Home > Art, cooking, Food, Recipe > Flavor, Next Level – Beyond Salt And Pepper

Flavor, Next Level – Beyond Salt And Pepper

I love cooking. Cooking allows you to be creative, and you are only limited by your own imagination in what will show up on the table in the end. That and maybe some skill – but skill, of course, can be learned and mastered.

While creativity, imagination, and skill are important, one quality will separate success and failure in the final dish – flavor. Of course, the situation is not that dramatic in real life – this is what “not too bad” and “interesting” descriptors are for, but the flavor rules. This for sure is true in the home cooking. If dish on the table looks great – excellent, definitely a bonus. The texture typically is important too – if the rice more resembles mashed potatoes, that is not really cool. But flavor rules – once we take the first bite, the presentation becomes secondary and the flavor is what we are looking for to either jump of joy and pleasure or make face and say “ouch” (don’t strangle that inner kid in you, let the reaction come out).

One of my favorite shows on the TV is “Beat Bobby Flay” on the Food Network. Bobby Flay, who is an Iron Chef and a well-known restaurateur, is challenged by some other, also well established and well-regarded chefs, to cook the dish of their choice, their own “signature dish”. The panel of three judges decides on who made a better dish in a blind taste test. Quite often, Bobby Flay wins even when he has to cook the dish he only tried once in his life and never cooked before – and sometimes even those which he never tried. What makes him the winner? When you listen to the judges explaining their decision, there is one most important word which you hear over and over again – flavor. The dish might not look anything like the classic version, and sometimes even not taste anything like the classic version, and nevertheless, the Flavor is the word you hear the most often, explaining the vote of A versus B.

If you see home cooking as a chore, this is probably not the post you want to continue reading. If, however, you are after the pleasure of both cooking and then eating the tasty food, let’s talk more about flavor. As a home cook, you have an arsenal of tools available to you to achieve the flavor – you start simply with herbs and spices, and then enlist the help of various techniques and methods – marinating, basting, slow cooking, pressure cooking and on, and on, and on. I personally like cooking with open fire, and thus grilling is definitely one of my preferred methods, especially when the weather is cooperating.

One of the things I like using to enhance the flavor of the food on the grill is a cedar plank. I would typically make salmon on the cedar plank so the salmon would have that delicious sweet smokey flavor. There is only one problem with this – I typically forget to pre-soak the plank at least for an hour – and unless the wood is soaked, it will burn in no time on its encounter with open flames.

It appears, that my problem (don’t tell me it is only my problem, and looking on a gorgeous piece of salmon you never had to hit yourself on a forehead saying “why I didn’t prepare the plank before”) had been solved! Here comes Beyond Salt and Pepper – a company which was founded (I’m very happy to give you full disclosure here) by my close friend Henry. We always shared our love for cooking with Henry, but Beyond Salt and Pepper takes that passion to the next level.

Pre-soaking of the plank is required before using it for cooking. I’m sure that when you think about soaking of the wood, you think water. But why only water? Wine is a liquid too, and wine is used in cooking, so maybe…? That’s right – we can use the wine, but not only the wine, also beer, rum, bourbon and any other type of alcohol – each one bringing its own unique flavor profile to the table – your table.

I visited my friend – and essentially, the headquarters of Beyond Salt and Pepper, located in the garage, as any self-respecting startup should – and we had a blast (a feast would be a better word).

First, I saw the process – the pre-cut planks of cedar – but not only cedar, Henry uses white oak too and says that imparts particularly nice flavor on the steaks – are soaked in the liquid of choice for days. Then the planks are getting into the machine where they are vacuum-sealed. Put on the label, pack, and voilà, ready for shipping.

And then there was cooking, lots of cooking. If you are still thinking planks are only for salmon, forget this notion as soon as possible. Unleash your imagination – you can make anything you want on the planks – and you can see the proof here in the pictures.

When cooking with the planks, there is a bit of technique which goes into the process – all explained in the recipes available on the Beyond Salt and Pepper web site. In most of the cases, you need to pre-heat the plank by putting in on a hot grill for 1 – 2 minutes on each side. And then you slightly pre-cook the food – for instance, sear steak on one side, and then flip it over on the plank and let it continue cooking as usual – that’s about all the special technique you need.

We had asparagus, artichokes and snap peas cooked on the Chardonnay-soaked planks – we couldn’t keep the snap peas on the table, everyone loved them. How about some little red wine infused smoke on the mushrooms and potatoes? Salmon and tiger shrimp on the Bourbon soaked planks? Yes, please! Chicken with some Merlot smoke on it – yum! Then the steak on the white oak and rum planks – superb. And then some cheese for dessert – but of course, made on the Chardonnay infused plank. Flavor, flavor, flavor – there are no limits to one’s creativity.

 

Here you are, my friends – a simple tool to add to your cooking tools arsenal, to get the flavor to the next level. If you are interested in trying these planks for yourself (and you should, seriously), you can get them directly from the website, or on Amazon (the website offers a bit wider selection). If you need some inspiration and cooking ideas, follow Beyond Salt and Pepper on Instagram. And by the way, while on the website, look for their selection of gourmet peanut butter… Mmmmm… Happy cooking!

  1. April 17, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    What a cool idea! All those additional flavors sound delicious. And your photos are just beautiful – they look like they came out of a magazine.

    • April 17, 2018 at 3:42 pm

      I agree, Lauren! I love the idea too and the food was delicious. And thank you for your kind words – I tried to do my best with the pictures – was planning to bring my real camera, but forgot, so this is as good as iPhone can do in my hands

  2. April 17, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    This is such a unique and delicious idea. Can’t wait
    to try the champagne planks🍾. Great idea for gifts
    too!

    • April 18, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      I always liked cooking with the planks, but this is really a next level , as it imparts a lot more complex flavor.

  3. April 17, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Wow! that looks amazing! You certainly took the planks to the next level!

    • April 18, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Nah… I just had a lot of tasty food and took some pictures. What is important is that it is not only the pictures, but also a good tasting food.

  4. April 17, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    Great idea, getting the planks to Singapore will be a challenge, expect customs will be interested in the alcohol content. Also it looks like shipping outside of the US is not available yet, will investigate further. Good luck to Henry…

    • April 18, 2018 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks, Oz! Yes, the international delivery is something to be considered, I would assume a bit later. I would gladly smuggle a few for you in a suitcase if there will be an opportunity.

      • April 18, 2018 at 9:16 pm

        Cheers Anatoli. Will have to determine a suitable trade.

  5. April 18, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Reblogged this on BubblyBEE.net and commented:
    I can’t wait to try the champagne soaked cedar planks…thank you Talk-a-Vino!

  6. April 20, 2018 at 5:51 am

    What a fabulous idea! Look forward to checking out the website for more details. 🙂

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