When chefs speak of 'seasoning' they mean salt which brings out the flavors of other ingredients. Food can be bland without it. Premium salts often contain additional minerals which may affect flavor. More importantly, their taste can be enhanced by their structure. These sorts of salts are called "finishing salts". Don't use them for your every day salt, instead add them at the end of preparation as a crunchy, flavor enhancer. Maldon Salt, first appeared on the scene in 1882 and, according to the maker, has a "unique pyramid shape . . . as distinctive as the taste of the salt itself. Chefs and cooks everywhere love the texture of Maldon Salt." We set out to show off these traits.
The results: a spicy cocktail featuring honey, rimmed with Maldon Salt for a tasty crunch, chocolate almond clusters topped with Maldon Salt and sugar, and a chocolate bar coated with an almond/honey mixture also topped with Maldon Salt. All together, they make an excellent brunch or dinner treat that can be whipped up a lot faster than you might think.
And, perhaps, a real treat for the holidays....
Queen Bee Sting Cocktail
There are various cocktails with the given name of Queen Bee. Here we present our variation on the Bee Sting, with a crown of Maldon Salt. We wouldn't think of calling it anything else.
14g (about 1 TB) honey
pinch chili pepper flakes (1/8 tsp. more or less, to taste)
1/2 TB water
3/4 oz. orange juice
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. lime juice
2 oz. vodka
1/8 oz. blood orange liqueur
Several dashes of orange bitters
Rim a martini glass with the Maldon Salt.
Combine the water, pepper flakes and honey in a heat proof container and heat in the microwave just for a moment to allow the flavors to infuse and slightly thin the honey. Let cool a bit, then combine with the rest of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake quickly with ice to cool then strain into the martini glass.
Makes 1 cocktail.
Notes: You can omit the blood orange liqueur and bitters if you don't have them (or something similar) around. If you like a cooler drink, use a tiny bit of crushed ice in the glass.
Chocolate Almond Clusters topped with Sugar and Salt
1 3.5 oz bar of 72% cacao chocolate
1 cup toasted almonds
Sugar, preferably coarse. Turbinado is what we used.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or carefully in a heat proof container in the microwave (we used a pyrex measuring cup). Mix in the almonds making sure to completely coat them. Drop by teaspoons onto a non-stick surface such as a Silpat or parchment paper. Sprinkle the sugar then salt on top. Let cool until hardened.
Tips: The sugar on top is nice but could be omitted or even use brown sugar for a different flavor profile. Some of the salt may disappear into the treat. To show off the Maldon Salt's crunch, hold off until the chocolate can no longer melt the salt but sticky enough so that the salt stays put. We used a small Silpat that we put on a small baking tray and stuck them in the freezer for a quick cool down. Have some extra almonds around in case 1 cup isn't enough to use up all the chocolate. You could use just about any good chocolate, even chocolate chips. If you don't have a Silpat or parchment paper, a lightly greased baking tray should be fine, particularly if you are cooling them in the freezer.
Honey/Almond Coated Chocolate Bar
Bringing our salt and honey theme full circle...
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup honey
1 TB sugar (we used a coarse Turbinado sugar)
1 3.5 oz bar of 72% cacao chocolate
Chop the almonds into very small pieces. In a small heat proof container (we used a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup) microwave the honey and sugar until it just starts to foam up. Add the chopped nuts and heat until it again just starts to foam up. (Don't overcook or it will get hard.) Place the chocolate bar on a non-stick surface such as a Silpat or parchment paper. Evenly spread the heated mixture onto the chocolate bar. Place in the freezer to cool down. When cool, but still sticky, sprinkle with Maldon Salt and return to freezer. When hard, break into bite-size pieces.
Notes: If using a device such as a food processor to chop the almonds, be careful not to turn them into a fine powder. You want some crunch. Be careful when heating things like this in the microwave. The temperatures can get to scalding in an instant.