Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flavor Imbalance

When cooking, one generally tries to achieve a balance of flavors. If your dish is salty but flat, you can splash in a little lemon juice for acidity, and so on.

But what about a dish with boldly unbalanced flavors? What about something that just screams one single ingredient? Like CHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICKEN!!!!!!!!

That's what happened when I made the soup pictured above.

I normally go for balance, but an off-balance dish can be much more interesting. Granted, this only applies to those who want their food to be "interesting."

Butternut squash puree is, by now, a no brainer. Even a stupid baby could make it. I've made it many times, sometimes with cream, sometimes with stock, sometimes with nothing more than water, and it's always easy and tasty. But since I rarely cook the same thing twice, I decided to mix it up this time.

No parsley garnish. No splash of cider vinegar. No trace of nutmeg. No roasted garlic. No sweated onion. Very little salt. I only added a small but dense amount of chicken jus replete with a thick layer of yellowish fat. It was not stock, which would have been delicious and well balanced. No, this was a one-note addition. And that note was chicken fat.

Though simple, and though it didn't contain anything remotely like, say, pomegranate seeds, shaved parmesan or a drizzle of truffle oil, all of which would have been lovely, it was a challenging bowl of soup. Rich to the point of disconcerting, chickeny to the point of overshadowing the typically dominant, sweet squash, it was unlike any butternut puree I'd ever had. Even the color was more poultry than plant.

If I'd had it at an otherwise unremarkable restaurant, I would have thought it was terrible. Why didn't they at least sprinkle on some black pepper? But if I had been served it at a great restaurant, I would have marveled at their audacity.

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Margaret said...

Very interesting comment on the assumptions about the maker of the food depending on the environment in which it is served. An entertaining post!

Aaron Kagan said...

Hey, thanks!

Stanley Webber said...

Next time try throwing in some schoog or charissa. Not for the flavor, necessarily but for the psycho-palatteal effects.

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