This is an occasional tip designed to enhance your cooking and/or entertaining. Tips come from At Home, with elaboration here, or are original to this blog and eventually added to At Home Online.
Salt and Pepper
The easiest way to improve your cooking is to improve your salt and pepper. Start by devoting yourself to kosher salt; it has a less-chemical flavor than standard table salt and contains less sodium, teaspoon for teaspoon. When finishing a dish, sprinkle on some coarse sea salt or flaky salt, which will add a little unexpected texture. (More on finishing salts in a future blog.) With pepper, always start with whole peppercorns and grind them a bit coarsely to use. Either use a pepper mill and grind to order, or grind a larger amount in a spice grinder and keep a little bowl of it near the stove. In general, the fresher the grind, the fresher the flavor. But ground pepper can comfortably live by your stove for a month. Keep in mind that all of the recipes in At Home were created with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper — unless otherwise stated. If you want to use table salt or fine salt, reduce the amount by at least half.
To the left is standard table salt. Center and right and two common brands of Kosher salt. I much prefer the slightly coarser texture of the Morton’s Kosher Salt — in the blue box — over the finer texture of Diamond Crystal.
I use a Krups spice grinder — sold as a coffee grinder for less than $20. I never use store-bought pre-ground pepper — it lacks the fresh “pepperiness” of freshly ground pepper. I strongly suggest that you do not use store-bought pre-ground pepper and that you throw away any that you have. Depending on how intensively I am cooking, I grind a batch of pepper occasionally and keep it next to my stove in the little box pictured above. My “at home-ground” pepper stays perfectly fresh for a few weeks and can be measured as called for in recipes. Grinding pepper using a hand-held peppermill for a recipe is perfectly acceptable, but difficult to measure in the specific quantities called for in a recipe. You can certainly use a hand-held peppermill for recipes, and add pepper to taste as you go.
For fresh ground pepper at the table, use either a hand pepper grinder or provide a little “salt seller” of fresh ground pepper at the table. I use a Peugeot peppermill — a dark wood for black pepper and a blond wood for white pepper — though I rarely use the white pepper mill.
I generally prefer a slightly coarse grind to a very fine grind. I like the little peaks and valleys of pepperiness that come from a coarser grind when compared to finely ground pepper.
Other Notes and Recipes in At Home related to salt & pepper:
Page 37 Kosher Salt
Page 37 Freshly Ground Pepper
Page 39 The Last Step
Page 49 Salting and Sugaring the Rim of a Glass
Page 67 Flavored Salts (Recipe)
Page 93 Edamame with Sea Salt
Page 157 Gracie’s Salt & Pepper Roast Chicken (Recipe)
Page 180 When to Salt
Page 201 Finishing Salt
Book owners can also find a more comprehensive list of salt and pepper-related notes and recipes can be found directly on At Home Online by searching of keywords salt or pepper.
While we’re on the subject of salt, there is an interesting note on Page 92 about Fish Sauce & Soy Sauce, the Asian way with salt. If you are not currently a book owner, learn more about At Home, the book and companion website.
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