When I was in culinary school, I found the liberal use of salt almost as appalling as the even more liberal use of butter. Instructions to season to taste had nothing to do with fresh herbs or pepper. It really meant add salt. It took me about four months to finally add enough salt to my dishes to appease my instructors.
The sad part is that the only real criticism of my final practicum, the preparation of four courses in 3.5 hours of culinary chaos (picture food flying, pulse pounding and a few near misses with the gas stove), was that my food was a bit "too salty." Bah! Finally I found the line and crossed it. Good to know there is one because I was starting to wonder.
My love for cooking leads me to use more fresh than packaged foods, which are naturally low in salt. But when I cook I can still hear my French chef instructor's voice in my head saying, "it needs more salt la!" which has made my salt use more generous over time. Recently I wondered…have I gone too far?
Salt can enhance flavours but needs to be used judiciously; a little goes a long way. When I cook at home, I may add a pinch or two to the entire dish during cooking or a few sprinkles of coarse salt at the end. As an experiment, the other night when I added salt to my cooking, I put an equal amount in a bowl. At the end of my cooking I measured it out; it was less than ¼ of a teaspoon. Divided up among 4 servings, that is actually pretty small compared to the sodium in many ready-to-eat entrees. I'm doing better than I thought!
Cooking from scratch gives me flexibility as I can control how much salt goes into my food and I can take advantage of other flavour enhancers like fresh herbs, vinegars and wine to add that pièce de résistance to my dishes.
Salt is one way to help develop flavours in a dish, but it's easy to go overboard. How do you take stock of your salt?