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I'm pretty bad at adjusting flavours...any tips appreciated.

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I am not supremely confident, but it appears that I can work through basic techniques diligently and work to a fairly good standard I think. Least wise, I don't accept settling for my second best, and will always try to work out how to improve my technique and finish.

I'm also starting to learn more about how temps. work with proteins etc. and some of the science behind cooking and after years of ignorance, I finally know the difference between boil, simmer and poach. I've come on quite a lot since joining cheftalk, and I'm grateful for the impetus and support it provides.

Where I really struggle is what I think may come under the heading of flavour profiling - it just doesn't seem to have been something I am naturally gifted with, so I will need to work at it that bit harder in order to compensate. ( I gave up smoking several years ago and so hope my palette is technically now better equipped for the task)

When I'm making a casserole for instance, particularly if I include something like tomato purée/paste then I very often find the dish initially to have too many top notes as I call them and I'm often unsure whether it's too sweet or too acid. While I generally struggle through and manage to add some depth, it's not with any sense of certainty or skill - more a gamble with ingredients like stock cubes and parsley.:blush:

I am also`very unsure about reading the salt levels in dishes like casseroles.

I understand that most of any solution will lie in my learning through studied experience as I am cooking, in order to differentiate between various values. That said, if there are any hints/tips that help to guide more purposefully the development of an ability to profile flavours I'd be grateful.

Failing that, perhaps you have some rescue remedies for when a dish goes in an unintended and undesirable direction? For instance, I have read of a trick involving putting a sliced raw potato in with an over salted dish with the aim of the potato absorbing some of the excess salt.


Andy.
post #2 of 17
There are a lot of tricks, but if you follow a recipe closely you should'nt have to need them. Just take your time and be confidant in yourself. Never say you cant,. as you dont know til you try. Most recipes have been tested and do work. I have found that many of the ones posted in Newspapers contain more errors then cook books. I think that is because they are tranferred from books and the errors occur at that point.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #3 of 17
Season in layers and taste as you go. When you brown the meat for a casserole make sure it is properly seasoned. When you add veg make sure it is seasoned. As you build layers the final adjustment may not be needed.
post #4 of 17
Quite right about the potato Andy.
Sounds like you dont trust your own tastebuds yet. (Total koudos to you for giving up the weed BTW. Still trying myself) Maybe you should trust your own judgement. You'll never please everyone and you'll probarbly surprise yourself.

Tomato puree needs to be cooked out. Say, after browning meat, and before adding stock. Just give it a wee fry with the meat and a pinch of sugar will get rid of any bitterness.

There are loads of tips for making gone wrong, right. Best one i can give you, is always have a contingency plan...

2nd tip ... dont be too hard on yourself.
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #5 of 17
The way to make no mistakes is to not try anything new. And how much fun is that? :crazy:

Sometimes I make something that is so experimental, it's hard to put a name on it. Those are hit and miss, usually turn out good, but I've learned to not do that when I have hungry people counting on me. At those times I won't deviate much from the "tried and true".

Maybe change one ingredient or step at a time? That way you know what that change did, whereas if you change a lot of stuff at once it's harder to tell what caused what.
post #6 of 17
Oh by the way, I smoke now. I quit for a few years and started smoking again. I don't notice a difference in how foods taste, and I think it's because I've always smoked only outside. Seems to me being in a smoky room for a while is what makes the difference.
post #7 of 17
>The way to make no mistakes is to not try anything new. And how much fun is that? :crazy:<

Wholeheartedly agree
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the encouragement Ed, always appreciated :) also, thanks for the pointer about reproduced menus being more likely to suffer from errors.

MaryB - good insight :cool:, now I think about it, I do use seasoning one dimensionally as if I was editing the dish towards the end, rather than it being a progressive/layered process. That's something for me to work on.


Hi bughut :) Thanks for the tip about using tomato purée and reinforcing that the potato method works - both are good to know. You're absolutely right, I don't trust my tastebuds yet. I know when I'm not happy with something and mostly I know roughly what quality I'd like to achieve. What I can't do is after tasting, profile the flavours and know with confidence what is needed to move from one state to the other, I'm really keen to get better with this.

I do believe it is something that I can move forward with, and your advice to have a contingency plan and not to be too hard on myself is well taken.

Hi OregonYeti - Absolutely agree with this sentiment :bounce:.

At the same time, that's a good point about introducing measured changes and noting the difference(s) - I haven't really approached this with that sort of discipline yet and I do feel it's something I should do. Time to start my first proper kitchen notebook maybe...

:smoking:

As for the smoking, I appreciate your kind words bughut. If it helps at all, I was all but born with a cigarette in my hand and after many, many years of trying I managed to move away from it - I wish you well with any future steps you may decide to take in this direction. While I don't claim to have anything approaching an educated palette, I can't say that I notice any great difference in my appreciation of flavours since stopping smoking, however I am finding there is some value in just not having to second guess whether or not smoking may be a factor when I'm tasting for seasoning etc..
post #9 of 17
I quit smoking after 16 years of hard smoking, and I definately notice a difference in taste. I also can tell if an employee smokes when I taste her dish. They overcompensate for the dead tasting cells in the mouth. (That;s my theory anyway.)

The best way to get confident is to experiment, and continue pressing on. Casseroles are pretty tricky. You kind of have to get the seasoning liquid right the first time.

You can use some tricks in case of emergency, but it is best to rely on your own taste buds. Potatoes don't really absorb salt, they take moisture with them, and release starches, which mask the flavor of over-salting. You can sometimes rescue a soup this way, or a better method is by dilution.

I can feel your growing pains. I was there once as well. The best advice I can give you is never give up, just keep tasting EVERYTHING you make, and adjust.

Remember, you can add, but you rarely can take away.

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

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Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

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post #10 of 17
needs salt
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the added encouragement welldonechef :)

It does look like the way the potato method for removing salt is often explained is misleading, and that it basically absorbs the salty liquid in the same way as a sponge might. I can see ways in which that would be an avenue to providing opportunities for dilution other than pouring off liquid, just not the magic bullet it is sometimes claimed to be.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

Follow up to previous post:-

Might be splitting hairs, but by way of an afterthought - does the starch from the potatoes mask the saltiness, or just partner it in a way that makes the levels of saltiness more acceptable?

I ask as while I am generally over cautious with salt, I find that with carbohydrates salt will often compliment in a way that lifts them both to a new level, making me able to be more enthusiastic when using it.
post #13 of 17
I beg to differ.
An unpeeled potato will take some of the saltiness out of a soup or casserole. You take it out after its done its job so theres minimal starch
There may be scientific evidence to refute what i'm saying, but its worked well for me over the years
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi bughut.

Absolutely differ if your experience is different. :cool:

I'm split down the middle about this one. On the one hand, research it and you'll find there are folks that have tested the theory and say quite categorically that it's a myth. I really don't want to be perpetuating myths so I'm happier being up front and saying it's something that is challenged.

On the other hand - whereas I'm told by someone with first hand experience that it works, I am unable to present a useful case to the contrary. Does what happens in a controlled saline/potato test necessarily equate to what happens in a more complex chemical soup? - I have no idea.

At this point, should I find myself in the position of having an over salted dish, I suspect that I will give it a go anyway, if only to test the method for myself. What I'm not able to do is offer a cogent explanation as to why it would work.
post #15 of 17
Sounds fair Andy :)
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #16 of 17
Just a thought Andy, but do you have any sinus difficulties - like say blocked nose, hayfever etc? How's your sense of smell? Might be worth getting your shnoz checked out if that's the case. (Probably way off track with this idea...oh well :) )

Aroma is a pretty good indicator (most times) of how something is going to taste, and it goes together with the whole flavour experience of a dish, and getting it balanced right.

With the potato thing...whyever it works, if it works then use it. I know my favorite comfort food - oversalted chips :) Very healthy.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks bughut :)

That's a good thought to have raised DC Sunshine :). I take the occasional big hit with my sinuses, but I don't think it's something that constantly affects me. Come the new gardening year and I'm out there looking for great scents like 'ginger rosemary', 'pineapple sage' etc... so sticking with gardening terms, I think it's just that I haven't really grasped the nettle yet and still need time to grow.

I'm looking for hints and rescue tips as anything I can do to raise my game has become more immediately valuable to me. Just last week I unexpectedly found it was necessary to support the family by cooking and/or plating meals a few times a week for my Mother-in-Law (an ex cook) who due to age related illness has recently become unable to live independently without family support.

Anyway - I appreciate the encouragement from everyone, thanks all :)
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