Salt & Acid – the keys to seasoning

March 13th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Seasoning is the art of imparting flavor to or improving the flavor of food. Have you ever made a recipe at home, followed the instructions to the letter, measured each ingredient, only to have the dish fall flat or be just so- so? We all need to learn more about seasoning.

“Salt and pepper goes further than anything else”, says Travis Vaughn, Executive Sous-Chef at Frasca Food & Wine.  Scott Parker, Executive Chef at Table 6 adds “Salt is number one and acidity is number two. “

“Most home cooks are not using enough salt.” says Deanna Parker, former pastry chef of Frasca Food & Wine, Fruition and Red Trolley.  “Just because you added exactly what the recipe calls for doesn’t mean your dish is perfect. Taste, taste and taste again.”

Another problem is not understanding the necessity of acid on a plate to balance a dish. Lemon juice, quality vinegar and even citric acid may all be used to brighten the flavors on a plate. Scott grinds kosher salt and citric acid in a spice grinder and uses this to season his French fries. Can anyone name a fast food chain that does the same thing?

At the same time all three Chefs cautioned me that chefs tend to taste things in tiny snapshots. It’s important to remember that diners eat an entire plate of, for example slow braised pork over polenta, while the chef is just getting a small taste. To that end all three chefs feel that it is important to back off just slightly on seasoning so that diners are not overwhelmed by salt or acid.

For information about seasoning, salts to use for cooking, and for finishing visit the Savory Spice Shop. For quality vinegars I recommend visiting EVOO Market.

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