(These are recaps of our “Hidden Apron at Home” Instagram Live sessions filmed under quarantine and held on my @errant_diner account. I focus on the fundamentals of cooking as I, a non-chef, understand them. They are based on my experiences learning how to cook and deal with systems and ways of thinking vs. just recipes. This seventh session features my friend Josh Reisner and one of his favorite techniques, salt curing.)
IG Live Recording can be found below. As with our prior episodes, they’re best viewed full-screen and vertically on your mobile phone.
Josh and I have been talking about doing a cooking session for so long that I’m glad we finally managed to do one. Josh is one of the most impressive chefs I’ve met and has been cooking long before he even had to worry about homework as a child. He started off on the Master Chef Junior TV show before racking up experience at some of the world’s top food festivals and restaurants (Momofuku Má Pêche, Aquavit to name a few). He’s the mastermind behind some of Hidden Apron’s hit dishes over the years and is a joy to work with for his eclectic, imaginative, and unique approach to food. This week we covered the simple technique of salt curing which Josh uses extensively in his dishes.
By adding equal parts salt and sugar to ingredients from fruits to herbs to vegetables and letting time do its work, you can create a wide range of components that can then be put together into an even wider range of dishes. The salt enhances the underlying flavor of the food, draws out moisture to create flavorful curing liquids, and is a secret ingredient to up leveling many a classic cocktail. While Josh recommends using basic kosher salt and cane sugar, feel free to experiment with different salts and sugars noting their intensity and flavors to come up with your own tweaks to the technique. Because of how versatile this technique is, we’ve cooked up quite the number of dishes below. Simply pick and choose which ones you want to combine noting that some of the components are used as ingredients in others:
Tomato-Daikon Curing Water – use to cure or as ingredient in soups, dashis, and cocktails.
Slice tomato and dice daikon into a container. Sprinkle with equal amounts salt and sugar and shake so that the tomato and daikon are coated liberally. Let sit for 20-30 minutes until water collects. Strain this water into a separate container for future use. Rinse tomatoes and daikon and use separately as a quick pickle.
Cured Egg Yolks – use like cheese.
Mix equal parts salt and sugar and place half at the bottom of a sealable container. Separate egg yolk from white (we used the latter for a cocktail below) and place on top of the salt-sugar mix you poured out. Cover yolk with remaining salt-sugar mix, seal, and refrigerate for 2-4 days. Check the yolk to make sure it’s largely solid and can be handled without leaking. Rinse with water then dry in an oven on the lowest setting, in open air, or with a dehydrator.
Dashi – use as a soup base or dipping sauce for soba noodles.
~3 c. water
~1/3 c. soy sauce
~1/6 c. mirin
~1/2 – 1 c. Tomato-Daikon Curing Water (*optional, see above)
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
~5 squares kombu (dried kelp) / ~1/2 oz. Do NOT wash the white, powdery substance off.
~1 loose cup katsuoboshi (dried bonito flakes) / ~1/2 oz.
Boil water and reduce to just under simmering. Add kombu and let simmer for ~10 mins., then strain out as this could turn bitter over time. Add katsuoboshi and let sink to bottom (another ~10 mins.). Season with soy sauce and mirin to taste. Note that some dashis also use sake and boil this separately with the mirin to cook off the alcohol, a step I opted not to do with no adverse effects. To make Josh’s Shiro Dashi (white dashi), simply use white soy sauce instead of regular soy sauce and add a teaspoon or so of sugar to taste. To make our Tomato Dashi, simply add your Curing Water to the dashi, adjusting the soy sauce and mirin amounts to taste.
Herb Oil – use as a garnish for soups, salads, raw fish dishes…anything!
For my Cilantro Oil, blanch about 3-4 c. loosely packed Cilantro. Then blend in 1 c. of neutral oil until smooth and well-mixed. Strain without pressing using cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
For Josh’s Scallion-Garlic Scape Oil, salt cure sliced scallions and scapes with an equal amount of salt and sugar (see the pattern here?) until they soften (~30 mins.). Blend in oil until smooth and well-mixed. Strain without pressing using cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
Soba with Dipping Sauce
Boil water in a pot and lower dried soba noodles in. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Once soba is done (~5 mins.), quickly add the noodles to the ice bath to stop them from cooking and strain into a bowl or bamboo mat. Garnish with furikake (rice seasoning), microgreens, lemon zest, or nothing at all. Serve with a side of the dashi (seasoned with a little more sugar and soy sauce as needed) as a dip.
Slice fluke or similar fish thinly on a bias. Plate (see video for plating tips) with salt-cured tomatoes/daikon/turnip, Herb Oil (see above), Tomato Dashi (see above). Garnish with microgreens and lemon zest.
A play on the classic White Lady, this cocktail uses Japanese Roku Gin, Calamansi Liqueuer, and a salt-cured cherry blossom. More details found HERE (to be posted).
2 oz. Gin (preferably Japanese Roku Gin)
0.5 oz. Orange or Citrus Liqueur (preferably Manille Liqueuer de Calamansi)
0.5 oz. Sakura Syrup (or simple syrup)
0.75 oz. Lemon Juice
1 egg white
Dry shake all ingredients, then shake again (hard!) with ice until shaker turns cold. Strain into refrigerated glass and garnish with salt-cured cherry blossom.