The world's most common -- and important -- spice in novel applications.
If i could bring only one seasoning onto a desert island, it would be salt. Yes, salt! Not only does all food taste better with it -- even a pinch in desserts helps to sharpen flavors -- but our bodies need salt, as an essential electrolyte. I'd bring kosher salt -- for its versatility -- to my desert island, but fine-dining chefs have been garnishing with a wide variety of gourmet salts, ranging from Peruvian pink salt to Hawaiian black lava salt, and dozens of colors and flavors in between. Some have been cooking on slabs of mined Himalayan salt: The marbled pink and white slabs simultaneously season and frame a dish of meat, fish, or vegetables. The ability to season properly is the most significant defining difference between most professional and novice cooks, and all it takes to shorten this gap is some diligent tasting and retasting. If a cook is worth his or her salt, the proof can even be found in the pudding.
RECIPESalted Butterscotch Sauce
I use this sauce at Annisa with a dessert of chestnuts pureed with brown butter and cream, sandwiched between thin, crunchy cookies. The salt keeps the dish from becoming cloying while balancing the richness and supporting the nutty flavors. Pour this sauce warm or at room temperature over vanilla ice cream, or over your favorite nut bread.
Ingredients: 1 cup light brown sugar 3 tablespoons butter 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 cup light corn syrup 1/2 cup heavy cream
Method: Place sugar, butter, salt, and corn syrup in a pot and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Stir once and cook until syrupy. Remove from heat and add the cream. Stir again until emulsified. Allow to cool.
Q: I'm a junkie for celebrity chef recipes, but buying the books can be costly and the recipes are tough to find online. Suggestions?Cookstr.com is a great resource for recipes from celebrity cookbook authors and restaurant chefs alike. The recipes are geared toward the home cook, and you can find other goodies too, such as chef profiles. But the best part is the search engine: You can sort the thousands of recipes in endless ways, from ingredient, to cost, to cook time, to cuisine, to holiday -- and of course, by favorite celebrity chefs like Nigella Lawson, Sam Choy, and Rocco DiSpirito.
AIN'T WE A PAIR?Wines to complement your salted sweets
Elderton Botrytis Semillon, 2007, New South Wales, Australia The white semillon grapes of this dessert wine are left on the vine -- literally to rot. The botrytis mold develops, drinking up the water content of the grapes, thus concentrating the flavors and sugars while imparting a gorgeous, nutty flavor. The resulting wine is complex with notes of apricot and stewed peach. Liquid gold. $17-$22.
Churchill's White Port, nonvintage, Oporto, Portugal This unusual port, made from the white Malvasia Fina grape, is dry and nutty with a crisp acidity that is a perfect foil for the sweet richness of the butterscotch. It keeps well, so you need not worry about wasting the remainder; it will be lovely again as a chilled aperitif. $13-$20.