Darlings, it's time to once again THROW DOWN in da kitchen! As La Diva was the winner of Troll's last challenge, SMOKE and FIRE, I got to pick the subject for the next throwdown. And I picked SALT. So, pour a glass of wine or get a shot of vodka, this is quite the lengthy post!
I picked salt because I think it's an ingredient that you can do so much with. Also, it seems that lately everywhere I look, I see a recipe or product that involves caramel paired with salt: David Leibovitz's salted peanut caramel chocolates, Himalayan pink salt caramels and to La Diva, the very first salt/sweet pairing I ever tasted, the good old fashioned toffee Heath Bar. Even Tiffani from Top Chef recently made a salted butterscotch pudding for a reunion show. I think it's a natural combination and I've been dying to try a savory/sweet recipe using salt.
Maple glazed cookies with kosher salt. They look good right? One of them could rot your teeth! Not surprising as the recipe calls for one cup of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of pure maple syrup. Click on the photo to see the recipe that some other blogger kindly posted just for me.
My first entry is for maple glazed cookies with salt from Martha Stewart's Everyday. Sounds good right? When I saw the recipe, it conjured up images of maple leaf cream cookies that I LOVED so much growing up as a kid in Michigan. I LOVE maple sugar, so I had to try them, especially since salt was not only IN the batter but also ON the cookie.
First of all, upon looking at the recipe, La Diva thought to herself, six ingredients? Easy-peasy, I'll knock these out after dinner like a champ. Well, it didn't turn out that way, in fact, baking them was almost disastrous!!!
First of all the recipe says to "drop" the cookies onto the baking sheet. Mine were so moist, I had to use my finger to "drop" each cookie. The suggestion to flatten each one with the bottom of a flour-dipped glass only lead to a mess and I gave up after the glass stuck to the cookie six times. Ok, into the oven they go for 15 minutes.
First batch came out nice, slightly brown on the edges. The next two trays went in and were meant to be moved after baking halfway and La Diva slipped and dropped a tray. Oops. 20 cookies down! The rest I burned even though the timer was still set for 15 minutes.
Third tray burned in less than 15 minutes. Hmmmm. Meanwhile, I'm meant to reduce a cup of pure maple syrup by a quarter. So, I get that simmering when all of a sudden, it boils over and creates a stinking, smoking burnt sugar mess all over my stove. The maple syrup takes forever to reduce and I realize that even when reduced by a quarter, its still WAY too thin for a glaze and I reduce by another quarter. I'm now starting to think about Ruth Reichl's comment about how too many recipes in too many magazines have not been tested properly making for more failure in the kitchen instead of success each and every time. (boy, I'm really starting to appreciate Gourmet even more post mortem...) As I started to glaze the cookies with the reduction, La Diva dripped a bit on her hand and almost fainted from the napalm heat. Better let it cool. La Diva was not happy.
When the reduction cooled a bit, I began to glaze a few of the cookies and added a bit of kosher salt. I tasted them. blech. They were sickly sweet. And that's coming from a woman with a huge sweet tooth! DJ Nevah L8 tried them. He swiped a bunch with his big paw and into his maw they disappeared. Hmmmm.....that really means nothing to me, that man'll eat just about anything.
I wisely decided not to glaze the rest of the cookies yet still tasted a lovely touch of salt from the teaspoon of coarse kosher salt that was added to the batter initially. Without the glaze, I didn't get as much maple flavor as the half cup added to the batter was quite subtle. However, it made the cookies edible and great with coffee. The salt and the sweet worked. I would not make these again and found it a waste of expensive maple syrup, but this recipe inspired me to try something else with maple and salt.
La Diva thought these vintage hula girl salt and pepper shakers to be a "hoot!" (For Sham and Making Space!)
I've been experimenting with salt encased cooking for a number of years now and was first introduced to the method back in Australia about a decade ago. It seems like a fancy, difficult and salty way to cook but that couldn't be further from the truth. It's actually quite easy and cheap producing excellent, if not succulent results. If done right, you'll get excellent flavor without saltiness. I usually encase one whole large fish or two rainbow trouts or a pork tenderloin and have used the coarse kosher salt in a variety of ways including making a paste with water or herbs and egg whites, either ways works fine. It was Troll's throwdown challenge of Steak and Potatoes that I got to thinking that making some salt-encrusted steak would be good.
I searched around the Web for some inspiration and found Tyler Florence's recipe for salt crusted New York strip steak. The reviews were not glowing. Mostly because of the complaint that the meat came out an ugly and unappetizing gray.
My recipe is an adaptation and revised version of Tyler Florence's recipe. Here we go....
One 3 inch cut double rib eye steak rested at room temperature. This one was 2.3 lbs. Preheat oven to 475 F.
Sear meat unseasoned on both sides until brown in a hot, heavy bottomed pan in canola oil. Take out of pan, let pan cool and wash. Set steak aside. Voila, NO GRAY STEAK.
In a large bowl add three cups of coarse kosher salt, two eggwhites and chopped herbs. I used dried thyme, two bay leaves, fresh parsley and fresh sage. Tyler used six egg whites and rosemary. Seemed like a waste of four eggs but I suppose if you feel more comfortable with a more wet paste, go ahead, as long as the salt holds together. I also did not add the suggested garlic or rosemary. I like the pure beef taste of my steak and find garlic and rosemary too overpowering.
Pat the salt onto the steak GENTLY, pushing it together and around the sides and forming a seal.
The salt herb paste should cover every part around and on top of the steak and form a seal. Since my steak was twice as thick as Tyler's, I decided to cook it twice as long. I cooked my steak for about 30 minutes and then allowed to rest for another 8. It will continue to cook in the case once removed from the oven. Tyler advises using a meat thermometer. I choose to "wing" it.
The salt crust will harden and brown. Remove pan from oven and let rest for about 8 minutes, the steak will continue cooking.
Slowly crack open the salt crust and carefully peel away. You want the salt to come off in chunks, not break apart and "salt" the meat!
Lift steak out and brush off excess salt.
Allow to rest AGAIN for another five minutes before slicing. RESIST THE URGE TO POUR PAN JUICES OVER STEAK! The juices in the bottom of the pan are now a super saline concentration. Instead, take a piece of fresh bread and sop up the juices and serve on the side of your steak. It will be salty, savory delicious! (One of the few things I remember my mom doing when SHE cooked steak!)
La Diva's salt encrusted double rib eye steak served over horseradish and sour cream Yukon gold mash, gourmet mushrooms sauteed in butter and red wine, a piece of baguette soaked in salty pan drippings and fresh steamed green beans with buttah and more salt! LORDY!
RESULT: Damn, La Diva was pleased. And so was my sidekick, big bear man DJ Nevah L8. The texture of the steak cooked in this method was different and more like a prime rib. The steak was moist and loaded with juice that ran from the steak while resting. (You can use the juices from the 'rested' steak, however) The herb flavors were subtle. The steak was NOT SALTY but actually quite mild and allowed the true beef flavor to shine. Naturally, the steak was more well done towards the ends but perfect for two people with different preferences. The revised dish was definitely a success, I'd like to try this again with a beef tenderloin one day.
So, don't be frightened to try this technique as it produces a succulent dish. I was going to try salt roasted potatoes but ran out of time! Next time. Take a stroll around the web for more SALT encased recipes and inspiration, there's a lot of them out there!
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!!!
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!!!
So, this next entry comes from my cousin in Detroit, Sherry Diez Lince. She's from my "mom's" side of the family and all my family from that side are all such wonderful cooks! I'm amazed she produced this on a weeknight! Thanks Sherry!
So Sherry chose her salt by using a salt cured product. Yep, that works! This is home-made prosciutto wrapped around breadsticks and served with cantaloupe and a nice glass of vino. Apparently there are a lot of Italians in Sherry's neighborhood and she wisely adopted one of them as her friend and scored an entire leg of it! Way to go, Sherry!
Making a dish like this takes time, patience and a lot of pans!
OMG, Sherry, that looks divine. I could eat it for breakfast right now! Pasta with home-made prosciutto, capers in salt, olives, jalapenos, habaneros and serrano chiles, garlic and clams. Dang, dat's a lot of hot chiles, girl, but what can you expect, her last name is Diez! I would say that the salt is covered by not only the prosciutto but also the cured olives and capers too. Sherry says: "My family loved it..but i did have to make a wimpy version!" I'll be over for either version! Clams and prosciutto, hmmm.....Great job and thanks for participating.
Ok, so when MOI gets a chance, she'll be comin' round to check out and judge all the entries. Don't forget to add "I'm up" in the comments section and be polite and check out other entries! Hope you had fun and challenged yourself, that's what this is all about!
(oh, and that new award sounds pretty cool too!!) Thanks for playing and ciao, darlings!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party, personal chef, corporate events, catering, personal chef, party entertainment