10 October 2011

Day 39: A Pinch of Salt

Potage Julienne D'Arblay a.k.a. potato-leek soup with veggie sticks
Making sauces and soups, as we've done so far, has provided a really good lesson in how seasoning can bring out flavors, not just add to them. As opposed to pretty much any solid piece of food, experimenting with salt in soup is pretty painless: add a pinch of salt, stir, taste. Repeat as necessary.

And it probably is necessary. The one consistent note I've been getting in class is more seasoning, more salt. I've had it in my head to salt as little as possible because of vague health reasons I have no recollection of learning. It's just one of those things – salt bad! – that I'm now having to fight because it really can bring a dish over the finish line.

The key, of course, is not to go overboard. If it tastes salty, you've gone way too far and you're pretty much screwed. You can try diluting with water, but that'll dilute everything else, too.

Too much salt doesn't always result in saltiness on the tongue. I toyed with salt levels with a soup I'd brought home from class and put in a tad much. The flavors were really strong, but the soup left a strange lingering sensation on my tongue, almost like a mild burn from blowing out my taste buds.

When to salt is another issue I'm just now getting the hang of. Typically, at least with soups, the salt goes in last. The addition of other ingredients (especially salty ones, like cheese) and evaporation can really screw things up if salt is added too early.

Salt can also save time. A lot of soups (and dishes in general) start with sauteing vegetables, and salt can help pull the moisture out and speed things along.

By the way, as far as I know, mention of salt in the cooking world almost always refers to kosher salt. That's all we have in our kitchens at school. It's larger and easier to pinch, has no additives, and can even add a textural crunch if added last.

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