Have you heard of this new trend? Cooking on an enormous block of 600 million year old Himalayan pink salt? Seriously! At the price of pink salt, you wouldn’t think there was enough salt in all the Himalayas to be able to sell it in 25 lb slabs. But apparently there is. For now anyway. And made for all of us galley pirates that can’t let a cooking trend go by without giving it a test drive.
Did you catch that weight? Yup, 25 pounds! Not exactly sailboat friendly. But this was a Mother’s Day gift from my skipper. And after all, he was the one just raving about salt plate cooking after a gourmet treat on a ski trip. I wouldn’t suggest taking this cruising, but it turns out to be a great cooking plate for a small get together on the hook or at the dock.
The beauty of a salt plate is that it retains its temperature…hot or cold…for up to 20 minutes. So it can be used chilled as a serving platter…great for deviled eggs and shrimp cocktail …or hot enough to cook on. Tonight, we’re going with the hot plate cooking method.
There are strict procedures to follow when cooking with a salt plate. The plate has to be heated up VERY SLOWLY and it needs to be SUPER hot when you lay on your meat. I’m new to this, so bear with me. I put the plate in a cold oven and lit the flame, letting it heat up to just 250°. Then I took it up to 300°, then 350°, 400°… on up to over 500 degrees. This will take over an hour. You can also heat up your block on the burner; again very slowly. But my oven seems to get hotter than my burner so that’s the route I took.
We’re having scallops and flank steak tonight. I thought those would be perfect for the salt plate novice…seared on the outside, juicy on the inside. With simple dipping sauces for each.
Salt Plate Surf ‘n Turf
1.5 lbs flank steak
6 sea scallops
Fresh grated black pepper
Boston lettuce greens
3 peeled, slice oranges
ORANGE GINGER SAUCE FOR SCALLOPS
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons scallions
Juice of two oranges
Mince ginger and scallions together. Squeeze the orange juice over the minced spices, stir and set aside.
HONEY SOY SAUCE FOR FLANK STEAK
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 habañero pepper, cut in half and seeded (try not to touch seeds with your bare fingers!)
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Thinly slice the flank steak. You can add an unsalted dry rub to the beef (tonight I used a Char Crust Ginger Teriyaki rub) or just plain fresh ground black pepper. No salt is needed. The steak and scallops will get all the salt needed from the salt plate.
Pat the sea scallops dry, pepper and set aside. Meanwhile, your salt plate is heating and heating…
After your salt plate has been in the oven for about 1.25 hours–with a sustained temperature of over 500º for 15 minutes of that time–carefully remove from the oven and place on the largest, most heat-resistant hot plate or trivet that you have on board. A thick cutting board works great. Fortunately, many of the salt plates have a tray sold with them, but you’ll still have to put the tray on a board or trivet. This salt block will be about 550º but you’d never know it to look at it. It hasn’t changed color and it doesn’t smell. Just be sure you and your guests don’t touch it!
The rest is simple. Lay out individual plates for each guest with lettuce greens and sliced oranges. Then just drop your steak and scallops onto the hot salt and watch them sizzle and sear.
The plate begins to cool down the minute you remove it from the oven, so don’t be too leisurely about cooking. Lay all your food on as quickly as you can. The meat and scallops turn easily with a fork.
If our plate tonight had been a little hotter, we’d get that nice crisp browning to the scallops. Next time. They were cooked through nontheless. Tender, juicy and succulent.
Let your guests have fun cooking their own food. And no pots or pans to clean up tonight. Just let the salt block cool down completely before cleaning. (CLEANING: don’t submerse under water. Use as little water as possible as the salt will eventually dissolve. Just scrape off the salt plate as best as you can. What lingers adds to the “seasoning” of the plate. Eventually, after many dozens of uses, the plate will dissolve enough to be unusable to cook on. Then just grind it up for shaker salt.)
Lay the cooked food out on individual plates and add the sauces.
(Shhh….and share a little with your furry friends who smelled this all cooking on the table….; )