F-word an important ingredient

Hard-nosed Chef Gordon Ramsey has enthralled many in his repeated seasons of TV reality show Hell’s Kitchen

Although his language is colourful, to say the least, the “F-word” we should focus on in the kitchen is “Flavour.” 

Countless consumers have fallen in love with tastes in restaurants that they desire to duplicate in their home kitchens. The attempts can be disappointing, most likely due to short cuts that people take.

I have come across homes with a large container of peeled, pre-chopped, brine-soaked garlic in the refrigerator. Price and convenience are the catalysts for products like these, but we are sacrificing flavour. 

Complimenting 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.

Lemon juice is another common short cut. It comes from lemons, not from a bottle. The taste difference is incredible. 

Fresh citrus fruits also offer the essential oils found in the outer zest of lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit.

Use of bouillon cubes/powders also baffles me. Beef or chicken broth comes from – you guessed it – beef or chicken, not artificial ingredients. The first ingredient in a cube or powder usually isn’t even meat-derived. 

There are better convenient flavour bases found in tetra-packs, canned condensed broths, or jarred pastes.

There are many ways of creating flavour in recipes, like marinating meats.

But the best way to create flavour remains making a conscious decision to make sure every ingredient in a recipe is the most flavourful choice possible. 

Speaking of marinating meats – you guessed it, once again – 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. You will never go back to powder.

 Dear Chef Dez,

I read that chicken cannot be left in marinade too long. I know beef and red meats can be in marinade for a long time.

Marj B., Abbotsford

Dear Marj:

Marinades are made from a base, an acid, and flavourful ingredients. The base is usually oil, as it will aid in cooking. An acid such as vinegar, wine, or lemon juice breaks down tougher proteins in the meat. Red meats and pork, depending on the cuts, are the toughest and are best marinated for one to 24 hours. Chicken proteins are more delicate and are best marinated just four to six hours in a high-acid marinade. Over-marinated chicken will become tough, as the acid will actually start to cook the more delicate proteins. The same follows with seafood, as its proteins are even more fragile than chicken’s. Seafood is usually marinated for 30 minutes to an hour when using an acid marinade.

Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to dez@chefdez.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4

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