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Flavored Salt
By Tejal Rao
October 2006

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 savory dishes.

 

Smoked Toro with Green Tea Salt at Perry's on StarChefs.com

Smoked Toro with Green Tea Salt at Perry's

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 on StarChefs.com

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 - again.

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