February 17, 2010

The Best Part of Waking Up

I was lucky in love this past weekend – trapped in the snowy Utah mountains with my best friends from high school for four glorious days. Conditions could not have been more ideal.  We had gnar pow to ski in, a hot tub to soak in, and tons of fresh food to sink our teeth in.  Our daily routine was simple: wake up, ski, eat, ski, tub, eat, sleep.  Everything the body could possibly desire.

On Sunday evening, dinner prep was in my hands.  Or more accurately, I stole it from everyone else’s.  The refrigerator was outfitted with steak filets, some white onions, and a carton of button mushrooms.  So I figured grilled steaks topped with caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms would be a classic hit.  The real trick, though, came in marinating the steaks.  Although meat has its own set of natural flavors that are finger lickin’ good, it is always nice to surprise people with an unexpected taste.  To “kick it up a notch” if you will.

In my kitchen, I have every seasoning tool I could possibly need.  But in a foreign ski house?  Well, you can imagine that the sodium free flavorings were scarce.  But this was far from a hopeless situation.  Rather an opportunity for creative brilliance.  Because even in the most dire sodium free situations, I can guarantee you that there are plenty of punchy flavors available. You  just have to know where to look. Think outside the spice rack.

Even though I didn’t have salt free smoked paprika or salt free lemon pepper to rub on my steak, I did have two common household items to make the meat tender, juicy, smoky, and bittersweet: BEER and COFFEE.  Most houses, especially ski houses, will have these two ingredients and together they draw out the natural flavors hiding in the meat.  A quick sear on the grill and a spattering of onions and ‘shrooms and we had ourselves a meal worthy of any Chicago steakhouse.

So remember, interesting flavors are lurking everywhere.  Don’t be afraid to mix and match your everyday noshings with more complex recipes.  You never know what you’ll discover or how a few drops of brew will heighten the entire eating experience.  Crack a cold one open and chow on.

Karen Barritt February 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I love coffee as a marinade! But my question is about the smoky paprika – I love this spice. My bottle says ingredients are smoked paprika and silicon dioxide as an anti caking agent. I have been wondering if that is a salt – What do you think? Or Know? If mine is not salt free how do you find that which is? Chow on!

sodium girl February 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm

To make sure spices are sodium free, I only buy those that say “salt free” on the label or have nutritional information on the back. Penzey’s spices are a good bet as they have a whole line of sodium free products. This is where I got my smoked paprika and I use it all the time.

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