Today I learned something: A large block of pink Himalayan salt used as a skillet makes a heavy cast iron frying pan seem like tin foil. Himalayan salt blocks cook with astonishingly, almost magically perfect heat distribution.
I cooked eggs this morning for The Missus. In a futile attempt to temporarily sooth her implacable appetite for eggs, I cooked two “dishes”:
Salt Skillet Fried Egg
Buttered Salt Skillet Fried Egg
Every morning for the last ten years or so, I have been greeted with the same refrain:
“Mmmm… (whuh?) I’m in the mood… (uh?) A nice… (a nice?…) fried egg.”
So, these are the mystical rhythms of the female mind. An eternity of the soporific/invigorating smell of eggs sizzling on butter on a skillet downstairs, salted delicately with Pangasinan Star or Fleur de Sel de l’Ile de Re, or, on an occasion of rare deviation, truffle salt.
But not today.
“Mmmm… (whuh?) I’m in the mood… (uh?) A nice… (a nice?…) salt brick.”
Today, Jennifer, with at least 85% of her brain still sleeping, decided that she wanted her Saturday Morning Egg cooked on a large block of Himalayan Salt. I don’t know if it is because she has caught on the midnight vibe of Himalayan Pink Salt Block writing that pervades the house like the surly ghost of Ezra Pound, or whether it was some creative impulse of her own, but the request was there.
Pursuant to Jennifer’s request, I cooked up two fried eggs on a thick but smallish-sized Himalayan salt block. The first egg I fried straight up, with no butter or other oil. Just me, the egg, and a 600 million year old plate of salt quarried from the ancient haunches of Pakistan’s Himalayas mountain range.
Step one, heat salt block. This particular block is of a salmon hue, but striated with blood-red veins of denser minerals. A few customers at The Meadow have given me somewhat suspicious looks when I suggest cooking eggs, pancakes, and other gooey substances on rocks of Himalayan salt. I chose one from our embarrassingly large collection because it was smaller than many of the others, measuring 6 by 6 by 1.75 inches.
Still, it took about 20 minutes to get it hot. (After about fifteen minutes on medium heat on the medium-sized burner of our gas range, I turned it up to full for another 2-3 minutes.)
I cracked the egg and tested whether the salt block was hot enough by letting a small amount of egg white drip onto the surface. Noting that it immediately sizzled and turned white, I then plopped the entire egg, yolks unbroken, in the middle of the brick and partially covered with a saucepan lid.
In one minute I had THE WORLDS MOST PERFECT FRIED EGG. Just-crispy whites, luscious liquid/gelatinous yolk, and get this: it was delicately salty on the down side of the egg! Imagine what your palat experiences when it gets the salt-singed bit of the egg first, and THEN the egg itself! The tongue is stimulated, the mouth awakens, the higher sensory faculties of anticipation and sunny delight engaged, for in one happy second the world is salty eggyness. But then, rather than have that drift into salt-laden overkill, that delicate unfleshly avian endoplasm comes through in an a moment of delicate triumph. Suffice it to say, Jennifer was pleased.
For the second, I buttered the slab of Himalayan salt thoroughly. A nice bulky brick of buttered salt block: springboard for the wildest of rampages through the culinary unknown. Anticipation in the kitchen was palpable. First, the butter, strangely, did not burn at all, but rather just spread like pale honey across the surface of the very hot salt Himalayan block. I fried the egg, partially covered again.
Amazingly enough, given the relative exoticness of the tools at hand, the egg’s glory was in its simplicity. Perfect texture, and above all, perfectly evenly cooked. I said it above and I’ll say it again, the heat distribution when cooking on salt blocks, whether on an open fire or over a gas burner or on top of an electric range (more on that another time) or in an oven or under a broiler is unsurpassed. I have a very heavy, very old cast iron skillet that nonetheless could never get delicate foods like eggs to cook to thoroughly. I have a brand new, state of the art calphalon pan that cost about $75,000 that can’t hold a candle to it.
Jennifer’s observation was this: “I have never had an egg so hot!”
One other note: the buttered Himalayan pink salt block did not impart more than a trace hint of saltiness. Rather, the result was a very subtly salted egg that could then be tuned up with a pinch of Maldon or a fleur de sel.
You can buy Himalayan salt plates at The Meadow.