Notes on: Salt Fat Acid Heat
July 25, 2020
When I read a book I have the habit of highlighting certain passages I find interesting or useful. After I finish the book I’ll type up those passages and put them into a note on my phone. I’ll keep them to comb through every so often so that I remember what that certain book was about. That’s what these are. So if I ever end up lending you a book, these are the sections that I’ve highlighted in that book. Enjoy!
All salt comes from the ocean
- Should you use more salt? No. You should use salt better. Add it in the right amount at the right time in the right form. A smaller amount of salt applied while cooking will often do more to improve flavor than a larger amount added at the table.
- In almost every case, anything you cook for yourself at home is more nutritious, and lower in sodium, than processed, prepared, or restaurant food.
- Salt has a greater impact on flavor than any other ingredient.
- Salt enhances the flavor of other ingredients. Used properly, salt minimizes bitterness, balances out sweetness, and enhances aromas
- Samin doesn’t recommend using iodized salt as it makes everything taste slightly metallic. Table salt often contains anti-caking agents to prevent clumps from forming. Though neither of these additives is harmful, there’s no reason to add them to your food.
- While Diamond Crystal readily adheres to foods and crumbles easily, Morton is much denser, and almost twice as salty by volume.
- Diamond Crystal dissolves about twice as quickly as denser granulated salt, making it ideal for use in food that is cooked quickly. The more quickly salt dissolves, then less likely you are to overseason a dish thinking it needs more salt when actually the salt just needs more time to dissolve.
- Inexpensive and rather forgiving, kosher salt is fantastic for everyday cooking
- Most of what you are paying for when you buy these salts is their delightful texture, so use them in ways that allow them to stand out. It’s a waste to season pasts water with fluer de sel or make tomato sauce with Maldon salt. Instead sprinkle these salts atop delicate garden lettuces, rich caramel sauces, and chocolate chip cookies as they go into the oven so you can enjoy the way they crunch in your mouth
- Keep 2 types of salt on hand – Kosher salt for everyday cooking, and a special salt with a pleasant texture, such as Maldon salt of fluer de sel, for garnishing food at the last moment
Salt enhances sweetness while reducing bitterness
- Anything that heightens flavor is a seasoning, but the term generally refers to salt since it’s the most powerful flavor enhancer and modifier
- The colder the meat and surrounding environment are, the longer it will take the salt to do its work, so when time is limited leave meat on the counter once you season it (but for no longer than two hours) rather than returning it to the fridge.
- If you’ve salted some meat but realize you won’t be able to get to it for several days, freeze it until you’re ready to cook it. Tightly wrapped, it’ll keep for up to two months
- The delicate proteins of most fish and shellfish will degrade when salted too early. A brief salting – about 15 minutes – is plenty. Season all other seafood at the time of cooking
- The small amounts of butter in water, lemon juice in a mayonnaise, or vinegar in a vinaigrette allow salt to slowly dissolve. Season these fats early and carefully, waiting for salt to dissolve and tasting before adding more.
- Eggs absorb salt easily. It helps their proteins come together. The more quickly the proteins set, the less of a chance they will have to expel water they contain. The more water the eggs retain as they cook, the more moist and tender their final texture will be
- Season eggs fried in a pan just before serving
- Toss vegetables with salt and olive oil for roasting. Salt blanching water generously before adding vegetables. Add salt into the pan along with the vegetables for sautéing. Season vegetables with large, watery cells – tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant, for example – in advance of grilling or roasting to allow salt the time to do its work.
- Be wary of salting vegetables too early – usually 15 minutes before cooking is sufficient
Mushrooms are about 80% water. In order to preserve the texture of mushrooms, wait to add salt until they’ve just begun to brown in the pan.
- Salt does not toughen dried beans, it softens them
- Salt when you soak them or when you begin to cook them, whichever comes first
Leave salt out of Italian pasta dough altogether, allowing the salted water to do the work of seasoning as it cooks. Add it early to ramen and udon doughs to strengthen their gluten, as this will result in the desired thickness
- Salt will always diffuse more quickly at room temperature than in the fridge
- When baking, add vanilla extract and other flavorings directly into the butter or egg yolks
- Look for oils that are produced from 100 percent Californian or Italian olives (as opposed to those with labels that simply read “Made in Italy”, “Packed in Italy”, or “Bottled in Italy”, which imply that the oil is pressed in Italy from olives whose provenance cannot be traced or guaranteed)
- Melt unsalted butter gently over sustained low heat to clarify it. The whey proteins will rise to the top of the clear, yellow fat, and other milk proteins will fall to the bottom. The water will evaporate, leaving behind 100 percent fat. Skim the why solids and save them to toss with fettuccine – the buttery flavor is an ideal complement to the eggy noddles, especially if you top the dish with grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.
- Coconut oil tasted particularly good in granola, or as the cooking fat for roasted root vegetables
- Since animal fats begin to burn at around 350ºF, try arranging sliced bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet, and then slipping it into an oven set to that temperature. The heat of the oven will be gentler and more even than on the stove, giving the fat an opportunity to render.
- Consider a vinaigrette: oil and vinegar. Pour the two liquids together and the oil, being less dense, will float above the vinegar. But whisk the two liquids together – breaking them up into billions of tiny droplets of water and oil – and the vinegar will disperse into the oil, creating a homogenous liquid with a new, thicker consistency. This is an emulsion.
- Remember that butter, unlike oil, isn’t pure fat. It’s fat, water, and milk solids all held together in a state of emulsion
- Pastry chefs generally seek tender, flaky, and moist textures, so they do everything they can to limit or control gluten development, including using low protein flours and avoiding overkneading
- Acid grants the palate relief and makes food more appealing by offering contrast
- One form of citrus you should never use, though, is bottled citrus juice. Made from concentrate and doctored with preservatives and citrus oils, it tastes bitter and doesn’t offer any of the clean, bright flavor of fresh-squeezed juice
- Acid keeps vegetables and legumes tougher, longer.
- While 10 to 15 minutes of simmering in water is enough to soften carrots into baby food, they’ll still be somewhat firm after an hour of stewing in red wine.
- When cooking chickpeas for hummus, a pinch of baking soda will gently nudge the bean water away from acidity toward alkalinity, ensuring tenderness
- Acid draws egg proteins together before they can unravel, which inhibits them from joining too closely. A few secret drops of lemon juice will produce creamier, more tender scrambled eggs
- The chemical reaction involved in browning sugars is called caramelization. The chemical reaction involved in browning meats, seafood, vegetables, baked goods, or just about anything else is called the Maillard reaction
- If food tastes bright and clean, then its acid balance is spot-on
- Deglazing a pan with wine, whether fro risotto, pork chops, fish fillets, or a more complex reduction sauce will keep a dish from skewing too sweet
- The best apples for pie aren’t the sweetest, but tart varieties such as Fuji, Honeycrisp, and Sierra Beauty
- Always balance sweetness with acid, and not only in desserts
- Add salt early to a pot of beans, but acid late. Season meat for a braise in advance, then start it off on the heat with a dose of cooking acid. When it’s done and rich in flavor, lighten it with a garnishing acid
- Doctor a lackluster restaurant taco by asking for sour cream, guacamole, pickles, or sales. Eye the dressings, cheeses, and pickles at the local salad bar with renewed interest
- When food is weak in flavor, it’s “watered down”. To intensify flavors in soups, stocks, and sauces, reduce their water content
- Choose to freeze foods that can withstand a little dehydration, and even be successfully rehydrated – raw braising cuts of meat, stews, soups, sauces, and cooked beans in their liquid
- To be on the safe side, when rehydrating soupy leftovers or your freezer stash of chicken stock, make sure to bring them to a boil to kill bacteria that may have grown in the meantime
- The small amounts of sugars that most vegetables contain begin to disappear the moment they’re picked, which is why just-picked produce is so much more sweet and flavorful than store-bought. I’ve heard countless stories of Midwestern grandmothers putting the pot of water on to boil before sending the kids out to the garden to pick corn. Just a few minutes, they’d tell the kids, could mean a noticeable loss in sweetness
- Potatoes too are at their sweetest when first harvested – hence the indescribable pleasure of boiled new potatoes topped with butter
- Fry newly dug potatoes, full of sugar, and they’ll burn before they can cook through
Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and season them with salt and a few drops of lemon juice, whisking thoroughly to break them up. Gently melt a little butter in a saucepan over the lowest possible heat and pour in the eggs. Continue to stir with a whisk or a fork, while adding 4 or more tablespoons of butter in thumb-sized pieces, letting each be absorbed before you add the next. Never stop stirring, and be patient. It’ll take severral minutes for the eggs to start to come together. When they do, pull them from the stove in anticipation of the cooking that will continue due to residual heat. Serve with – what else? – buttered toast.
- Slide the chicken from the fridge into the oven, and by the time enough heat penetrates to cook the legs through, the breast meat will have overcooked, resulting in tough, dry meat. But let the bird come down to room temperature on the kitchen counter before roasting and the bird will spend a shorter time in the oven, limiting the opportunity for overcooking
- Let cheese come to room temperature. As it warms, its fat molecules relax, releasing entrapped flavor compounds
- When pasta still has a few minutes of boiling left, add bite-sized florets of broccoli or cauliflower, chopped kale, or turnip greens to the water. Delicate spring peas or tiny slices of asparagus or green beans need only about ninety seconds to cook through, so add them just before draining the pot
- The amount of food you add into a pot of oil will affect its temperature. The more, bigger, colder, and denser the food you add, the farther its temperature will drop. If the oil takes too long to climb back to 365ºF, the food will overcook before it has a chance to brown properly
- When searing steaks or other meat start preheating the pan in a blasting hot oven for at least 20 minutes before bringing it up to the stovetop to begin searing over high heat
- When browning, frying, or searing, the first side of a food to be browned will always be the most beautiful, so lay food in a pan or on the grill with its presentation side down.
- Make 400ºF your default temperature for roasting vegetables, but know that it will change based on the size of the vegetables, their density and molecular makeup, as well as the depth and material of your roasting pan and the amount of food on the tray or in the oven
- Once fat begins to render, cook meat at temperatures below 375ºF – the smoke point of most animal fats
- Samin’s rule of thumb for cooking a large roast is once its internal temperature hits 100ºF, it’ll start climbing at a rate of about a degree a minute, if not faster. So if you’re aiming for medium-rare, around 118ºF to 120ºF, then know that you’ve got about 15 minutes before it’s time to pull
Recipes & Recommendations
- Samin’s tested the recipes with both Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt (the red box) and fine sea salt from the grocery store bulk bin. Morton brand kosher salt (the blue box) is almost twice as salt by volume, so if you’re cooking with that, use half as much kosher salt as the recipes indicate
- Halve cucumbers lengthwise, and if the seeds are bigger than a peppercorn, use a teaspoon to scrape them out
- Whip leftover whites with sugar and top with cream and fruit to make marshmallowy pavlova
- More expensive, tender cuts will benefit from intense heat; less expensive, tougher cuts appreciate gentle heat
- Season any steak in advance to give salt the time it needs to perform its tenderizing and flavor-enhancing feats. Bring any steak to room temperature to 30 to 60 minutes before cooking
- When flames brush the surface of cooking meat, they leave behind awful, gaseous-tasting flavor compounds. SO never, ever cook directly over the flame
- Preheat the skillet in a 500 oven for 20 minutes, and then carefully place it over a burner set to high heat
When using parsley, pick the leaves from the stems, which can be tough. Save the stems in your freezer for the next time you make Chicken Stock. Cilantro stems, on the other hand, are the most flavorful part of the herb. They’re also a lot less fibrous, so work the tender stems into your sauce.
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