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May 6, 2008

Grey sea salt (Recipe: crusty oven-roasted potatoes)

Greysalt

Remember when chocolate was brown? 

Remember when hot sauce was red?

Remember when potato chips were yellow, bell peppers were green, and Jell-o was... well, not blue?

Remember when salt was white?

I do.

Though I could live a lifetime without white chocolate, green hot sauce, red corn chips, purple and orange bell peppers, or any color of Jell-o, I never ever want to be without grey sea salt.

What is grey salt? The simple answer is that it is salt that has not been refined. Often purplish in color, the salt is tinged by the minerals in the clay from which it is harvested by hand, with wooden rakes, so that no metal touches, or affects the flavor of, the salt. This is important, because some lower quality grey salts get their color from an adverse reaction to the metal harvesting equipment.

The grey salt in my photo came from France, courtesy of Kate of Thyme for Cooking, who lives in the Vendée along the Atlantic coast where the world's finest grey salt is harvested. You can read about the harvesting process in this wonderful post about a chef's visit to the salt marshes.

Does grey salt taste different than white salt? Yes. Is it saltier? Just the opposite; one teaspoon of salt has 2325 milligrams of sodium, so the larger the crystals, the less in one teaspoon; therefore, coarse salt has less sodium by volume than finer-grind kosher or table salt.

Try it on foccacia, in ice cream, in caramels, on grilled endive, in a swiss chard omelet or mushroom ragout, or sprinkled on grilled steak.

At the moment I have three different grey salts in The Perfect Pantry -- which, I think, makes this The Perfectly Overstocked Pantry. Grey salt comes in various granulations from coarse to fine, sometimes flavored with herbs. The salt in the photo is mixed with herbes de Provence, which gives it an amazing aroma and flavor -- and a few twigs, for good measure.

Crusty oven-roasted potatoes

Less a recipe than a formula for the best potatoes anywhere. Dunked in an aioli mayonnaise, these are positively addictive. Serves 6 as a side dish.

Ingredients

1-1/2 lb baby Yukon Gold or red-skinned new potatoes
1-1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 Tbsp grey salt or other sea salt
1-1/2 tsp fresh thyme or lemon thyme (leaves removed from stems and left whole)
2 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut potatoes in half or thirds or quarters -- just make sure they are all approximately the same size. (Leave the skins on.) Place in a nonstick deep roasting pan, and add remaining ingredients. Toss with your hands, and distribute evenly in the pan. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, turn the potatoes, and roast for another 15 minutes or until the potatoes develop a nice crust on the cut sides. Serve warm.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


Also in The Perfect Pantry:

Grilled sirloin tips with asparagus
Pizza bianca
Salt and pepper prawns
Asparagus with miso-sesame sauce

Comments

Sounds like something I would try if I can see or get hold of it. Ever since I use kosher salt, I don't think I will ever get back in using table salt.

woah, grey sea salt!!! This is the first time I've heard of it, how interesting! I will definitely look out for it when I'm traveling overseas next time, heh. I love this article!

yum. that´s my favourite way with potatoes, too. Pity you can´t make too many at once

I've never been sold on salt varieties, but you are getting me to the point that I'll have to try some.

Ooh... I've been wanting to pick up some grey salt for ages! Your photo is really gorgeous... and your potatoes sound wonderful! Interestingly, I also use a lot of fresh lemon thyme on my roasted potatoes-- it really adds something, I think.

What a beautiful photo! I can taste the salt right through my computer.

I discovered the wonders of sea salt no too long ago and loved it, Lydia.

what's your fav online company that sells salt samplers?

I've been always wanting to try grey sea salt. this is just the push I needed!

Oh, wow! How very interesting!

Paz

That looks gorgeous - and not a word about cutting down on salt. Bravo!

Tigerfish, I hardly use table salt at all these days, except for baking. Mostly I use kosher salt and sea salt. This grey salt is really delicious.

Noobcook, I'll bet you can find this salt closer to home -- but then you wouldn't have the excuse of having to travel to France to find it!

Lobstersquad, potatoes cooked this way are positively addictive. I can't make them too often, because I can't stop eating them.

Mae, some of the "earthy" salts add so much complexity to food. Really worth a try.

Ann, lemon thyme was an impulse purchase the first year I had an herb garden. I'd never grown it or used it before. Now I can't imagine the garden without it. It's also wonderful on fish and foccacia.

Rupert, thanks!

Patricia, I love the crunch, especially on breads. And potatoes -- though maybe it's that garlicky aioli that I love so much....

Steamy Kitchen, I know of several companies that sell samplers, each with different types and flavors of salt. SaltWorks, World Spice merchants, and Earthy Delights all sell samplers, as does Napa Style.

Veron, there are so many grey salts to choose from. I wonder how they would taste on macarons?

Paz, give it a try. You'll like it.

TW, don't you find that when you use a really good ingredient, like sea salt, you actually use less of it because the ingredient itself is more flavorful? That's how it works for me.

love this stuff.

last year during one of our smoking sessions on the grill, we smoked some grey salt. swoonworthy - i eat it plain right out of the bowl.

This sounds simply wonderful. I love grey salt too.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

First of all, I've never heard of gray sea salt. Now that I've read this post, I think I need it!! I'm dying to make those potatoes, as well as other dishes with it. So for those of us who aren't getting care packages from France.....?

Michelle, home-smoked grey salt? Wow -- I'm green with envy.

Natalie, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Grey salt is fast becoming one of the favorite condiments in my pantry.

Toni, wouldn't it be fun to go to France and pick up our own salt? But, for those of us who aren't going any time soon, try Saltworks.us or napastyle.com.

First discovered grey salt a few years ago, good stuff, and now it has a place on my shelf alongside crazy salt, kosher salt, fine salt, regular old salt...

Oh, so it's like a rustic salt, so real and un-processed. That's interesting, and better yet, it had less sodium. Anything to help my sodium intake is better.
The photograph is so beautiful and I never would have guessed it was a salt. I really love the color !

@T.W. Barritt:
>>don't you find that when you use a really good ingredient, like sea salt, you actually use less of it because the ingredient itself is more flavorful? That's how it works for me.

That's the same for me -- with entrees! "French Paradox" my foot. It's an equation: taste/bite=satisfaction.

Less means more... and that's why Europeans are not so fat as Americans. Food trough restaurants, with pounds and gallons of mediocre-tasting food, don't hold a candle to a small entree of a rich, tasty plate. It's like people eat more to compensate for the poor taste of a lot of American food.

I don't have the very grey salt in my pantry, but last count I have 5 different sea salts...maybe that is not that many...am I salt deprived:D Love the potatoes by the way as well:D

Cate, my spice rack looks the same. Hard to imagine that I ever made do with just one salt!

White on Rice, thanks -- I'm trying to do a bit better with my photography! And this salt doesn't have less sodium -- after all, salt is salt -- but by volume there will be fewer crystals, so less sodium, if that makes sense.

TikiPundit, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. In general I agree -- smaller portions of tastier food are more satisfying. But of course there are many places in America to eat that way -- and food troughs in Europe, too.

Bellini Valli, it's such fun to experiment with different salts, isn't it? I have at least 5 salts in my pantry at the moment, too.

I'm so glad I'm not the only person who hates white chocolate. But, back to the main ingredient – grey sea salt – I love it. It's a great finishing salt and nice addition to caramel in place of the standard fleur de sel.

I guess I need some grey sea salt because I sure would love those potatoes . . . addictive . . . I already am Lydia!

Grey Salt huh? I will give this a try.

Wow grey salt, I've never seen that here. I *need* some right now as I *need* to eat those potatoes, they look so good :D

Ms Glaze, I haven't yet tried the salted caramels that I've been reading so much about, but now I must. What a wonderful combination.

MyKitchen, yes, the potatoes are so addictive, and with the aioli, they're amazing.

Sabina, do try -- I'm sure you'll like it!

Kitchen Goddess, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Make a whole bunch of potatoes and invite us to dinner!!

You'll be proud of me...I was wandering through my little local specialty foods store and found grey salt and pimenton!!! But the pimenton was the "dulce" kind. Same thing?

Love the twigs!
I was so amazed the first time I saw the salt beds - just out there, right in the middle of nature!
What a sheltered life I had led...
Great potatoes...Think I'll have some for dinner!

White on Rice, have fun with the grey salt -- and pimenton "dulce" is the sweet (not hot) variety, the one I use most often to season soups, stews, eggs, potatoes....

Katie, I love the twigs, too -- and I thank you so much for sending me this wonderful grey salt. A visit to the salt beds is absolutely on my to-do list for my next visit to France.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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