Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Salt is one of the most important ingredients in all of cooking. From sweet to savory salt can be used to enhance and intensify flavors. But how should one salt? I believe in salting at every step of the cooking process so you taste the enhanced flavor of the ingredients but not the salt itself. If you wait to add the salt when the dish is finished most often that is all you taste.
For example, when you salt meat before you sear it, the meat flavor itself becomes enhanced as the salt crystals "melt" during the cooking process. If you wait to salt the meat until it is cooked the salt crystals don't have time to break down the meat proteins (tenderizing it) and bumping up the flavor, so all you get are bits of salt with your meat. (This of course is not taking into account finishing salts...but thats another post.)
HOWEVER there are a few ingredients that you should wait to salt. With mushrooms, for example, you should wait to salt them until after you cook them so they don't become mushy. Lentils also should be salted after they have cooked so that they cook more quickly. (However, when used in soups I still salt my veggies as they are caramelizing before I add the liquid and lentils.)