The ‘F word’ in the kitchen is ‘flavor’ | Chef Dez

By Chef Dez | Feb 17, 2016

Hard-nosed chef Gordon Ramsey has enthralled many in his repeated seasons of TV's reality show "Hell's Kitchen.”

Although his language is somewhat colorful – to say the least – the "F" word we should focus on in the kitchen is “flavor.”

Countless consumers have frequented restaurants and fallen in love with tastes that they desire to duplicate in their home kitchens.

The attempts to do so can often be disappointing. This is most likely due to short cuts that people take when choosing ingredients that fit their lifestyles and time limitations.

For example, I have 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 flavor.

Complimenting garlic flavor 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. Lemon juice comes from lemons, not from a bottle. The taste difference in freshness is incredible.

Also, 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 that 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 that the first ingredient isn't even meat derived.

There are convenient flavor bases available in better forms at your local supermarket, such as tetra-packs, canned condensed broths or, better yet, jarred pastes.

There are many ways of creating flavor 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 flavorful 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” available for purchase on my website.

After you try it, you will never go back to powder.

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.

– Marj B.,

Abbotsford, B.C.

Dear Marj,

This is correct. Marinades are made up from a base, an acid, and flavorful 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 breakdown 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 4-6 hours in a high acid marinade. Over-marinated chicken will become tough because the acid in the marinade will actually start to cook the more delicate proteins.

The same follows through with seafood, as its protein composition is even more fragile than chicken. Seafood should usually be marinated for a mere 30 minutes to one hour when using an acid marinade.

Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor and cookbook author. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Write to him at dez@chefdez.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4.

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