Ahh the virtues of salt. It seasons, it preserves, it makes ice cream and you can cook on a block of it.
I recently attended a Cooking with Salt class in Santa Monica, California taught by Chef Rachael Narins who along with her business partner Chef Suzanne Griswold, are better known as Chicks with Knives.
That’s what they specialize in, teaching knife skills to culinary students and foodies like me. But this highly lauded and greatly reviewed culinary duo is a bit of a legend in this town. They are among the most vocal and visible advocates for S.O.L.E. or Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical Food; they teach classes in food preservation which are wildly successful; and they host underground dinners at various secret locations.
Rachael is a food writer for L.A. Weekly and occasionally contributes to the L.A. Times. I’ve followed her posts for a few years now. She is also a certified Master Gardener and a certified Master Food Preserver, which I find fascinating. So when I saw that she was teaching a cooking class on the beach front in Santa Monica, I signed up.
She shared so much information during the 2 ½ hour class. I learned that there are many varieties of salt such as Korean, Kosher, Malden, Himalayan and smoked; and they have various uses from seasoning, preserving and finishing. I also learned that colored salts contain micro nutrients and that microbes cannot live in salt.
During the hands-on workshop, Rachael taught us how to cook a steak and asparagus on a salt block slab, how to preserve lemons for use in salad dressings, and how make ice cream in a zip top freezer bag which was the best darn ice cream I’ve had since I was a little girl. All the recipes featured the use of salt.
To learn more about Chicks with Knives visit their site. To make the amazing ice cream I made during the class, see the recipe below. As a bonus, Rachel shares her absolutely yummy Salted Caramel Sauce that we drizzled over our ice cream. Who knew that the use of salt could be so sweet?
Easy Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Sauce: Recipe by Harold McGee
3 to 4 pounds ice (10cups or more)
½ cup kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 large foil lasagna baking pans
Pour all of the ice into one of the large foil lasagna baking pans, cover it with salt and stir with a wooden spoon.
In a bowl mix milk, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt together until the sugar dissolves. Pour mixture into a sealable 1-gallon zip top freezer bag. Push out as much of the air as possible and seal.
Place the second large foil lasagna baking pan on a kitchen towel. Fill the pan with about half of the ice. Lay freezer bag on ice and flatten it with your hand. Dump the rest of the ice along with any melted water on top of the bag, leaving the zipper edge exposed. Place empty lasagna pan on top of the pan containing the ice and ice cream mixture. Let rest for 15 minutes, shaking it once or twice to distribute the brine.
After 15 minutes, remove the empty lasagna pan and then pour about half of the ice brine into it. Lift bag out of the brine by the zipper edge and lay it on a towel. (Avoid touching the ice brine which is cold enough to cause frostbite.) Cover your hand with another towel and gently knead the frozen areas of the ice cream mixture for a about a minute to mix them with the liquid.
Return the freeze bag to the foil pan, laying it flat on the ice. Cover it with the reserved ice brine and return the empty foil pan to the top of the ice brine and let freeze for another 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the bag from the foil pan and carefully towel off the brine. Serve the ice cream immediately or keep bag in your freezer until ready to serve. Makes 1 pint.
Rachel said you can add fruit to the ice cream mixture like strawberries, mangos or peaches.
Salted Caramel Sauce
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons (½ stick) chilled, unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Combine the sugar, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of water into a heavy sauce pan, stirring over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
Increase the heat to medium-high and boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until a deep amber color forms. This can take up to 5-6 minutes.
Remove pan from the heat; gradually add vanilla and cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Return pan to stove and whisk over medium heat until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat; whisk in cold butter and salt. Strain into a heat proof measuring cup. Let cool slightly and serve over ice cream or other dessert.