The X FACTOR, in the most general of terms, is the unknown factor which adds a certain something. It’s a quality that you cannot describe which makes something special. I call “taste” the X Factor in cooking.
A faithful blog reader and an excellent cook made my Foxley’s Rib recipe. She felt it was missing the “wow” factor. This started me thinking. The recipe had been tested many times. I like a big flavour so why did this recipe not deliver for her.
Many ingredients, especially Asian, are not equal. There are different types of soy sauces. A light soy sauce by one manufacturer will taste different from another. The same with hoisin and fish sauce, oyster sauce and white rice wine. Even cooking molasses varies. Following a cooking recipe is a guide. I can’t stress enough the need to taste when cooking, and not just at the end of the recipe. Perhaps my generous tablespoon of Asian chili sauce is larger than yours. You taste the recipe and add more if necessary. Or mebbe it needs some extra fish sauce to balance the sweetness of the hoisin. If you are timid about hot and spicy ingredients don’t add the full amount called for in the recipe. Start with a quarter or half, then add more if desired.
Slow cooking the ribs at a low temperature in the sauce also affects the flavour and tenderness of the ribs. The juices from the meat mingle with sauce and add yet another dimension of flavour.
So my darlings, it really is all about how you approach a recipe. A recipe (except in baking) is not written in stone. And never forget the X Factor. It is what makes a good cook a great cook.