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HOW TO MAKE FOOD TASTE BETTER



Here is an excerpt from my book Le Kitchen Cookbook: a Workbook


Adding flavor is a component of cooking that is essential. The more we know about how to add, balance, or counteract flavors, the more we have control over what we cook. That’s when cooking gets to be fun.



ABOUT FLAVORS

Essential to being a good cook.

 

THE IMPORTANT COMPONENTS THAT FLAVOR FOODS


THE FIVE TASTES: 

  • Saltiness—briny, saline, brackish 

    • If dish is too salty, add an acid or sweetness.

  • Sourness—acidity 

    • If the dish is too sour, add fats or sugars to counteract.

  • Sweetness—sugar 

    • If the dish is too sweet, add acid. (Do not add salt; it will only highlight the sweetness.)

  • Bitterness—sharp, pungent, tart 

    • If the dish is too bitter, add sweet, citrus, or vinegar.

  • Umami—savory, meaty 

    • If the dish has too much umami, add sour or sweet to brighten the flavor.

 

HOW TO BALANCE FLAVORS WHEN THEY AREN’T QUITE RIGHT

  • Rich—you can add sweet or sour to cut the richness of the dish. (Fresh limes—lemon juice, a little vinegar.)

  • Bland—salt can add flavor, bouillon will add a burst of flavor, cheese or strong herbs and seasonings, soy sauce, spicy pepper sauce.

  • Spicy—sour or sweet will help to tone down overly spicy foods. Adding a spoonful

of plain yogurt and a little citrus will also help tone down the spice. 

  • Salty—sweet or sour will help but may not be enough. If possible, try diluting with water. When salting your dish, do so in intervals and taste as you go. Any dish that evaporates as it cooks will cause the flavors to intensify, especially the flavor of salt.

  • Sour—sweet, salty, or bitter will help take the flavor away from sour.

  • Bitter—salty, sweet, or sour will help reduce the bitter flavor.

  • Sweet—sour, salty, or bitter will tone down the sweetness. Adding other flavors will distract from the sweetness.


OTHER IMPORTANT COMPONENTS


When creating dishes, the texture of food (crunchy, soft, or hard), as well as the food’s temperature (hot, room temperature, or cold), add to how we perceive the food’s flavor and are important to consider when cooking.


Three Flavor enhancers I won’t cook without.


When I need “something” to balance out the flavor of what I am cooking there are three items I go to: soy sauce, anchovies, and bouillon.


  • Soy sauce adds a bit of saltiness and savoriness, known as umami, without adding the traditional flavor of Chinese food. It is the perfect addition to tomato sauce that still has a bit of sourness. I find that it works far better than the traditional addition of sugar. When I’m cooking a wine-based stew for hours, a tablespoon or two of soy sauce at the end rounds out the flavor to give it complexity and interest without overpowering it. As far as I’m concerned, it is my magic sauce.


  • Anchovies are also magical. Add them to increase the robustness and depth to what you are cooking. Don’t panic if you are not an anchovy fan; it doesn’t add any fishiness to your dish. Instead, what you will taste is great flavor. I always have a tube of anchovy paste in my refrigerator.


  • My other must-have is bouillon. It is concentrated flavor that is a must-have when cooking. In the past, broths were made using quality ingredients that were left to mijoter, simmer on the back of the stove for hours. The flavors would reduce and concentrate into an intensely powerful essence that was used to create sauces, stews, soups, or anything to which you wanted to add that burst of flavor.


Nowadays, we generally don’t have all day to create strongly flavored stocks. Using bouillon is a great shortcut to adding that intensity to the foods we cook.


The downside is that bouillon can be very salty. There are three ways I counteract that:


  1. Add the bouillon at the end when I’m adjusting the flavor.

  2. I don’t add a lot of salt as I’m cooking, adding it only at the end if I need it.

  3. I buy low-sodium bouillon. Try different brands to find the one you like best.



*This is a reprint from Le Kitchen Cookbook: a Workbook pages 40 - 41

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Everything you need to know to be a good cook. 

by Adeline M. Olmer


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"Cooking is one of the greatest gifts you can give to those you love."

Ina Garten



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