Learning proper ingredient combinations, what goes together?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by lasagnaburrito, Jun 14, 2016.

  1. lasagnaburrito

    lasagnaburrito

    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Hello everyone!

    I'm curious if someone has any advice, or articles, etc, that would be able to help me to learn about food combining,  and understanding what tends to go with what, or how ingredients react with each other, i.e., I hear that if you over-salt something, you can add lemon which will negate the overpowering salt.

    I feel that one of the most important things in cooking is understanding what you can combine, and what each ingredient will do with others.  Will it compliment?  Will it distract?

    Thanks for any help.
     
  2. jimyra

    jimyra

    Messages:
    888
    Likes Received:
    162
    Exp:
    Professional Chef

    The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs (Hardcover)


    by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page

    You can buy it used at amazon for under twenty dollars.
     
    chicagoterry, freshbaked and nate like this.
  3. brianshaw

    brianshaw

    Messages:
    2,990
    Likes Received:
    291
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    Also... Fine Cooking magazine has a format that us periodically used that features a base recipe and a table of flavor adaptations. A great way to learn creative cooking.
     
  4. lasagnaburrito

    lasagnaburrito

    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Thanks both :).

    I'm pretty sure the Flavor Bible was the book I was recommended originally, it looks really good (one complained about the format since there's a ton of ingredients listed over many pages), but it still has all of the information there.

    How deep do the spices and stuff go?  I'm looking to get into more ethnic cooking, mostly Asian foods, so I'm curious if this book would help me with foreign ingredients as well?

    Thanks BrianShaw for the tip, maybe I'll find a magazine to subscribe to... Any recommendations?
     
  5. brianshaw

    brianshaw

    Messages:
    2,990
    Likes Received:
    291
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    I only read 2 cooking magazines anymore: Saveur and Fine Cooking. Over the years I've been dissatisfied with Saveur. Fine Cooking is consistently good and oriented toward what I need and want. It strikes a good balance between basic educational, cutting edge techniques, home cooking , and fine dining cooking. I have no vested interest in them but I am their cheerleader. It's the best "bang for the buck" and in a very digestible format.

    Flavor Bible or its predecessor, Culinary Artistry, is a fantastic resource... but it does require a bit of studying. The amount of information is voluminous. And, yes, they address ethnic flavors directly.  You really need to get a copy!

    http://subscribe.com-sub.info/Fine-Cooking/Welcome
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2016
    chicagoterry and hgilson like this.
  6. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,283
    Likes Received:
    860
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I second "Culinary Artistry."  It was a very important book, for me, when I first started in this business.
     
  7. lasagnaburrito

    lasagnaburrito

    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Hmm 2 books...

    I gotta study crap...?  Ugh.... :p..

    What kind of studying is needed?
     
  8. brianshaw

    brianshaw

    Messages:
    2,990
    Likes Received:
    291
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    Okay, here's a study plan:

    One book, either culinary artistry or flavor bible. That will cut your studying by 50% (in other words, half as much).

    Whichever book you get, thumb through it. Get to know the various tables.

    Whichever tables look interesting, read them.

    Whichever tables you read, cook a dish using that information

    If you desire, repeat as much as you want.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2016
  9. foodpump

    foodpump

    Messages:
    4,899
    Likes Received:
    467
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    Well, if you don't like to study, here's a trick a lot of cooks over the centuries have used:

    IF two items grow next to each other, or compliment each other in the garden, then it's pretty certain that they will compliment each other in cooking.
     
    flipflopgirl likes this.
  10. lasagnaburrito

    lasagnaburrito

    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    I love learning, but studying, to me, has a negative connotation to it.

    That's an interesting comment, I didn't think a lot of things would have an issue growing together or not, what factors would be present for them not to grow together?  I would assume some items might have different nutrient requirements, or maybe climate requirements?

    Aren't there many gardens with tons of veggies and stuff, but that doesn't mean they all will go together...?

    Maybe I'm missing something, can you explain further please?  thank you.
    Will there be a final at the end of the semester? :p.

    So it's just a lot of repetition to finding out what works well with each other based on the recommendations in the book?
     
  11. brianshaw

    brianshaw

    Messages:
    2,990
    Likes Received:
    291
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    Studying is hard work. It requires dedication and other skills. You are not alone in not liking studying because it requires independent self-teaching. A lot of folks learn better from being told and shown, so they have an example to follow. If hat describes you then those books might be frustrating. They don't really give recipes but guidance like basil an tomatoes go well together. It won't tell you how to make them go together or when that combination might get out of balance.

    The Fine Cooking approach might be a better learning model. Base recipe plus lists of "flavor coordinated add-ins" with recommended quantities.

    The former learning model requires experimentation and imagination. The latter model will yield success sooner.

    No matter... No exams and no pop quizzes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2016
  12. brianshaw

    brianshaw

    Messages:
    2,990
    Likes Received:
    291
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    BTW, here's my strategy for learning a new recipe or flavor concept: find a classic recipe by a trusted author. Make exactly as directed the first time. Next time, maybe alter a little but not much. Etc.

    Sometimes at the same time: buy some at a restaurant, deli, or bakery. Taste other folks version and decide what tastes best. Unfortunately that requires time, money, and a bit of studying.
     
  13. lasagnaburrito

    lasagnaburrito

    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Actually, I meant it in the opposite way, studying as a school term.  I love learning on my own, and self taught myself a lot of things.  I love talking to other people though, as you can learn a ton from other people's experiences.

    I am looking for what goes well together, but I guess I didn't think about amounts, but that seems to be something I would figure out, or possibly differ with recipe?

    I'll take a look at the other book, but I really like the first recommendation in the way the book is outlined.
    I figured I could make a batch of w/e, and alter it a little bit and just taste a bunch at once to see what's going on.

    I think I mentioned this above, but if not my example is dumplings.  if I lets say alters each dumpling to be unique, and tried them out that way, would that yield success, or should I have a few dumplings of one kind, a few altered?

    Does small taste tests work better than larger ones is really the question?

    I'm not sure if this should take time, or if it's something we can pick up fast?

    I figured tryingf a lot of things at once I would be able to understand what's good, and bad right away, and then be able to improve better for the next time.

    Thanks for the help, much appreciated.
     
  14. iceman

    iceman

    Messages:
    2,376
    Likes Received:
    333
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Foodpump's point was right there. In my experience with Asian cooking ... sesame oil goes in/with a lot of things. DO NOT ever use too much. Unless you are maybe gonna feed 600 Chinese people. Next ... "Salt" ... you can always put more in/on ... but dishes are ruined with too much. I never have any problem letting people put more on if they wish. Sea-salt or Kosher is the way to go for general. I use pink Himalaya for flavor finishing. In all 3 cases I find more flavor from less salt used, the pink being the biggest for least.

    Now against many popular common beliefs ... I'm not making any wisecrack statement here ... but I think the people asking the questions are just regular cooking people, not professionals cooking for a service. In that case ... JUST TRY STUFF. Make 3 or 4 small individual servings of some dish focusing on 1 particular herb or spice and compare for yourself. Learn by using your own palate. Taste-test for yourself. example: 4 bowls, 1 each with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme; 3 bowls, 1 each with beef, chx and pork. 1 glass seltzer water. Taste each combination of meat / herb ... and see what you think. Use the seltzer to rinse in-between.
     
  15. lasagnaburrito

    lasagnaburrito

    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Thanks a lot for the comments.

    I know about Seasame oil, that stuff is powerful :).

    As mentioned in the OP, I heard the only thing to counteract salt is "Lemon" which is one of the things I was interested in also learning is what cancels out what.

    Milk is something you hear told to use with spicy foods, etc.

    I'm not a big salt fan, but it seems salt can be a very important thing.  Seems there are tons of salts too.

    I'm a regular home cook, so yes.  That's what I wanted to know, if I could just make smaller portions and alter little by little, instead of making a whole batch, understanding the batch, and moving on.

    I guess it really depends how well you can distinguish the herbs and spices based on the portion at hand.

    Thanks!
     
  16. teamfat

    teamfat

    Messages:
    3,985
    Likes Received:
    387
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    I'll have to try something using tomatoes and marigolds, a very common companion planting.

    mjb.
     
  17. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

    Messages:
    7,293
    Likes Received:
    534
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    "What grows together goes together" is a common saying especially amongst those who eat seasonally.  A good recipe book for that is "Jamie at Home" where he cooks things from his garden and the dishes are chalkful of recipes using ingredients that grow together.  

    I'm not so good with the reading technical books, I find them boring and prefer to spend the little time I have reading novels.  As a home cook I've learned mostly by watching cooking shows and trying to replicate the dishes that interested me.  I don't watch many cooking shows anymore but I watched a lot while I was learning.  I use the internet more now but still look up videos and try to pick up techniques.  I learn by watching someone do something, not by reading a detailed guide on how to do it.
     
  18. lasagnaburrito

    lasagnaburrito

    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Ah, I didn't think about seasons, I was thinking more along the lines of environmental things, but you can say that seasons would be temp based.

    I'm usually good with looking up things and seeing how things are explained.  The first book mentioned shows a lot of things such as this x this = that, and has more of a math/technical layout to it, which is probably better for me as a math/science person.

    I'm okay with reading recipes and following stuff, but I like to know WHY we do things, so that I can learn for the future when I want to create my own dishes :)
     
  19. iceman

    iceman

    Messages:
    2,376
    Likes Received:
    333
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    "The Farmer's Almanac" will tell you about what plants go together well. That, is far from technical.
     
  20. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,121
    Likes Received:
    485
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Reading, studying, researching are all well and good (I do a lot of all three), but for me the best classroom is the kitchen and the plate. Work on improving and building your taste memory.
    Even if you aren't born with it, I believe it can be matriculated through experience. Don't just eat...taste...think, evaluate, describe. File the information away in your brain cells. Repeat. It requires some effort, but it is my kinda work, a labor of love with no losers. What a concept!