Tag Archives: cooking

Field Notes: Salt Roasting

Salt roasting is when you pack something in rock or kosher salt then bake it, usually around 350, until some time has passed. It’s commonly done with seafood, but other meats and even some veggies get salt roasted on occasion. It’s kind of amazing, because it doesn’t necessarily make the thing you’re cooking salty, and keeps it unaccountably moist. I started off with a traditional salt roasting dish:

  • Potato – did one small white potato packed in kosher salt for 50 minutes at (I think) 350ish. (I have no idea how far off this oven is.) It was tasty and really evenly cooked, and the salt came right off. Leeetle underdone. It really takes things packed in salt a while to cook.
  • Mushroom – just one plain white mushroom. I gave this 20-25 minutes. This did take up the salt, but stayed kind up more puffed up and moist than I’m used to mushrooms being. It was nice, except for the gagging on the salt thing. It made me want to play with brulee’ing maybe sous vide mushrooms or something, to see if you can have them moist *and* browned.
  • Corn on the cob – one ear, cut in half. 20 minutes Not salty, very moist, not really cooked though per se. Kind of took that one out too quick. Not sure that it was a particularly superior way of cooking corn though, but it was very evenly heated.
  • Apple – I gave this about a half hour. Ok. So the theory wasn’t *totally* crazy on this one, since the salt seemed to not penetrate much into the roasted item, but kept things moist and evenly cooked. But… well… the apple exploded at some point. I tasted it on a dare, or rather tried to get someone to dare me to taste it, and when every seemed to think that was a Bad Idea dared myself and tasted it anyway. Baked apple tastes really good. Being heavily salted however is something of a drawback. Ok, I admit: ew.
  • Garlic – This was pretty normal roasted garlic. I gave it about 40 minutes. I finished the night by whipping up a batch of baglep (a Tibetan pan fried flatbread. I’m getting a bit obsessed with quick breads at the moment.) and spread the garlic on it, but it wasn’t remarkably different from any other roasted garlic. By this time, the salt was a pretty solid brown chunk and I had to chisel the cloves out.
Neat, I didnt know salt could turn this color. Or this smell.

Neat, I didn't know salt could turn this color.

FACT: You can save and reuse the salt for future roasting.
ALSO A FACT: It starts to look and smell a little funny after two potatoes, a mushroom, an ear of corn, an exploded apple, and several cloves of garlic.
OPINION: Saving this salt is probably not a good idea.

Just in case you needed to know

  • Clarifying two sticks of butter: 225g to begin with, 167g after boiling out the water and filtering out the solids. It’s nutty and nice.
  • Bus kanaka is a loan word from Tok Pisin entering English, Tok Pisin being a loan language from English. It means living by traditional instead of modern ways.
  • You never did the Kenosha kid.
  • Tonight’s Stone Soup: Winter roots

    A crappy phonecam pic of the soup is better than no pic at all, right?

    A crappy phonecam pic of the soup is better than no pic at all, right?

    1 onion
    3 cloves garlic
    5-6 cups broth
    2 potatoes
    small yam
    3-4 parsnips
    1/2 cup sliced cabbage
    1 carrot
    1 or 2 teaspoons lemon juice

    Bay leaves
    salt and pepper

    Boil broth with bay leaves. (I used water and bullion for 4 cups water.)

    Cut up the potatoes, in a lot of different sizes and add them early, when the water starts to boil. The big ones will be chucks in the soup, but the small bits will cook in, making the broth thicker and richer. Leave on skins- they are flavorful and nutritious.

    Sauteed ingredients: (I like to saute soup ingredients, it adds a lot to the flavor, and this was no exception.) Sweat or saute onions in clarified butter, and when they’re close to done, add garlic. Add these first. Slice the yam thinly and sauteed it in the remaining butter. Set aside. Peel and slice the parsnips at an angle, saute and set aside.

    I don’t saute cabbage or carrots, but what the heck, try it if you want to. Add the ingredients in this order, times are approximate:

    Bay leaves/bullion (if using it) – from cold
    Potatoes- from boiling
    Onions and garlic – 12 minutes later
    Sliced yam/cabbage – 5 minutes later
    Parsnips – 10 minutes later
    Carrots/Thyme – 5 minutes later

    Let this go for another 5-10 minutes, and test the broth. If it’s too sweet, and it likely will be, add lemon juice until it balances. (Root veggies have a lot of sugar, and caramelizing them makes them taste a lot more interesting. But the sweetness can be overwhelming in a soup, hence the lemon.)

    Salt and pepper to taste. Eat.

    Gazpacho stone soup, the adaptability of bruschetta, and more

    (Yes, I know if I’m food blogging I should take pictures. I don’t really do that for this blog, but I am keeping it mind, I swear.)

    I touched down in PR and found myself at the local market figuring out what I could make, since it turned out I had somehow agreed to cook for six newly minted lawyers. The SuperMax was kind of kooky for me. It was oddly arranged, and seemed stocked arbitrarily. No corn on the cob, but almond milk? Sure.

    I decided to go Spanish/Italian. What the hell. I found a loaf of bread bearing a resemblance in form to French, and decided all bread can be bruschetta in a pinch. Bruschetta is an Italian appetizer that is basically crap on thick toast. Traditionally this is tomato and mozzarella, but that’s kind of boring. But a dish that is crap on toast can be so many things, as long as you’ve got something that looks like a french loaf or baguette to start with. This got chopped 3/4th inch thick, drizzled with olive oil and a little crushed garlic then toasted to a burn. Form does not actually suggest cook time, it turns out. Then the burn bits got scraped off, and we were good to go. I found a wondrous PR food: guava paste, and topped it with a precious bit of basil goat cheese.

    This was damn tasty, and for me the evening’s best hit. This is the thing that’s great about bruschetta, it’s a wonderful way to experiment with the local idiosyncratic foods. If you really get a hit you not only find a new bruschetta to take home, but give the locals a new twist on an ingredient they thought they’d seen the length and breadth of. I suspect this trick only works if you’re not in Italy.

    Then I did yag, or yet another gazpacho. I think I’ve found the true wonder of this soup. You learn the form, and do it with local produce. Every one is a unique delight, and it can be relatively inexpensive that way. As near as I can tell the two atomic ingredients are tomatoes, which makes it gazpacho, and cucumbers, which makes it not salsa. More on this as I learn to grok the gaz. Maybe ‘gazpacho design patterns’.

    I did my first risotto as well. Lacking the white wine my recipe called for, I poured in a half can of light beer, which turned out great. Risotto is one of those sneaky recipes which is actually really easy to make and seems impressive. I fried up some onions, garlic, and mushrooms in far too much butter and oil, then threw in 2.5 cups(ish) of rice and got the whole mess nicely coated in the oil. I threw everything in a big pot and poured in a half can of the local light beer and let that absorb. Then I threw in some veggie stock, a cup at a time, and cooked it over a mediumish heat, covered. I stirred and tasted it every so often to figure out if it needed more stock. Towards the end I threw in most of a can of asparagus, seeing as the fresh stuff locally is more expensive than gold. I should have added more- it turned out that while it gave the rice a nice tang, it was a mushroom risotto with a hint of asparagus, and I’d been after an asparagus risotto with a hint of mushroom. Risotto made this way comes out stupidly creamy, and has no right to be. Cheese is great in it as well, but I like to have a small collection of vegan recipes that are fairly rich and creamy, because vegan cuisine so rarely goes for that kind of texture and flavor. Of course, you have to omit the butter. Risotto seems like another good design patterns kind of food.

    Finally I made another creme anglaise. (I’ve decided I probably need to just travel with my own vanilla beans.) This time it was over some pears cooked in butter and cinnamon and topped it with a dollop of a gritty ganache made with a local chocolate. This was the least exciting- I want to try it again, but perverting some local cuisine like the plantains. Mwahahah.

    All in all, the main outcome was that I overfed the lawyers.

    But I also found a nice use for leftover creme anglaise. French toast, anyone?

    A new dessert

    I’ve been playing with creme anglaise a bit lately, and I had two willing victims^wdiners tonight to iterate on. I started them out with my Andalusian-ish green gazpacho (which still needs *something*) your basic feta and watermelon salad with pepper, and some garlic bread. For dessert I did a straightforward creme anglaise by the thirds- three egg yolks and a third of a cup of sugar for a cup of creme with vanilla. (I used extract. It wasn’t nice.)(I’m poor, ok? Grocery store beans are reamingly expensive. All hail eBay.)

    Anyway I picked up this weird green south American fruit I can’t remember the name of, which we’ll call WGSAFICRTNO for short. The WGSAFICRTNO was definitely tropical, and had huge brown seeds, but also vaguely pear like. Raw it had a tang and a touch of bitterness that was, let’s face it, unpleasant. Victim #1, Tina, viewed it with some doubt. I also had a safety mango.

    I recommend safety mangos.

    I was pretty sure the creme wasn’t really going to cut the problems with the WGSAFICRTNO. I started by squirting some lemon on it, which Tina and I both agreed helped but didn’t fix the problem. Then I remembered one of the slogans I live my life by: Almost anything can be improved by being browned in brown butter. (So I quickly did brown it in butter, but lemony butter.) At the end it was almost apple like, but but more complex. Not every problem was solved, but what was left seemed fixable by the power of custard.

    Boy was I right. The custard soothed the last of the WGSAFICRTNO’s hard edges and the WGSAFICRTNO imparted lots of flavor to the neutral richness of the custard. All three of us mango fans shunned my safety dessert in favor of the WGSAFICRTNO in Creme Anglaise, served in a martini glass and garnished with sliced almonds.1

    I still like nailing desserts more than savory dishes, because while a good meal will get you strong and loving praise, it takes something decadent and rich and sweet to get your hosts furtively withdrawn, planning how they’ll tie you to the basement on a tether long enough to reach the kitchen. That’s right, for me a meal hasn’t really succeeded until someone plotting to turn me into a culinary gimp against my will.2

    I decided afterward the almonds were kind of eh, and it would have been better with pine nuts. And caramel. And then I thought, pine nut caramel! Oh I think so.

    1 By shunned the mango I don’t mean didn’t eat it, I mean expressed preference for the WGSAFICRTNO. We aren’t insane.
    2 My latex gimp hood will require copious nose holes and either an always open mouth bit, or one I can easily open myself. FYI.