THE CULINARY CORNER / Balancing flavors


Welcome to my little corner of culinary delights.  I wish to cover more on balancing flavors but in the more subtle areas.

Marinating certainly affects flavors in meat but one must be careful.  It permeates the meat.  If your marinade is flavored with spices, herbs or anything else, it could cloak the natural flavors of the meat too much.  As a rule, marinades are best used for tenderizing and moisturizing meats.  The small amount of salt and brown sugar used can help to bring out the meat’s natural flavors.

Cheeses have a most wonderful way of including subtle flavors.  Not wanting to get cheesy about it, there are all kinds of cheeses at varying strengths.  Your more pungent would the hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Asiago cheese.  I will tell you about a little trick I do using Asiago cheese.  To make sourdough bread, one needs to create a sourdough starter to add to the standard dough.  This requires skill, knowhow and several days.  However, a quick and easy way is to simply include in your standard dough finely grated Asiago cheese.  The acidic strong taste of this cheese mimics sourdough when used in bread making.  Once you become familiar with the characteristics and properties of foods, seasonings and herbs, there are many wonderful and surprising things you can produce.

Other cheeses, such as Mozzarella, mild cheddar, and cottage cheeses, work well as a topping over casseroles.  There is a breakfast potato patty I like making that uses three different grated cheeses.  It is really good.  If you would like for people to think you have completely lost your mind, try adding chunks of sharp cheddar cheese with your pie dough.  You will be surprised over the results.

Another flavoring enhancer is the proper heating of food.  Of course we all know how to cook vegetables and how to make chicken salad.  If you wish to serve vegetables by themselves, roast them in the oven until they reach that wonderful caramel stage.  If you are going to include vegetables into a sauce, then sweat them first.  The sweating of vegetables helps to develop their delicate flavors that would otherwise remain locked in.  With chicken salad, after cutting it into appropriate sized pieces, put them into a sauté pan with a very small amount of clarified butter, and then sauté.  If you can get them to brown a little, that is good.  If onions are called for in a recipe, you might want to sauté them to the caramel stage.  You will be surprised at the added flavor this gives to soups, sauces, and even salads.  You can enjoy fine dining at home.

In the roasting and sautéing of vegetables or meats and the combining of ingredients, do not forget to add the appropriate seasonings in a manor to give that perfect balance of flavors.  There in lies the secret of fine dining.  Make your events gastronomically memorable.

Until next time, peace to all.