Fleur de Sel

Note: I've noticed an increase in questions from readers recently, just as I did last year at this time. Must be the cold weather or the holidays - everybody is cooking! In order to make French Kitchen in America a bit more reader friendly, I'm beginning a randomly occurring feature that will answer reader questions. Sometimes, as below, some Real Food Expert has already answered the questions, so I'll also post a link.

How do you use fleur de sel?

High-blood pressure runs in my family so I use salt sparingly. A container of Morton's, for example, lasts for years and is usually put to work as gargle when I have a bad sore throat.

On the other hand, I love sea salt, harvested by evaporating sea water until only the salt remains. I use these coarse grains judiciously: A jar lasts forever. (I am still using a container of salt from the Camargue, a gift from Lucy a year or so ago.) It is vastly superior to regular old table salt in every way.

Fleur de sel is a type of sea salt that is hand harvested from the surface cyrstals on a salt evaporation pond. It tastes of the sea.

About four years ago, my local grocery store began stocking fleur de sel. Recently the store added a complete line of sea salts from around the world that come in a variety of colors from salmon to charcoal to white and in an equal array of textures.

One of the best essays on fleur de sel comes from David Lebovitz, perhaps best known for his chocolate and ice cream expertise and his hilarious take on life in Paris. Read it here.

I use sea salt or fleur de sel whenever table salt is called for in a recipe, but I tend to use less. The experts tell you not to use it before cooking, but I have and have not tasted any unwelcome results. But then, as I said earlier, I never use very much.

I also add it to roasted vegetables, scrambled eggs and omelets, and use it as a rub for meats, especially steaks.

You can buy fleur de sel mixed with herbes de Provence. I always use this to remove water from eggplant before making ratatouille.

The salt in the photo below is blended with basil and Parmesan cheese, which gives it an earthy, almost medicinal, flavor. I also have a bottle of fleur de sel that is blended with sea weed; I use a small amount of this when I bake salmon.

For me, it only takes a few grains. Each one is a gift for the taste buds.


Lydia said…
I too have gotten hooked on Fleur de Sel (and also the Portuguese flor de sal). I have several kinds in the kitchen -- both white and grey, and some Hawaiian red salt.
Judy said…
Hi Mimi, I too use Fleur de sel and have several kinds. I have high blood pressure so I try to watch my salt intake. It's easy with the sea salt. You can use less and get lots and lots of flavor. I mix it with lemon zest and herbs de provence depending on what I'm cooking. I've never heard of it with seaweed. I will try to find it and try it with salmon.
Kalyn said…
I was slow to discover sea salt, but I'm completely hooked on it now. What a difference, and so true that it only takes a tiny bit.
Jann said…
Oh yes, so many of us are hooked on this salt. Did you happen to see the news tonight about salt in our diets~ wish I had not seen that ~still, a little of this goes a long way!
Andrea - Under a Blue Moon said…
I love using a sprinkling of sea salt after cooking rather than trying to salt during cooking. The crystals of the sea salt impart so much more flavor with so much less sodium - a little goes a long way.

For those of you that don't have access to sea salt - try Kosher salt - it has a similar texture to sea salt.
Mimi said…
Lydia, as I posted this I counted six different jars in my cupboard.

Yes, Judy, sea salt with lemon zest is amazing! My blood pressure is under control, so I guess it's not hurting me.

Kalyn, I swear one or two grains will do the trick.

Jann, I did see that, and I meant to mention it, but my memory is going, I think.

Andrea, I was given some Kosher salt by a friend, and that is also very good - your ar correct.
TNelson said…
Hi Mimi – Thanks for the ideas about Fleur de Sel. I bought this salt for one recipe because I felt it was essential to the recipe. This, by the way, is heaven! http://creampuffsinvenice.ca/2007/11/05/eat-it-and-weep/ . It’s a salted caramel cheesecake I found at Cream Puff in Venice, one of my favorite blogs – it is truly wonderful and easy to do. I have begun using the salt in smaller quantities in other dishes and I can tell the difference in flavor.

Mimi said…
Hey Trish! Cream Puffs is one of my favorites, too - great recipes, elegant photos and a gracious and thoughtful hostess!

I definitely agree about the flavor - I am strictly a fleur de sel person now.
katiez said…
I agree - the trick is to sprinkle it on last so you really get the affect - and then you can use less. I used to feel guilty as I haven't used salt (read Morton's) in years but this is such a treat!
Chris Late said…
Me, I like the crunchiness.
Mimi said…
Yeah, Katie, I always feel guilty, too, when I sneak a little salt. I feel guilty a lot.

Chris, I agree, the texture is part of the allure..,
Christine said…
I love this particular fleur de sel, having found it through David's blog. I had to order it on Amazon as grocers in our area don't carry it. Have you ever tried Maldon? It's also quite tasty and it takes very few grains to really flavor a dish.
For cooking, I always use coarse-grain kosher salt. After years of having lovely, low blood pressure, it's starting to creep up and I too have to cut back on my sodium intake. Such a bummer!
Mimi said…
Christine, Iive seen Maldon at the supermarket and have been tempted to try it. But with so many jars in my cupboard now, I haven't spent the money. Yes, having to watch HBP is a bummer.
It is the ONLY salt to put on fresh tomatoes, with a little olive oil, basil, and Israeli sheep feta or mozzarella. I love all the different salts. At the Cours Saleya market, they had a whole stand of different salts...including rose-flavored.
Terry B said…
I need to experiment more with Fleur de Sel--and kosher salt, for that matter. I tend to just grab the Morton's. I have to say, though, that while there is generally way too much sodium in prepared foods, if you do a lot of your own cooking, your intake is probably way less. Also, for those of you who have sworn off Morton's, PLEASE be sure you're getting enough iodine in your diet. Iodized slat is the way most of us do.

Great idea for a new feature, Mimi! I'm sure lots of readers will find it helpful and/or inspiring--me included.
Mimi said…
Laura, I have to agree about tomatoes.

TerryB, I had the same thoughts - I have not used Morton's for years. I do use some prepared foods, though, but never salt them. So, I guess I should use Morton's once in a while...

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