Monday, May 18, 2009

Sal y La Carne

There are some classic duos in the world. Batman and Robin, Abbot and Costello, Peas and Carrots, Lewis and Clark, Maverick and Goose (RIP), Bert and Ernie, The modern age and our collective slide toward idiocy, Wayne and Garth, TV preachers and big hair, Simon and Garfunkel, Romeo and Juliet, Luther and Erasmus, Barbie and Ken, and last but not least, Salt and My Palate.

I love salt.

So should you.

Salt is truly amazing. Want to know why? Look it up. For the purposes of this post lets just say that it is the single most important ingredient in joke. Some would argue and say fantastic stock, but they are just wrong.

The American Heart Association says that your daily intake of salt should not exceed one and a half teaspoons...this is ludicrous. Unless you have high blood pressure already forget about it and use salt liberally. It will do amazing things to your cooking. Ever wonder what the difference is between your not so great cooking and chefs who carry around Michelin stars around in their pockets like chump change? Well, a lot honestly, but one of the biggest things is that they really know how to use salt. I'm not even kidding. Next time you are at El Bulli or The Fat Duck ask them. Tell them I sent you too. They wont be impressed, but I will be.

In the spirit of salt I give you what we did with a half decent beef roast and a load of salt.

Preheat the oven to 450.

Above we have a three pound roast (in the saran wrap). It is nothing special. No great marbling of fat or anything to brag about. It's the kind that usually ends up like a chunk of shoe leather passed off as miserable "pot roast" at your co-workers house that you inevitably have to drench in some horrible "gravy" (read: powdered nastiness out of a bag reconstituted with some good ol' H20) just to get down. I mention this in order to evade the thousand of accusations from all two of the readers of this blog that I just got lucky because of a good piece of meat.

In the bowl we have:

- Two cups of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup freshly ground chili powder (New Mexico chilies)
- 6 cloves of diced garlic
- 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly chopped thyme

To this add just enough Canola oil to bring it all together into a dryish paste. It should take about 3/4 cup, but go slow. Too much is a killer.

After trimming up the roast take a sheet pan or roasting pan and line it with tin foil. Lay down a bed of the salt mixture slightly bigger than the roast you have. Then place the roast down and brush with oil. When the roast is covered start packing on the salt. This is the best part. It's like making a sand castle out of pure awesome that makes you so hungry you have to keep yourself from drooling.

Cook in the oven till the little ball of greatness hits 135 in the center. Yes, this is rare. Yes, you should eat it this way. No, if you like your meat well done you would not be my friend.

Some of the salt crust might fall off during the process. This is ok, just let it ride. When done tent it with foil and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Leave the house if you have to. Those juices will get sucked back into the meat and leave you with beef twice as savory.

Above we have a twist on the Argentine classic chimichurri. I had a ton of cilantro sitting around so decided to switch it out for the traditional parsley. Turned out awesome.

Cimichurri Inventado

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
2 minced shallots
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Just blend it and let it sit for a few hours. You'll want to put it on everything, including your face (not recommended), so make some extra.

Here is the finished product. No, the picture is not world class. You are lucky to get anything at all...this was too good to mess around with.

Be sure to save some of the salt mixture, now baked and unique in flavor and texture, for crumbling on the slices of meat after plating. Set out a bowl as well. Be warned however. You will inevitably look like a crazy person in front of whomever sits around your table for the meal due to the fact that you will be unconscious licking fingers and sticking them unapologetically into the bowl to get "just one more taste."

This was served up with a quick cold salad of cucumber and tomato in balsamic with fresh red and yellow pepper jullianed on top.

Now go find yourself a chunk of beef, a box of salt, some kind of fire, and get to it.

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