Answers to some of the most asked questions in BEL’OCCHIO’s cooking classes
The most important lesson we can pass on to you is to taste food as you cook it, not just when it’s done. You will gain important insight into what happens to ingredients as you cook them. TASTE EVERYTHING!
Everything you do, every nuance, every decision you make in the kitchen affects flavour. Methods and techniques of coking are not arbitrary. They have evolved to create healthy, flavourful food. When you cook look for the insight beyond the idea, and add flavour at every turn.
Relax when you cook. Cooking is at its best when it happens at its own pace. YOU don’t have to rush to cook quickly.
Most people season timidly. Be bold. Most seasoning mistakes are adding too little of a particular flavour instead of too much.
Remember the two most important ingredients for season is salt and pepper!! They are your best friends in the kitchen. Use a pepper grinder to add the spicy heat, and often overlooked aromatic flavour of freshly ground pepper. We have three pepper grinds beside the stove, one for black pepper, one for white pepper, and a third for Chinese black pepper.
Lightly season ingredients as they cook, then taste them when they’re done and season again before season.
THE TRINITY OF SALTS
TABLE SALT is a fine, consistent grind, and usually contains anticaking additives to keep it free-flowing. Use it for baking because it mixes well. Personally we NEVER use idonizd salt. It adds an unpleasant chemical after taste to most foods. For baking I use either kosher or sea salt.
KOSHER SALT is coarser than table salt and additive-free. This is why is I user Kosher Salt 99% of the time. It’s an everyday salt. It’s so versatile and finger-friendly. In our restaurant kitchens Kosher salt was kept in shallow bowls; easier to use and control the amounts. Do the same at home. Kosher Salt has a less intensely salty taste.
SEA SALT is evaporated sea water. It can be fine or coarse and has a different flavour than the other salts because of its trace minerals. Use it for seasoning AFTER your dish is cooked.
CHEF’S TIPS; Most salts are interchangeale. There are many more crystals in a teaspoon of table salt than in a teaspoon of kosher salt. You’ll need to add a bit more kosher salt, sometimes as much as double. Recipes vary. Remember the cook’s mantra TASTE TASTE TASTE!
When you taste a sauce and think, this needs something, the chances are it needs salt. However, when salt isn’t necessarily the answer, here are some considerations and remedies. It is important to remember that a good sauce should have a balance of salt(from the meat itself or from added salt); sweet (usually from onions and carrots); acid or sour (from the wine) and bitter (often from browning the meat).
Lacks salt Add salt
Too much salt Add softened unsalted butter or creme fraiche
Lacks depth of flavour Fish – add anchovy
Meat – add glace de viande (meat glaze)
Vegetable – add soy sauce
Lacks sweetness Add butter (never sugar)
Too much acid Add reduced cream (cream boiled until it is reduced by half)
Too Sweet Add lemon juice (never vinegar)
Lacks bitterness Some cooks add Angostura bitters or unsweetened cocoa (this of mole added to Mexican food)
Too bitter Add softened unsalted butter or reduced cream
There is really nothing you can do when a sauce is extremely salty except to increase the proportions of everything else in the sauce or stew. That is why it is so important not to guess at how much salt is needed; rather add some and taste again, and then keep adding and tasting. If the sauce is really bitter, it probably means that it is burned. THERE IS NO CORRECTING THIS, EITHER; you just have to start over.
The most important thing about making any sauce is to get some cooking juice of the dish into the sauce. A mint sauce for lamb will taste much better if it has the cooking liquid of some of the lamb juices in it. A vinaigrette for mussels will taste better if it has the cooking liquid of some of the mussels in it.