It might not hold true for everyone, but for me there came a distinct moment in college when I remember discovering my true appreciation for food. As an undergrad working face-to-face several nights a week with Chef Hamilton at The Spiced Pear in Newport, RI, I watched, listened, and discovered everything possible in his kitchen. I would go home after shift, head spinning from my necessity to digest and present the specifics of each menu item as though they were my own. His menu changed daily, which meant memorization of the amuse bouche, canapé, assortment of freshly baked artisanal breads, two different tasting menus plus their wine pairings (can’t forget the proper glass and utensil for each dish!), and who could forget (not me!) the dessert selection. It was there on that kitchen line that I felt electric, observing the instantaneous effect the Chef’s artful presentation had on a person when it arrived to the table. Though I had no ownership of his dishes, I treasured those fleeting moments of joy.
One curiosity I will never forget while working at The Spiced Pear was the absence of salt and pepper shakers on the tables. That, I learned in time, was because the food arrived tasting as it was intended to be tasted. I recall being a little miffed at this unfamiliar concept, but it didn’t take long for me to learn to trust in Chef Hamilton’s palate. This led to my discovery of finishing salts. These bold salts are used to season AFTER food has been cooked. They add extra ‘oomph,’ a little something to take your meal to the next level. I love unexpected surprises, and this is one way to add unique qualities such as texture and dimension to a dish without being a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. For my friends with a taste for salt, you may want to hydrate before what I’m about to show you.
Each Christmas I like to give out something from my kitchen, and this year, I thought I would share a quick, but impressive DIY project to wow your family, friends, and maybe even a coworker at a holiday party. My creation for the 2013 Holiday Season: Red Wine Finishing Salt. Enjoy!
Cheers to living giving,
Red Wine Finishing Salt
1 bottle Saltwater Farm Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Franc
Merlot Bordeaux Blend
1.5 cups flake or kosher sea salt… may we suggest a trip to the Spice and Tea Exchange of Mystic?
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Empty the bottle of wine into a 2 qt saucepan over medium high heat and simmer down to a syrupy consistency, about 3 tbsp. You might even try this in a crock pot (no lid) if you are worried about becoming distracted. Walk away for too long and you may come back to an empty pot or burnt wine!
Allow time to cool.
Mix the syrup with your salt of choice in a bowl using a wooden spoon, and spread evenly on your prepared cookie sheet. Allow time to dry overnight on your counter*. The finished product will have more moisture than what you may be used to, that is perfectly okay!
*Alternately, you may place the cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven for 15-20 minutes if, and ONLY IF, you are certain of your ovens calibration. If you are not sure, get yourself an oven thermometer. A wasted bottle of good wine is a crying shame!
The last step is to package your salt. Since these are meant to be used one pinch at a time, smaller glass jars are best and will make your holiday gifting go a long way. I found mine at the Spice and Tea Exchange of Mystic as well as Fiddleheads Food Coop.