Hard-nosed Chef Gordon Ramsey has enthralled many over his repeated seasons of TV’s reality show “Hell’s Kitchen.” Although his language is somewhat colourful, to say the least, the “F” word we should focus on in the kitchen is “flavour.”
Countless consumers have frequented restaurants and fallen in love with tastes they desire to duplicate in their home kitchens. The attempts to do so often can be disappointing, however.
This is most likely due to short cuts people take when choosing ingredients that fit their lifestyles and time limitations.
For example, I’ve come across a number of homes that have the large container of peeled, pre-chopped, brine-soaked garlic in their refrigerators. The attractive price and convenience are the catalysts for allowing products like these to enter our homes, but in reality we are sacrificing flavour.
Complementing garlic flavour in a recipe is best achieved by using fresh garlic that has been peeled and prepared at the time the meal is created. Fine restaurants will use the freshest, most high-quality ingredients available to enhance the dishes they serve to bring our palates alive with flavour.
Lemon juice is another common short cut. Lemon juice comes from lemons, not from a bottle. The taste difference in freshness is incredible.
As well, by utilizing fresh citrus fruits in recipes, one can take advantage of the essential oils in the outer zest of lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit.
Bouillon cubes/powders are another ingredient I find in homes that baffle me. Beef or chicken broth comes from, you guessed it, beef or chicken—not artificial ingredients.
Upon examination of these cubes or powders, you will notice the first ingredient isn’t even meat-derived.
There are convenient flavour bases available in better forms at your local supermarket, such as canned condensed broth or, better yet, jarred pastes.
There are many ways of creating flavour in recipes, like marinating meats, for example, but the best way is to make a conscious decision to make sure every ingredient in a recipe is the most flavourful choice possible.
Speaking of marinating meats (you guessed it), you should not be using powdered meat marinades.
A fantastic and quick meat marinade recipe made from “real” ingredients is in my book, “Chef Dez on Cooking, Volume One,” which is available for purchase on my website.
You will never go back to powder again.
Dear Chef Dez:
I read somewhere that chicken cannot be left in marinade too long. Is there any rule of thumb for this? I know beef and red meats can be in marinade for a long time.
This is correct.
Marinades are made up from a base, an acid, and flavourful ingredients. The base of a marinade is usually oil, as this will aid in the cooking process.
An acid, such as vinegar, wine, or lemon juice, is added to break down the tougher proteins found in the meat.
Red meats and pork, depending on the cuts, are the toughest and are better to marinate from one hour up to 24 hours. Chicken proteins are much more delicate and are more preferably marinated for no longer than four hours.
Over-marinated chicken will become tough because the acid in the marinade actually will start to cook the more delicate proteins. The same follows through with seafood, as its protein composition is even more fragile than chicken.
Seafood usually should be marinated for a mere 30 minutes-one hour when using an acid marinade.
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Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor, and cooking show performer. Visit him at www.chefdez.com