One of the easiest ways to elevate your cooking to another level is to use flavored salts, or finishing salts. No recipe needed, really. Flavor + Salt = Flavored Salt. REALLY!!! I know you just had a V-8 moment just now (wow. that sure dates me. does anyone know what i’m talking about?!) My latest crush, Eric Gower the Breakaway Cook, writes extensively about finishing salts on his website and even gives you several flavors to try. I like to use these salts in place of regular salt – the flavor I use is dependent on either the type of dish I’m cooking, the ethnic cuisine or a flavor I would like to infuse in the dish. I call these Finishing Salts because most of the time, its exactly what I use them for.
Sometimes a dish just needs a little color after plating and a finishing salt is the perfect compliment flavor-wise and eye-candy-deliciousness-wise. Learn from professional cooks – who often serve food on white dinnerware – and sprinkle a little of your Finishing Salt directly on the food AND the plate. The vibrant colors are shown off against the white and your dinner guests can dab as much as or as little of the salt as they wish. You can make a batch for less than $1….or you could go to a gourmet shop and spend $12 for an itty bitty jar.
Szechuan Peppercorn Salt
Dry-roasted Szechuan or Sichuan Peppercorn + food processor to grind the peppercorn + sea salt. It’s spelled Sichuan nowadays, but for some reason I’ve always spelled it Szechuan. Anyways, spell how you like.
>>Edit: more detailed instructions: I roasted SZP in a hot, dry skillet until smoking but not burnt. Let that cool a little bit. Dump in food processor to grind to same size as your salt. Then you add your salt and pulse a just couple of times to fully incorporate the flavors together. I like my S&P a little chunky and not like a fine powder. I used equal amts of SZP and sea salt. You can adjust based on your tastes. If you are using a very fine sea salt or just regular table salt, decrease the amt of salt.
Szechuan Peppercorn is really not a peppercorn at all – its a berry from a bush that will make your tongue and lips tingle and numb when you eat them. Yes, its legal. No, you can’t snort it. When you dry-roast the peppercorns, your entire house will smell heavenly…woodsy, citrusy, earthy…so incredibly aromatic that Chef Kylie Kwong perfumes her restaurant daily with a hot, smoking, dry wok of roasted peppercorns. Add to any dish that needs a little kick in the pants. Cooking Chinese? Sprinkle some Szechuan Peppercorn Salt to finish any dish. I also love seasoning my steaks with this instead of the standard salt & pepper prior to grilling. This can also serve as a dipping salt for fried shrimp.
Fushia Dunlop even recommends using this combination on potato chips! Make them yourself (its very simple with a mandoline) and flavor with SZP Salt while they are hot. Or, dump a bag of your favorite plain chips onto a baking sheet + 375 F for 5 minutes, remove and sprinkle with SZP Salt. Ohhh…how about french fries with SZP Salt at your next dinner party? Nothing like watching the reaction of your guests as their lips tingle and they discover a new taste. You can buy Szechuan peppercorn at your local Chinese market or at Whole Spice, iGourmet, GetSpice (UK), Spice Barn and Spicehouse
When you get your SZP, take a couple of pods and chew – the tip of your tongue will go tingly! Cooking the SZP tames the pepperyness and the numbing quality.
Grated orange peel + grated lemon peel + let the citrus peels dry a little bit on a paper towel + sea salt Think bright, cheery and light. Finish your shrimp skewers, any vegetables, grilled chicken breasts, grilled salmon with Citrus Salt. Lighten your risotto or steamed rice with Citrus Salt. I’ll be posting soon on a recipe I created, Panko-Crusted Grouper Cheeks with Japanese-Style Risotto and Citrus Salt. Long, fancy name for fish ‘n rice, I know. I need to shorten the name…just sounds too restaurant-y.
Matcha is Japanese green tea powder made from the highest quality of green tea leaves. Its a stunning and lovely mossy color which makes such a pretty finishing salt, especially if you use a white plate and also sprinkle some directly on the plate. Matcha powder + sea salt + couple pulses in food processor if you are using course sea salt You know what is so totally divine? Your favorite chocolate truffle or chocolate bar + dip in Matcha Salt. So very different! Eric Gower pairs it with eggs and tofu. Use with dishes that are light in texture and flavor, since this salt’s flavor is more delicate and subtle. It gives a beautiful floral, grassy, sweet and soothing aroma. You can buy Matcha powder at your local Asian market. Sometimes coffee/tea shops will carry as well. This is not the same as green tea leaves. Ask specifically for Matcha powder. Its a little expensive. I paid $7.50 for 1.4 oz jar at a Japanese market in Los Angeles (which will last me a long time as I only used aboutοΏ½ 1 teaspoon in my mixture). Don’t get the super-premium stuff, it would be a waste to use the expensive powder for the salts. Buy online at Amazon (this is the brand I got). Use your leftover powder to make green tea ice cream. I have all three sitting patiently waiting for my next cooking adventure….you guys have any ideas for other flavors? What would you do with Chocolate Salt?