Bonnie Benwick wrote a great article in this week’s Washington Post about salt. I know, you’re thinking salt, are you kidding me? She hits on an interesting point, though, and one that I do believe is changing. The real truth is that people don’t cook from scratch as much as they did a few generations ago, and the age-old way of writing recipes with salt “to taste”, is confusing since for some homecooks that instinct may not be so fine-tuned.
As I read her article, I thought about something a friend told me a few months ago. Her 10 year old daughter cooks often from Homemade with Love, but said it drives her crazy when I write “salt, to taste” because she’s not sure what that means exactly. That anecdote has been on my mind, and I could imagine her saying “see, that’s what I mean” as I read Benwick’s piece yesterday. It made sense to me the moment she told me her daughter’s opinion on my salt writing tendencies, but I must confess only because she’s so young, and just starting out in her kitchen journey. It is so easy to forget that novice cooks come in all ages, even for someone like myself who prides herself on writing easy, accessible recipes for every cook, regardless of experience.
So, I’d like to ask you all a question to help write recipes that focus on ease, and fun, and not frustration. What are your thoughts about “salt, to taste”? A good recipe to highlight this salt discussion is my roast chicken recipe in Homemade with Love. I’ve been meaning to share an updated version of it with all of you here, and as I was writing it out, that ubiquitous ingredient, with it’s vague description is rather key to this particular recipe. For me, “salt, to taste” means a few very generous, thick pinches of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt—to the tune of 1 1/2 teaspoons (5 grams). I kind of wince when I say that measurement, not because I think it needs less, but because so many people are shy when it comes to salt these days. I once read that the best service in a restaurant is the one you don’t notice. The kind in which you don’t need to ask for a water refill, but yet your glass never seems to be empty regardless of how many sips you take. Salt plays a similar role in cooking. Too little, and your food will likely taste bland. Too much, and it’ll be inedible. Just enough, and you’ll never notice it, or at least think you don’t notice it.
And on that note, I present you with this updated version of my simple roast chicken from Homemade with Love. Let’s think of it as a cousin, since it doesn’t stray too far from the original. I was on the fence about even including the recipe in the cookbook, but after talking to a few friends it seemed many of them weren’t 100% sure of how to roast a whole chicken. I can see how it would seem more intimidating than just throwing some parts in a pan, or using breasts, but nothing really compares for me. The bonus part is that you’re left with a nicely roasted carcass afterwards that I immediately turn into homemade chicken stock. I don’t even bat an eyelash, on this one. As I whisk away the dishes from the table, the leftover chicken goes straight into a pot with some onion, garlic, bay leaf, parsley, carrots, celery, and peppercorns. And yes, I even add a pinch of salt.
This recipe is now part of my new site, Simmering. It can be found by searching the archives here.