Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Importance of Salt

My mother's recipe for stuffed peppers is adapted from a very old Betty Crocker recipe for "porcupine" meatballs.  Supposedly, if you add uncooked rice to the meatballs mixture, as it cooks in a slow cooker, the rice will work to the surface and poke out resembling quills on a porcupine.

This is a dish I grew up with (although admittedly I preferred it when she just made meatballs because I didn't like the green peppers as a kid).  I've had this dish for nearly 40 years.  So when I bit into a stuffed pepper made with her recipe recently, I knew immediately something was wrong.

Aside from the fact that I had apparently been a too heavy handed with the Tabasco Sauce (in our family, it's always Tabasco, never another brand of pepper sauce), I'd been much too conservative with the salt in the meat mixture.  I was reminded of something I'd heard Tom Colicchio, judge on Top Chef said on the show recently, "If you add something well seasoned to something not seasoned, you don't end up with flavor; you end up with bland."  He was right.  What I had was something that was an odd combination of too spicy and bland all at the same time.

Even if you're on a low sodium diet or prefer not to use too much salt, you do need to use it at least in moderate amounts to achieve flavor.  Herbs and spices can add different flavors, but salt enhances the flavor of the other ingredients.  If you cannot afford anything else by way of seasonings, make sure you buy and use salt.  I prefer sea salt, which is 5 times more than regular table salt, but still reasonably priced.

When cooking with cheeses, canned broths, seafood, and other naturally salty foods, you might want to be cautious with the amount of salt you use in a dish.  But for goodness sake, when cooking most dishes, the first seasoning you should reach for is salt.

No comments:

Post a Comment