The amount of overwhelming joy I experienced while testing out a salt block was substantial! I almost skipped to the little salt shop to pick my block. The shop I am referring to is called The Meadow. They have two locations, one in Manhattan New York and one in Portland Oregon. You may already know a little about the owners as they released a James Beard awarded book entitled Salted. The book is an incredible journey through the production of commercial and artisanal salts with beautiful photos of the people, places and salts spoken of. The recipes are delightful and expressive of the absolute highlight a finishing salt can make to an everyday simple dish. The folks at Meadow are very helpful and skilled at selecting salts and blocks for serving or cooking which made the adventure all the more carefree. So with my fabulous (and heavy) salt block in hand, I embarked on a wildly fascinating salt encrusted adventure!
Some tips for your new salty beast:
- slowly heat your block on top of the stove’s burner (gas ranges only) if electric or heat induction use a protective cooking ring or cast iron pan to elevate the block for air circulation and even heating. You want to make sure it’s not in direct contact with the heating element.
- start at low heat and crank it up every ten minutes to the next heat level ie: medium low, medium, medium high etc.
- do not salt your food when cooking on a salt block! It will impart a nice saltines to whatever you are cooking so it’s not necessary
- use a metal utensil to turn over your ingredients (plastic might melt as the blocks get very hot)
- allow the block to completely cool (several hours) before cleaning in warm water only. (Scraping gently to remove bits)
- store your dried block wrapped in a towel or paper towels when not in use. (I actually stored mine in a cool oven while not in use)
- the block can also be used for serving at the table either cold or hot. (use a trivet or wood cutting board under hot blocks) One idea for a hot service option would be to heat the block and allow your guest to cook their own meats &veggies while at the table! Or chill it and serve sushi or sashimi right off of the block!
- Notes: Your block will never look as amazing as it does when you buy it, the color will change cracks may appear and a smoothness will happen on the side you cook, a result of washing. Salt is expressive so be free with it and if you like the clear look of your block, buy a second one for cooking and keep the other for service.
Armed with this information, a brand new salt block and fresh little shrimps I whipped this up…
Cracked Pepper Salt Block Shrimps with Market Salad and Cool Radish
(serves 4 people)
20 large (20 count) shrimps, peeled & cleaned
As much fresh cracked pepper as you like
For the Salad:
several bunches of little gem lettuces or 1 box of organic mixed field greens (washed and dried)
4-8 radishes sliced thinly
1 handful of fresh basil or micro basil
1 handful of micro beet greens (skip if you can’t find them)
Juice of 1 lemon
olive oil (roughly 1/4 -1/2 cup)
Finishing salt or Himalayan Pink salt
Crack of fresh pepper
Preheat your salt block, this will take some time about 35-45 minutes. You will know it’s hot enough when you can only hold your hand above it for 2-3 seconds. While heating the block, clean & peel your shrimps and place in a bowl. Crack the pepper over the shrimps and toss to coat. Set aside. Wash and dry the greens and add to a big bowl. Wash and slice the radishes and add to the bowl of lettuce. Juice the lemon into a small bowl once juiced whisk in the olive oil until emulsified add the salt and pepper to the lettuce and a pinch of both to the dressing. When the shrimps are ready to be cooked, add the dressing to the greens, toss in the basil & beet greens and combine gently with your hands. Once the block is ready to go place the shrimps on top of the block and be ready to turn them after a minute or so. They will cook up fast, turning white and pink when ready. Place the salad and shrimps on plates and enjoy!