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