December 9, 2009

'Tis the Season

If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to a guy who really knows his stuff. Last week I picked up Thomas Keller’s most recent cookbook, ad hoc at home, and a quick peek at the culinary god in person. Pretty legit.

To prepare for my dinner guests this evening, I cracked open the book to find a simple yet inspired side dish recipe. What I found instead was an opening page of cooking advice that felt like a message from the salt free gods.

In a section called, “Becoming a Better Cook,” Keller gives the following tip:

Learn to use vinegar as a seasoning device. Recipes often tell you to season with salt or salt and pepper, but you almost never see the instruction “season with vinegar.” In fact, vinegar (or citrus, or any acidic liquid, such as verjus) can be an important way to markedly enhance the impact of a dish. It’s always worth considering whether a few drops of vinegar could be added to a soup, sauce, or braising liquid to make the flavors really jump out. You don’t necessarily want to taste the vinegar, only to feel its effects. It’s an important seasoning tool.

So listen to the man and think beyond the salt box. Everything from that half drunk wine in your refrigerator to the pan juices from your sautéed pork can serve as flavoring devices. Oh, and so you don’t procrastinate from your work any longer than needed (unless you want to of course), verjus is an acidic liquid made from green grapes or green apples.

For homework this week, use vinegar (champagne, balsamic, white wine) to season your food, whether it is a salad, vegetables, or a fine cut of meat. And remember to leave off the salt.

Okay, it’s about time for me to hit the stove for this evening’s feast. Recipes, pictures, and stories to come tomorrow.

Chow on.

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