, but the truffle taste is incredibly strong and earthy – exotic even. Pretend you’re a millionaire and sprinkle some on your pastas, your sandwiches, your pate, your risotto. I sometimes add them to my portobellos, as if they weren’t scrumptious and mushroom-y enough. In Portland you can often pick this up at farmer’s markets but if you’re purchasing it at a salt shop ask for it because it usually goes by some French name that I don’t remember. I like a fine grind for truffle salt so that it dissolves quickly and the flavor gets everywhere.
Well, those are my favorites. I know I was making a big display about what an upper class twit you are if you buy these things, but in reality they are a pretty economical way to add flavor. My one ounce bag of truffle salt cost 3 bucks and lasts months, even though I use it a lot. Happy saltin’, you Joe Forty Ouncers!