Name-brand artisan salts
Because sooner or later the marketing flacks and hipsters come in to ruin everything, we now have specialized, name-brand salts. Most claim to be absolutely perfect for one damn thing or another. Most of the time, it's about the same difference as between Nike and Reebok, but if you try some and find them different, who are we to tell you you’re wrong? A few of the more common name-brand salts include:
Not a variety of dispensary weed (well, not just that), it’s pulled from ancient sea-salt deposits in Pakistan. You can use it as an ingredient or finisher, or buy a slab to use for serving food on, which is the preferred use for elk in Williamsburg.
Fleur de sel
One of the original name-brand salts, they make this stuff by scraping the surface of grey salt pools so the grains don’t get contaminated by the muck on the sides. Use it on pretty much anything, if you can afford the top-shelf-brand price.
An unrefined pink salt with a pungent odor. It goes well with eggs, and is part of the flavor profile for authentic lassi drinks, if you’re a stickler for that.
Mixed with activated charcoal, it’s sold as a detox agent to idiots. It also has a strong crunch, and can look pretty badass sprinkled over a light-colored dish like zucchini or whitefish.
Jacobsen's sea salt
Out of (of course) Portland, OR, Jacobsen’s is pretty much on every upscale menu in town (yes, Portland really does put the kind of salt its dishes use on menus). Honey salt. Lemon zest salt. Pinot noir salt. Basically, you can do this all day, like Bubba, but with high blood pressure instead of elevated levels of iodine.
Deeper into the salt mine
This is only the tip of the salt iceberg, folks. Besides regular salts, you have a whole range of seasoned and smoked salts -- which are either mined with flavorful impurities or have extras added after refinement. You also have pickling, rock, and bath salts. Pickling salts are, unsurprisingly, for pickling foods. Rock salt is lubricant for your homemade ice cream. You take bath salts so human faces are delicious.
Our point is that salt is a whole new way to get your geek on with your cooking. Like all true cooking adventures, your job is to branch out and experiment. Find out what you like best, or what impresses your girlfriend’s parents most, and, to quote the poets at Frank's RedHot, "put that shit on everything."
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Jason Brick is a voracious reader, heroic drinker, and awesome dad (not necessarily in that order of importance). When not testing the theoretical limits of awesome, he practices martial arts so he can beat people up for teasing him about how much he likes playing Dungeons & Dragons. Find out more at brickcommajason.com.