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Simple Genius for Flavor

Roast Veggies

Bon Apétit has an article in their May edition that gives six simple techniques for boosting flavor. The premise of the article is that these techniques will make your weekend cooking so much better.

I say, why wait for the weekend?

Here are the six ideas:

  • Roast Your Veggies
  • Fry Those Spices
  • Build a Flavor Base
  • Confit Your Garlic
  • Macerate It
  • Brown the Butter

The first two items are pretty self-explanatory. Why do they work? Charring produces color and flavor; dry-roasting and frying do just that. Don’t over-roast the veggies, though, as they can get too soft and/or too dry. For spices, sometimes you want to toast them a bit in a dry skillet, other times you’ll fry them in the oil you will use for the next step.

How to build a flavor base, exactly? The classic way is with a trio of aromatics: Mirepoix, the Cajun Trinity, the Italian Trinity, The Chinese Trinity and so on. Mirepoix is a 2:1:1 ratio of onions, carrots and celery, diced up and cooked in butter. The Cajun Trinity (espoused by such great chefs as Paul Prudhomme and Justin Wilson) replaces the carrot in mirepoix with green pepper. Garlic can be used in place of celery, of course, for certain dishes. Cayenne pepper or minced chiles are often used in tandem with the Cajun Trinity to produce heat of a desired level.

Tomato, garlic and basil constitute the Italian Trinity. One Chinese trio includes fresh ginger, garlic and scallions (green onions); a “Szechuan” variety would include (green) garlic, ginger and chiles. For Thai food, consider galangal, kaffir lime and lemongrass. Mexican food makes use of the aromas from tart citrus, cilantro and cumin (comino), although chiles of various sorts play major roles in flavor and aroma.

Is there an Indian “trinity” of some sort? Garlic, ginger and onions are often called the Wet Trinity of Indian cooking. Of course, for dry spices there are all sorts of mixtures used in Indian cuisine, and which we Westerners often lump under “curry.” (It’s a gross over-simplification, and perhaps a gross injustice to the cuisine as well.)

If you want to see a large list of “trinity” bases for flavor, look at this page on The City Cook website.

That’s enough about flavor-assisting for this post; we’ll take a look at the other three techniques in a Part II post soon…

Enjoy the (Extra-Flavorful) Heat!

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