It is not good for you, I was told many times. But the craving is there- I need it. If it were scarce, I’d hoard it. And I am not exactly shy about my habit. I will use it as often as can, getting my fix over the gasps and health related warnings. The simple white dust transforms bland into extraordinary. A sprinkle of it turns blah into wow. A pinch masks bitterness. And as it disintegrates, its little particles release pure magic.
Salt is amazing. And I have been addicted to it desperately for a long time. I have been known to have dinner somewhere and reach in the little jar with my fingers at the table only to taste it. A couple of times. Ok, maybe several times. If salt is as good as the one they have at say Frasca, I might sneakingly feast on it. It is flaky, subtle, and flavorful with particles that melt in your mouth quickly and leave a delicate trace of salty goodness.
While I may be heavy handed with these crystal grains, I seriously think that it deserves credit for transforming our food in a way nothing else does. It is a basic match with our taste and a necessity of the human body. I am not about to give you a speech on what salt is made of and why it is healthy or not or in what quantities. There are plenty of much more qualified sources to educate you on that. Take the Salt Institute for example- yes there is one. Or for a more fun approach Michael Ruhlman in this article. I will say that sodium intake problems are vastly related to processed foods and not the salt shaker; even sodas or cereal have hidden sodium.
Not all salt is created equal. Texture and flavor are major considerations in picking salt favorites. I like flaky, quickly-dissolving, gentle in flavor, ever so slightly moist. A treat for me is fleur de sel, a natural sea salt harvested by hand with flavors that vary from region to region. I hate table salt because of its texture and am not big on Hawaiian rock salt because of its slightly bitter taste. My everyday and much beloved salt is Morton’s coarse kosher salt. The flakes are perfectly sized, it disintegrates at the perfect rate, and it is mild in flavor, not overwhelming but simply complementing vegetables and meats.
I own up to my addiction- I love salt. And instead of trying to kick this not-so-nasty habit, I embrace it. And if you make this chicken, it may just be that one time you need to get hooked on the white powder.You can find this recipe in my favorite cookbook, the Colorado Organic- cooking seasonally, eating locally.
Ingredients: one 3-4 pound chicken, 1 to 2 pounds kosher salt. (and it's easy to make too!)
Heat up your oven to 400 degrees.
In a baking pan that fits your chicken loosely without leaving too much room, sprinkle a thin layer of salt. Place your chicken, breast up, on top of this layer of salt and begin to form the crust of salt.
Wield that box of white goodness over the chicken. Don’t be shy- I won’t tell anyone! Rain the white droplets liberally and as uniformly as you can. I use a spray bottle to make the salt stick to the chicken and the salt granules stick to each other. You can also wet your hands and get the salt moist enough to form a crust when it heats up. Form your crust and get it ready for the oven!
This 3 pound chicken took an hour and a quarter to be perfectly cooked.
Let it rest for 30 minutes. The crust hardens and will come off easy leaving your chicken intact. You will be able to crack it open and remove it in big chunks. This will leave the chicken virtually clean of it, but the skin will be pretty salty and is not to be served...although I may have nibbled on a few pieces of it every time I made it.
Juicy, tender, and gently infused with salt! Serve it with your favorite seasonal side dishes.
Photography by Jennifer Olson.