Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cooking On A Salt Block

A close friend of mine introduced me to "salt block" cooking on his "Green Egg" a couple of weeks ago, and so last night I treated my wife to a multi-course meal cooked in this manner.  She loved it!

You can find these "salt plates", "salt blocks", "salt slabs", or whatever you want to call yours, at lots of places for between $25 and $35; depending on the size.  I bought a large one, because I'm a big boy and will eat a lot!  If you eat like a bird, then get one of those tiny things!

We went to the local "fresh market" where they sell lots of seafood, vegetables, and red meat.  I found some lovely bacon-wrapped scollops on a skewer, some fresh unpeeled large shrimp, a thin ribeye steak, and a beautiful salmon pinwheel.  I also gathered an onion, an orange and yellow bell pepper, a lemon, an avocado, and a large potato from their large commercial garden. 
Now here is my first tip, and the most important tip of all, in salt block cooking!  SLOWLY HEAT UP THE BLOCK!  If you don't your block will crack!  Luckily for me mine cracked in a narrow strip on one side, so it is not completely useless.  However, if like me, you forget and crank it up on high immediately, then the next time you use it, you can butt the ends tightly together and cook.  

START THE HEAT OUT LOW and continually raise the heat until it's screaming hot!  You eventually want the block to be at least 400 degrees.  You don't have to have a "Green Egg".  You can see my gas grilled worked fine.
There is a considerable amount of prep involved; slicing the peppers, the onion, the lemon, and whatever you choose to cook.  I can't think of much you can't cook this way, and why, you ask do you even want to?!  It's because of the flavor the food picks up from the Himalayan salt block.  If you want less of a salt taste, then use a little more olive oil on the food.  Bath everything you are going to cook in olive oil...the more oil the less salt taste the block will impart to the food.  I like salt, so I just used it sparingly.

Now we did not use the block to cook our potato slices.  I bathed them in olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet in the oven.  About 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  My wife topped them with a thin layer of cheese and sour cream.
Out on the grill, I first cooked the meat items, and the hot salt block cooks things very rapidly.  Don't leave them unattended, or you will over cook.  I did leave the steak on longer, but that's because my wife don't want to see any pink!

Then the vegetables go on, and they cook very quickly...about 2 to 3 minutes a side and everything is ready for the plate!

We groaned and moaned our way through the main course!  It tasted soooo gooood!
While we rested, I put an avocado on the salt block.  In all honesty, this part added nothing to the overall meal, but it was something my buddy had offered me when we tested his salt block, and I wanted Judy to have the same experience.  It could have been prepared first as an appetizer, in hindsight, but that's for next time.
Once the avocado was cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes, I put regular salsa and salsa verde into the center.  It was buttery smooth, with a little kick from the salsas.

I then moved on to serving her some "salt block watermelon", which she didn't particularly like, but the experiment lesson here is, try everything you can think of on the hot salt block.  The taste it imparts is unique and tasty.
The last entree was a dessert of cooked peaches with vanilla ice cream!  Judy loved this!

The block gave the fresh peach a nice hint of salt, and the heat slowly melted the ice cream.  It was delicious!

So, I urge you to experiment with "salt block" cooking.  I think the experience would be greatly enhanced if it were don't at an outdoor bar, near your grill, where you could serve up each entree as it cooks steaming hot off the block.  It's kind of like eating a smorgasbord of appetizers.  It's light and healthy eating, and can make for a very romantic evening!    
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