By Tejal Rao
A few years ago chefs across the
country began updating their mostly Kosher salt-stocked pantries,
revamping their lines with a variety of specialty salts. By the
time the salt frenzy slowed down, it was standard to find Hawaiian
Red Salt, Black Salt, Smoked Salt and Sel Gris, among others, next
to the usual Fleur de Sel and Maldon of savory and pastry kitchens.
While the salt revival that took place at the turn of the century
seems like old news now, the affects are still being felt. Precious
sodium chloride is now thought of as more than a preservative. And
while the ancient days when salt functioned as cash are far behind
us, chefs and diners view salt as a luxury product once again. Inspired
by how the subtle flavors of a good salt can add layers of taste
and texture to a dish, chefs are manipulating salt's flavor to turn
it into a multi-functioning finish. By infusing, mixing, and smoking
their salts in-house, chefs are creating flavored salts to go beyond
the rims of cocktail glasses and into their composed, sweet and
Smoked Toro with Green Tea Salt
In Washington DC, Chef Noriaki
Yasutake of Perry's makes a green tea salt by simply combining
green tea powder and salt. He uses the pale green mixture to both
season the raw fish and add a layer of astringency. Another flavor
he's playing with is a simple Old Bay salt. For Yasutake, this
is more than seasoning; it's a small exercise in his culinary philosophy:
adapting kitschy regional American products to suit his Japanese
cuisine. "Everyone here loves Old Bay; it's a big part of the
food culture here. I want to make Japanese food that represents
this area, these people. I wondered, how can I use Old Bay in my
sushi?" Personalizing a flavored salt was the answer.
Contrast of Chocolate, Coffee
and Vanilla at Season's
Pastry Chef Romain Renard
of Season's extends flavored salt to pastry with a chocolate
and vanilla cream paired with the bittersweet and salty crunch of
cocoa nibs and coffee salt in his Contrast of Chocolate dessert.
Chef RJ Cooper of Vidalia, pairs a juniper-infused sea
salt with heirloom potatoes, garlic cream, and crispy pork belly.
The salt is dry-infused with crushed juniper berries, then sifted.
The green, nearly citrus flavor, whose aroma is intensified by the
heat of the plate, is reminiscent of a classic French salt cure.
It's also a small reflection of Cooper's signature style: translating
French classics into his Modern American kitchen. Salt is reinvented