Icelandic Birch Smoked Sea Salt

Icelandic Birch Smoked sea salt is, first off, the only birch smoked salt I know of on the American market. So it’s tempting to say, “Icelandic Birch Smoked salt the best birch smoked salt on the market!”  Which it is.  But that aside, the birch smoked sea salt a beautiful salt even among its fine peers in the burgeoning realm of smoked salts.  Icelandic Birch balances many of the best qualities of the other top smoked salts.  It is rich like Halen Mon Smoked (Welsh oak smoked–a real bad boy), and faintly sweet like Kauai Guava Smoked (cured guava tree wood, a solid enough salt, but lacking any pizazz in terms of crystalline structure), and mild like Maldon Smoked (mixed hardwood smoked, nice enough, but among the least spectacular smoked salts in terms of aroma, yet boasting Maldon’s sea salt’s magnificent crystals).  Icelandic is milder than any of those, but full bodied, able to stand easily on it’s own two feet.

But the crystals!  Jumbled grains, unpredictable, like exploded birdseed.  Gallimaufry of crystals that crackle with every bite, somewhere between a flake and a granule.  Icelandic Birch Smoked sea salt is naturally mineral-rich, putting a clean, full mineral flavor at the the foundation of the lush smoke aroma.

Icelandic Birch Smoked sea salt is awesome on less fatty proteins such snapper or cod or haddock or pork or game meats or fowl. Or starches like fingerling potatoes or salads of roasted tomatoes and wilted greens. Icelandic Birch Smoked sea salt is produced using 100% geothermal energy from hot springs in the northwest of Iceland, making it one of the most sustainable flake salts available. This salt is hand-harvested using an old, traditional 17th century method and yields pyramid-like crystal salt ¬flakes that are then smoked with Birch from the Nordic region.

You can find this salt for sale at The Meadow’s online store.

Admiralty Sea Salt

Admiralty Sea Salt crystals boast an exquisitely fine balance between microfine spark-like flakes and occasional jumbled bit of pastry-crust crumbling granules. And it tastes beautiful, too. Think salads. Every day. Most likely Admiralty Sea Salt will find its way to the center of your dining room table and stay there, until you run out.

Admiralty is made by Ricardo Valdes, whose experience as a chef shines through in the salt plays on food. It is exceptionally user-friendly.  On blanched or steamed vegetables, where the vegetables are the star of the show,  it makes barely a murmur.  On fish, it steps up and lends a mild but pronounced pungency that elevates the umami richness of the protein, becoming just enough of a distraction to elevate the dish to something more sophisticated.

Chef Valdez makes Admiralty Sea Salt from the frigid currents of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, on the West side of Whidbey Island, about 40 miles north of Seattle, Washington,.  Impurities are filtered from the water prior to the salt making process. The brine is then reduced down, and the resulting salt crystals are steamed to achieve a delicate and flaky finished product.

Admiralty sea salt is available for retail and wholesale at The Meadow. 

Osso Bucco with Sel Gris Gremolata

Osso Bucco with Sel Gris Gremalata

Man Ray. Some names were just tailor made for greatness. If my parents had thought to name me Man instead of Mark I might actually have made something of myself. Picasso. Nobody named Picasso could not be great, if you know what I mean. The name, Osso bucco has that air of irrefutable deliciousness. Veal shank braised in aromatic herbs, spices, and vegetables, a bit of wine and the incredible mouth feel of veal bone marrow that dissipates slowly through the flesh, marrying everything in buttery richness, by any other name would be as glorious. So how do you salt a Picasso?

The classic approach to seasoning osso bucco is to add sel gris up front, with the intention of letting the salt do its magic, slowly permeating the meat, helping to tenderize it and develop its flavors. In truth, the cooking method is sufficient to tenderize the meat, and the minerals naturally present in veal are enough to flavor it, especially since braising concentrates natural flavors. The cast of characters such as mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) supporting the osso bucco don’t need salt to cook properly, though they can definitely use a touch for emphasis. With these facts and thoughts in hand, we can lightly deconstruct the immaculate osso bucco and approach salting it with a fresh perspective, salting less up front and adding a noble salt (like Piran Sel Gris) to its garnish of gremolata that traditionally tops Milanese dishes, providing us with a new name for perfection

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Thanksgiving Turkey Brine with Sel Gris de l’Ile de Noirmoutier


A brine is a salt solution that denatures protein. This means the salt in the brine unravels the spiral formation of the protein molecules, resulting in many more places for water to bond onto the meat. For some lean turkey meat or low-moisture pork (especially ribs), brining can add up to 10% moisture.

Poultry loves a brine. But not all brines are created equal. The major advantage to brining is that it adds moisture to lean, low-moisture meats – turkey is a prime candidate. In addition to more moisture, brined turkey has more tender flesh and a plumper texture.

Salt pans of Ile de ReMost brine recipes call for an industrially-refined salt such as kosher or table salt. Such salts lack the beautiful magnesium, potassium, and calcium salts that occur naturally and make for a flatter, duller salt sensation—to say nothing of the 80 other sundry minerals that are found in all natural, unrefined salt. Many salts marketed as “sea salt” – manufactured in huge industrial salt evaporators optimized for yield and global industrial purity standards – are stripped of their natural minerals as well. Brines are straightforward – a solution of salt, water, sugar and spices – and whatever you put in them gets absorbed into the meat, so you should take care with what you use. Please use natural salt in your brine. It makes a huge difference.

I recommend any natural sel gris (aka gray salt, or gros sel) for brining. A 2 pound 8 ounce bag of excellent sel gris costs $18, and it will leave you with plenty left over for sprinkling on candied yams as a finishing salt, not to mention on buttered crusty Thanksgiving dinner rolls. In fact, the bag will easily take you through the holidays and into the new year. Sel gris is just about as old-school beautiful as any salt made. Plus, all sels gris are especially rich in trace minerals, insuring a flavor that is balanced and full. Actually, there’s another plus: minerals in the salt are absorbed into the turkey along with the water, so you get more of all the good things salt has to offer.

Ingredients and recipe for a 16 lb bird.

  • 1 1/2 cup sel gris (gray salt) or natural traditional sea salt
  • 2 gallons of cold water. Like the salt, the water should be good. (I err on the safe side and avoid tap water, which contains lots of chlorine. Instead, buy a few jugs of spring water of some sort, and your turkey will not smell like a swimming pool.)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium-sized branches rosemary
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 6 leaves sage
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed
  • 9 fat peppercorns, preferably, Parameswaran’s pepper, with it’s succulent lemon-zesty-eucalyptusy-cardamom spice flavors

Bring 2 cups of the water to a boil, mixing in all the above ingredients to dissolve the salt as much as possible. Let the water cool for half an hour, then combine back with remaining water to make your brine. Put turkey in double layer food grade plastic bag breast down, pour cold brine solution over bird, get all excess air out of bag and tie off. Place bagged brined bird in fridge and let soak for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove bird from fridge, pat dry very thoroughly, and rub with a thin film of olive oil. Stuff with the stuffing of your choice, truss to hold stuffing in place, and roast. Cook until the internal temperature of the bird (at the inner thick part of the thigh) is 165°F, about 2 1/2 hours. I know this doneness temperature might be lower than what you are used to. Many older cookbooks call for roasting turkey to 180°F. This is excessive. Bacteria (including salmonella bacteria) is killed at 145°F and roasting poultry much beyond 165°F dries it out. In the case of a brined bird roasting to too high a temperature can drain out all the moisture you took so much time to get in there. You’ll get much better results by stopping roasting at 165°F.

Allow the roasted turkey to sit for 20 minutes before carving (you can cover it loosely with foil or a clean towel if you want); a rest period will help the bird retain its juices and firm the meat for easier carving.

Scoop the stuffing into a serving bowl; carve and serve.


[Reposted from an earlier blog post]

Salt Block Cooking: 70 Recipes for Grilling, Chilling, Searing, and Serving on Himalayan Salt Blocks

My second book, Salt Block Cooking: 70 Recipes for Grilling, Chilling, Searing, and Serving on Himalayan Salt Blocks, will be released on May 28th everywhere books are sold! (if you want a signed copy, please buy from The Meadow’s online store here>>) I want to take a moment to introduce the book to you, and share a few of the recipes it includes. My publisher Andrews McMeel did an incredible job crafting the book itself. It’s a gorgeous hardback, 224 pages long and has over 100 full color photographs.

Salt Block Cooking is a comprehensive guide to the craft of cooking with Himalayan salt in its rough, primordial state–which is to say, as a rock. Salt blocks are boulders of 600 million year old rock salt that are cut into slabs or lathed into cups and bowls for use in the kitchen and at the table.

Cooking with salt blocks is emerging as a powerful but accessible technique, appearing everywhere from Iron Chef America competitions to ritzy Las Vegas steak houses to backyard family barbecues.  Everyone who sees it or tastes food made with it recognized the flavorful, flashy fun that salt blocks have to offer. But until now, the enormous potential has not been explored.  Cooking on salt blocks is indeed fun, but it is also a revolutionary cooking technique that promises serious benefits for cooks and eaters of every stripe.

‘Salt Block Cooking’  provides simple, modern recipes that illustrate the principles of preparing and serving food on Himalayan salt. Beginners will benefit from helpful information on shopping for a block, maintenance, heating, cooling, handling, serving, and cooking with their blocks. More adventurous salt block cooks will find an array of new tips, techniques and recipes (salt block curing a slice of watermelon into a savory prosciutto-like “ham”, anyone?).

My book is divided into seven sections, an introduction serving as an Owner’s Manual, and six cooking chapters, each providing information and recipes for mastering a core technique:

Introduction to Salt Blocks: Where are Himalayan salt blocks, where do they come from, and how are they used? The introduction will answer all your questions about how to select and use your Himalayan salt block.  Think of this as the user guide or owner’s manual.  It includes detailed instructions for warming, chilling, and cooking with your block, and how to clean up afterwards, with pictures to guide you every step of the way.

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What is Saindhava Lavana?

Rocks of Saindhava Lavana (aka Himalayan Pink Salt)Saindhava lavana is name for Himalayan Pink rock salt. The word “Saindhava” refers to the ancient Sindhu Kingdom talked of in the Indian epic The Mahabharata. The Sindhu kingdom was located in the Indus river valley in modern day Pakistan. “Lavana” means “salt”. So Saindhava Lavana means salt that comes from the region of the Indus river valley. The famous Khewra Salt Mine, one of the primary sources of Saindhava Lavana, is located in the foothills at the head of the valley beside one of the tributaries of the Indus.

Saindhava lavana, which is mined in Pakistan, is sold widely in India as a culinary salt. Many Indians mistakenly believe the salt actually originates in India. Saindhava lavana is also the base salt that goes into making Kala Namak and Sajji salts. Saindhava Lavana is also sold in Europe and the United States as “Himalayan Pink” or “Himalayan Pink Sea Salt” (even though it is a rock salt). It is ground and used as a culinary salt, carved into salt lamps, and also carved into Himalayan salt blocks used for cooking and serving food. My new book, “Salt Block Cooking,” details how to use these blocks for grilling, chilling, and serving food.

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