Meal of The Week

CHEF JOHN SPEAKS

Version 2

SALT AND SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE

A WORD OR TWO ABOUT SEASONING.  

SALT  GOURMET SALTS FROM FRENCH FLEUR DE SEL TO BLACK SALT FROM VOLCANIC HAWAII OR PINK SALT FROM THE HIMALAYAS HAVE BECOME ALL THE RAGE.  THEIR TEXTURES VARY.  FLEUR DE SEL FEELS MOIST WITH SEA WATER.  PINK SALT IS PEBBLY.  MALDON SALT FROM ENGLAND IS FLAKEY.  ARE THERE SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES IN TASTE?  NOT TO ME.  CERTAINLY, SALTING A BEEF STEW WITH FLEUR DE SEL IS NO DIFFERENT FROM SALTING IT WITH BLACK OR PINK OR WHITE SALT.  BUT SPRINKLING ONE OF THOSE EXOTIC SALTS ON, SAY, A DESERT OR A SLAB OF FOIE GRAS, ONE MAY TELL THE FEEL DIFFERENCE.  I COOK WITH TWO KINDS OF SALT.  FOR THINGS LIKE PASTA WATER OR BOILING VEGETABLES I USE KOSHER SALT.  FOR PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING ELSE, MALDON.  MALDON HAS NONE OF THE IODINE TASTE YOU FIND IN KOSHER SALT.  IT’S FLAKEY SO RUBBING IT BETWEEN YOUR FINGERS WILL REDUCE IT TO A ROUGH POWDER.  IT’S NOT CHEAP BUT I ORDER IT ONLINE IN BIG TUBS, WHICH IS A SIGNIFICANT SAVING.  IT’S GOOD FOR GENERAL COOKING, AS A CRUNCHY FINISHING SALT AND AN ATTRACTIVE TABLE SALT. 

FRESH HERBS

WHENEVER POSSIBLE I COOK WITH FRESH HERBS.  I GROW ROSEMARY, THYME, OREGANO, AND MINT.  A BAY TREE PLANTED TWENTY YEARS AGO IS NOW TWENTY FEET HIGH.  FRESH HERBS SUCH AS THYME, ROSEMARY, OREGANO, AND BAY LEAF ARE BEST ADDED DURING COOKING.  TARRAGON, DILL, BASIL, CHERVIL, CHIVES, AND PARSLEY ARE BEST CHOPPED AT THE LAST MINUTE AND ADDED TO THE FINISHED DISH.  OFTEN, SAY WITH A CHICKEN TARRAGON, I’LL ADD A LOT OF TARRAGON DURING THE COOKING, BUT RESERVE ENOUGH TO SCATTER ON THE CHICKEN JUST BEFORE SERVING.  THE HERBS I USE THE MOST ARE THYME AND CHIVES.   THYME HAS A WOODSY DEPTH WHICH ACCENTUATES BUT DOES NOT OVERPOWER THE PRINCIPAL INGREDIENTS.  AND CHIVES… WELL, CHIVES TASTE GREAT ON JUST ABOUT ANYTHING.  

DRIED HERBS

I’M BECOMING MORE FAMILIAR WITH SEASONINGS FOR MIDDLE EASTERN AND ASIAN DISHES, BUT WITH THE EXCEPTION OF CUMIN, CORIANDER, CARDAMON, AND VARIOUS PEPPERS (ALEPPO, SMOKED PAPRIKA, CHILI PEPPER) I’M NOT YET COMFORTABLE WITH TURMERIC, SUMAC OR DASHI.  WHICH DOESN’T KEEP ME FROM EXPERIMENTING.  STILL, MOST OF THE DISHES I MAKE ARE FRENCH OR ITALIAN, SO I TEND TO STAY CLOSE TO HOME.  I LOVE SAFFRON IN RICE AND PASTAS OR PULVERIZED AND SPRINKLED ON CHICKEN OR FISH.  JOSEF CENTENO’S BÄCO COOKBOOK REQUIRED ME TO PUT TOGETHER VARIOUS SPICE BLENDS, WHICH I AM ENJOYING.  I ENCOURAGE YOU TO DO THE SAME.  

 

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