Monday, December 7, 2009

Salt: A Steak's Third Layer

Contemporary cuisine teaches that each individual dish of great food should have three distinct layers of flavor: the dominant flavor, a complementary subdominant favor, and a third flavor "echo".

To attain SteakPerfection, the steak master creates three layers of flavor.

A prime-grade, abundantly-marbled, dry-aged, charcoal-grilled top-loin (New York cut) steak, perfectly trimmed and cooked, will have the three flavor profiles. The dominant flavor is beef, which evolves from the steak's quality and aging. The complementary subdominant flavor arises in the crust, which is imbued with the rich smoke flavors from live coals (e.g. mesquite, apple, red oak, etc.). The steak attains perfection only with a addition of a third layer of flavor. For a great steak, the third layer is a great salt -- a "finishing salt", which accompanies the steak in the small side-dish and which the diner pinches and adds to each bite.

There are many great finishing salts in the world. The best are the sea salts from the different nations and oceans of the world. Each sea salt has a unique chemical composition, which in turn add a different flavor echo.

Black Sea Salt, also called Sanchal, has a very powerful flavor profile. It is harvested in the Black Sea and produced in Turkey and is popular in South Asia and especially in North India. Its unique blend of minerals produces a sulfur-like flavor, which the lighter sea salts of Europe lack. On a great steak, the strong flavor profile of Black Sea Sale adds an intriguing and interesting third layer.

Pink Sea Salt from Hawaii receives its distinct color (more burnt sienna than pink or red) from the iron oxide present in the famous Hawaiian Red Clay. The very large salt crystals carry a strong earthiness flavor which complements a great steak, adding depth and complexity.

Halen Môn Sea Salt is harvested in Wales from the fresh Atlantic waters that surround the Isle of Anglesey - or Ynys Môn (pronounced 'un-iss mon'), as it is known in Welsh. The Halen Môn Sea Salt has very few mineral complexities, so its crystals are particularly white and its texture is very crunchy. Its unique flavor echoes sweetness, which enhances the great steak.

There are more than a dozen other great sea salts. But the greatest Sea Salt of all is indubitably "Fleur de Sel de Guérande" (the "flower of the sea from the City of Guérande"). Guérande lies on the coast of Brittany, where sea salt has been harvested since the Roman Empire. There exists the perfect combination of sun, wind, and lowland marshes, where evaporation intensifies the flavors of the nutrient-rich and trace-mineral-rich waters of the Bay of Biscay. The area includes the world's three most prominent areas for sea salt: Ile de Ré, Ile Noirmoutier, and Guérande, where the flavor complexities add an indescribably flavorful echo to the perfect steak.

For a particularly memorable occasion, each guest may be offered a variety of fine sea salts, served in a small, open container with three or four sections for the three or four sea salts. Each guest may pinch a sampling from one of the sea salts to sprinkle on a bite. The variety of sea salts will introduce the guest to the subtle echoes added by the different sea salts, which enhance SteakPerfection.

SteakPerfection is a complex process that involves every detail, from pasture to plate.
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