Adding A Finishing Touch To Your Dishes

LA MESA -- Finishing salts are considered the premier varieties, the upper echelon, of specialty sea salts. They are harvested—generally by hand—in special areas around the world and are known for their unique textures. The various finishing salt textures—usually either moist crystals or delicate flakes—provide a strong crunch and dissolve quickly, giving you a burst of clean, mild salty flavor with each bite. These salts bring out the depth of natural flavors of any dish, and also add to a beautiful tableside presentation. The various colors and flakes of finishing salts make gorgeous garnishes for every meal.

Fleur de Sel is a common term used for a type of finishing salt. It is French for ”Flower of Salt” and is made from newly formed salt crystals which form on the surface of shallow pools of sea water. They are usually harvested by hand and are of the flake variety of finishing salts. The most common Fleur de Sel is French Grey, however, there are Fleur de Sel form around Europe and Asia with different names. Flaked salts are more delicate then coarse varieties which means they should be used on more delicate foods, for example, fish, seafood and desserts. However, both types, flake and coarse, can be used on all food types. There is nothing better then biting into a delicate chocolate mousse topped with a pinch of coarse Pink Himalayan salt; the crunch and flavor is amazing!

Finishing salts are not to be used for cooking and keep in mind that a little goes a long way. Finishing salts should be used during plating to not only highlight the foods unique attributes, textures and flavors but also to add to its visual appeal. Your choice of finishing salt is determined by the food you are cooking and, with that, there are many varieties to choose from. It can be very confusing, but do not let that intimidate you from using finishing salts. You will learn, with time, that you have developed a taste for a certain type and flavor. Using finishing salt is a fluid science and experimentation is the name of game here. But, if you are the type of person who needs structure, (I’m one of these people), there are many resources available that can help you determine when, how and what flavor of salt to use with a specific food. Again, there are absolutely no set rules which dictate which salts should be used on which foods. However, there are certain types and flavors which are more palatable with certain types of food.

At the shop, “What A Dish!” we offer ten different types of finishing salts with the line soon to be expanded by adding a selection of pink salts, notably Alaea Red Volcanic from Hawaii. Here is a list of what we have to offer at the shop and the suggested foods that they mix with nicely.

  • Meadow Flake: A pungent flavor which is excellent on sautéed vegetable and salads.
  • Lemon Flake: Wonderful on asparagus, fish, seafood and also in cocktails.
  • Black Truffle: Made with Italian truffle and perfect on egg dishes and pasta.
  • Red Alder Smoke: This fantastic salt is a perfect match on beef dishes, salads, fruit and nuts.
  • Sel Marin Noirmourtier: Great all-around salt.
  • Turkish Black Pyramid: This salt has an intense flavor. It is crunchy and brings a good texture to food.
  • Fleur de Hell: Made with ghost pepper. This “HOT” salt is a perfect match for Asian dishes.
  • Flor de Manzanillo: Harvested in Mexico, this finishing salt is wonderful on seafood, poultry and vegetables.
  • Sel Gris de Guerande; This salt is wonderful on fish, cheese and chocolate.

The concept here is simple, use a pinch of carefully chosen salt to highlight your foods flavor. The salt will combine with the food as it is eaten to help expand and develop its full flavor and richness while heightening its complexity.

Frank Dittmer is the owner and operator of What A Dish!, a shop at 8209 La Mesa Boulevard shop featuring Fiestaware and specialty foods. He writes occasionally on food topics.

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Tags: Finishing salts, Frank Dittmer, La Mesa Today, La Mesa foods, La Mesa news, La Mesa newspaper, What A Dish!

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Comment by David Stanley on October 19, 2013 at 4:25pm

My wife has collected several of these special salts but, not knowing "how" and "on what", I have been reluctant to use them for fear of over salting a dish. This is a great article and a great idea. Now I have someone who can direct me in their use as well an excellent source for additional salts for my personal spice selection.

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