When Something More Is Needed
When a pot of soup or a dish tastes like it needs something more, we start pulling sauces and spices from the cabinet. Fortunately, there are a few tried and true way to amps up a dish that falls short on flavor.
The last pot of chili I made was a little shy on taste. I mentioned it to Robin. She said, “Add a bit of vinegar.” I’d already used the amount that the recipe called for, but I upped the ante.
“Add a umami taste.,” she said, “with a splash of nuoc mam.” (The fermented dipping sauce is the Vietnamese equivalent of Worcestershire sauce.) We both buy it by the bottle at Banh Mi So on South Grand. By the time I finished with the make over, I had a pretty good pot of chili.
Here are more flavor enhancers to tantalize your taste buds.
- Salt intensifies sweetness and does miracles in any dish that calls for it. But a lot of people are cutting back on their salt intake, which means other flavorings have to take up the slack.
- Juice and grated lemon, lime, and orange peel lift and balance flavors, especially in fish and dessert dishes.
- A bit of vinegar will rescue a flat or boring sauce or soup.
- Pan searing meat intensifies the flavor. Browned foods are always tastier.
- Vegetables roasted in a 450-degree oven have a sweet, smoky flavor. Add to soups or use with dips.
- Caramelizing onions brings out the sweetness. It takes a little time, but the results are worth it.
- Peppers—sweet, hot, or crushed red—add punch to many recipes.
- Fat has a way of improving everything it touches. Think bacon drippings.
- Wine brings out the flavor in a tomato sauce and braised fish and meat. Use wine to deglaze a pan, scraping up those yummy brown bits left when braising. Add sherry or brandy to soup or anything creamy..
- Fresh or frozen garlic make a dish come to life.
- Good spices, not over-aged, add zing to recipes.
- A parmesan cheese rind bring nutty tones to stocks and soups. Freeze rinds to have on hand.
- A sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg does wonders for pumpkin pie, baked items, oatmeal, sauces, and even meatballs.
- Never throw away a turkey carcass. There’s immense flavor to be had when making a broth.
- Duck fat on roasted vegetables causes them to soar to new heights.
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