Ancient Himalayan Salt Slabs Cook Just About Everything
Himalayan salt is more than 600 million years old, but only recently did it become popular in the United States as a method for cooking. Many chefs have begun to employ this ancient cooking technique and relish in its benefits when it comes to flavor and presentation.
Rick Gresh was a pioneer in bringing the salt slab to the forefront when he helmed the kitchen of David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago. “There are myriad ways to use the salt plank,” says Gresh, who now serves as director of culinary USA for Social Entertainment Ventures. “You can sear over an open flame, bake or slow roast, even use it on your grill.”
Though his favorite proteins are New York strip steaks, beef rib-eyes, lamb chops and foie gras, the slab is great for pancakes, blinis and French toast, too. “I love slow roasting carrots and fennel, or caramelizing onions and mushrooms on my charcoal grill,” he continues. “Smoking halved eggplant while it sits on the slab is super delicious, too.”
Gresh enjoys using salt slabs for home cooking—as a stone hearth in the oven for pizzas, breads or chocolate chip cookies, to smash avocados for guacamole and as “the brick” for salt brick chicken—but he also recognizes that the “showy” element of it boosts intrigue in a restaurant setting.
“It’s a really beautiful presentation piece that comes in many different shapes, sizes and colors. It can be used like a Korean hot rock where guests can cook skewers at their table. I’ll use small salt blocks and treat it as an amuse course for each guest.”
And if you really want to kick it up a notch or surprise your diners, Gresh recommends “freezing the salt blocks, then smashing up ice cream, fruit and caramel for salted caramel ice cream. Or, it’s a fun tableside presentation where guests can pick different ingredients to add to their sundaes. I also love serving carpaccio-style items on the salt like wagyu beef or Ahi tuna.”