How Chefs Season Your Food
Season to Taste
When a recipe says "season to taste", this does not mean make your dish taste salty.
If your food ends up tasting too salty, you've crossed the "salt-line" and there's no turning back. The best advice I was given when it comes to salt in chefs school was, "You can always add more, but you can never take back."
Salt is a magnifying glass for flavour. It helps bring depth and complexities to other subtle flavours as they combine. Salt brings balance to a dish but the salty flavour should never be discernible.
The Asparagus Challenge:
Bring 3 pots of water to a rapid boil. Do not add any salt to the first pot. For the second pot of water, add salt as you normally would. In your 3rd pot, keep adding salt and tasting afterwards until your water tastes like the salt water in an ocean or a tear. Next, take 3 asparagus spears and drop one each into a different pot of boiling water, After 2 minutes remove the 3 spears and let air cool. Taste the first spear that was cooked without any salt added to the water. You will notice it tastes quite bland. This explains why so many do not like the taste of asparagus,. Next try the 2nd spear that was cooked with a little salt. (I bet if you went back to taste this lightly salted water, you would find you don't even taste the salt). This explains why this spear will taste much the same as the first spear...very flat. Finally, taste the last spear that was cooked in the heavily salted water. WOW right? It will taste as though it was just pulled from a farmers garden in the middle of the season!
How to Balance your Flavours
When used properly salt improves the overall flavours of a dish by reducing the bitterness while increasing the sweetness, sour, and umami of a dish. Salt added to certain deserts become sweeter without the need of adding extra sugar. Salt can also contain the sweetness of something while enhancing umami, which is ideal for savoury dishes.
Finding the Balance in your Dish
Next time your in the kitchen preparing a dish that tastes bitter or flat, try adding a little salt (a little at a time) to bring the more subtle flavours back to balance and go from flat to flavour every time!
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