You know you have to season your food with salt, but it can also be a cooking surface (as if it needed another reason to hang around your kitchen). Salt blocks are commonly slabs of pure pink Himalayan salt that can be used to grill, bake, sauté, and cure foods.
Many of your favorite recipes that require sautéing or grilling can be prepared on a salt block. The benefit of cooking on a salt block is that flavors evolves while it cooks on the block and the savory saltiness is really cooked into the food.
To start, Mark recommends a small manageable block about 4 by 8 inches. Many go for the 9-inch square size, though, because it's a little more multipurpose.
A photo posted by Mark Bitterman (@selmelier) on
Here are three examples of common dishes you might make that would be greatly enhanced by the salt block:
Salt on a watermelon salad is critical, but serving the salad on a salt block really makes the flavor pop: “Just making a watermelon, mint, and feta salad is so easy, so silly delicious—I love to recommend it. Anyone can do it. And people are wowed because it is a beautiful presentation,” says Bitterman.
It is recommended to chill the block in the refrigerator 2 hours prior to serving on it. Once chilled, fan 1/2 inch slices of watermelon across the chilled block. Juicy fruits like watermelon get salty fast, so build the salad just before serving it. Sprinkle a handful of crumbled feta cheese and mint leaves over the top. You can also try this salad with cantaloupe, honeydew, or peaches.
You can indeed cook various proteins on the salt block. Chicken, steak, shrimp, scallops, hearty fish filets, and pork chops are good places to start. Here is a way to make scallops for the main dish:
Place the salt block on a single burner on your stovetop. Start your salt block at a low heat for 20 minutes, increasing to medium heat in 20-minute increments until the heat is high. It is important to gradually heat the salt block to prevent it from shattering. Sprinkle a drop of water to test the heat. If it sizzles immediately, it’s hot!
Lightly brush scallops with olive oil, season with freshly cracked pepper, and place directly on the salt block. Sear for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. When you flip the scallops, move them to a new place on the block for better contact with the block.
Get ready to put on a show for your guests with an instant salty ice cream. Prepare your salt block by freezing it for at least 6 hours or overnight. Pick your favorite ice cream flavor that you think will be enhanced with salt.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Prepare the base and chill it in the refrigerator. About an hour before serving dessert, place the base in the freezer.
Remove the block from the freezer, making sure your hands are covered with a towel or oven mitts—it will be cold! Place the block on a cookie sheet lined with dry ice, which is helpful but not essential to keeping the block cold while you make the ice cream. The block will stay cold on its own long enough to make a few small batches of ice cream.
Pour about a cup of your mixture on the block and scrap the edges, folding into the middle with the side of a spatula or with a pastry scraper (like at ColdStone!). Continue to fold the base until the ice cream sets up. Repeat the process with the remainder of the mix. Scoop the formed ice cream off the salt block and serve in a bowl or ice cream cone.
Will you try salt block cooking? Let us know your thoughts and experiences with it in the comments below!