Do you appreciate a good really good flavor profile? One that was well developed with lots of subtle nuances. One that keeps giving layers of flavor well after you enjoyed your initial reaction of, “oh WOW”.
Now, imagine a world where everything tasted exactly the same. No flavor profile, no nuances. Your food, every last bite would have all the subtlety of a bell clapper, striking like a mallet just one note of mediocrity. Maybe everything tastes like strawberries, or maybe liver. Or maybe a mish-mash of who knows what that would make even bland seem appealing after a while.
Parish the thought and cherish the privilege of being able to enjoy each and every delicious flavor that crosses your palette! But how do you make each and every effort in the kitchen more tasty?
Today we share with you a basic concept that every culinary student learns: Salt, Fat, Acid. All cooking is essentially a series of chemical reactions. So, by choosing a common chemical compound like salt and adding to it another generally available group of compounds called acids you are merely completing the chemical composition of your meal.
You should, by now, understand the importance of salt. Quick, name three dishes you don’t add salt to under normal circumstances. Salt enhances the flavor profile. It causes the other basic flavors to become more prominent.
Acids are simple too, they also enhance – by counterpoint! Think of fresh squeezed citrus (lime, lemon, grapefruit, etc.), or vinegars including red wine, white wine and balsamics. Acids are used to brighten up the over all flavor profile, especially when using herbs and vegetables. But they also bring a tartness to the flavor profile that can be used to accentuate the more subtle sweet notes of a dish.
Despite common misconceptions, fat is a vital nutrient. Fat is also what adds the richness and silky mouthfeel to most dishes. Fat also performs another vital function. It’s the carrier and cuisinart for the other flavors in the profile. Without fat, some flavors and nutrients wouldn’t be discernible or available because they are only soluble in fat.
We could go on for hours about the benefits of just enough fat in cooking and baking! Let’s illustrate our entire discussion in this way:
The humble vinaigrette is often ignored, even snubbed at the salad bar because we are typically looking for something with more flavor. In reality a simple vinaigrette is the BEST method of enhancing the natural flavors of those raw vegetables you have so carefully selected and preped. Why?
Because, that vinaigrette contains salt. It also contains fat in the form of the oil – typically olive, sesame or canola. (what is a canola anyway?) And it contains it’s namesake… vinegar. Those three basic components are what every salad eater has come to know and love as THE go to dressing when at home.
But why stop at salad. The next time you prepare a dish or a meal and the flavor profile isn’t quite right, ask yourself, “Does it need more salt? More acid? More fat?” As you do, you’ll become more skilled in the kitchen for sure, but more importantly, your food will just taste BETTER!