Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Salt & Pepper Puts a Roof Over Our Head" Salt, and It's Importance In Cooking

My fond interest of salt began when I had just started a new job at the restaurant I will soon call home once again. I was a daytime grill man and for the first 2 weeks I was not salting my food, the chef of course noticed this immediately and berated me about it daily. He called me "salt and pepper" and then everyone else began to as well. I didn't understand how important these little granules actually were until I began to taste things with and without it. The quote above, (see title) is from the very Chef who gave me this nickname and it has been one of the best lessons that I have learned during my culinary career. To this day I will still answer to that name. When I began to taste differences in the food I was producing I started to see what the Chef had been talking about and pounding into my head all this time.
Salt is a vital part of our lives and well being. It has many effects on the body, it is an essential component of our diet and keeps the body running correctly. NaCi (sodium chloride) or better known as salt, breaks down in the body and provides it with Sodium which the body is not able to manufacture on it's own. Sodium is a primary electrolyte and is vital to almost all of the body's movements and nerve impulses, without it we would not be able to function. It also provides the body with Chloride which is essential to our digestive and respiratory systems. It is also essential for osmosis, which is the process in which enables water to travel through the cell walls. This is vital in keeping osmotic pressure of the body's cells at an equilibrium. Bust as we all know to much, salt can also be dangerous for the human body. It can cause dehydration, through the process of osmosis the cell's water is pulled out by the sodium and the body can dehydrate. It can also cause high blood pressure which can damage blood cells and cause stroke or heart attack. This is the reason why we have seen such a boost in the amounts of "low sodium" diets out there in the past few years.
Another important food enhancing technique that involves the use of salt is brining. Brining is generally done with the solution of salt, water and sugar. It can be done to all types of meats as well as vegetables. When brining meats, the meat is submerged in the salt solution for an amount time, in which the salt is able to penetrate into the meat and flavor the inner most parts of the meat. It also enables the meat to absorb water and keep the natural juices inside of it. This is due to the high concentration of salt and water on the outside of the meats cell walls. Without the presence of slat in our food there would be no flavor or taste, it would be bland and would not reach out grab your taste buds like the food that is considered to be great does.
Thank goodness for salt!

Sous Chef David Fierstein Henry's Restaurant, www.henrysofboca.com

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