For most of the rest of the year (and perhaps a bit into the next), I’m going to share reflections of the last year and what I’ve learned in the kitchen. Sometimes daily posts miss the flavor of the larger lessons so this is an attempt to take a step back and share the lessons that I’ve taken from the last 365 days. We’d love to know what you’ve learned this year too!
One of the absolute major changes this year has been the deliberate addition of acid – especially in places that I would never have imagined to use it.
Acid comes in many forms – vinegar and citrus are the most common in our kitchen. Ontario has several awesome wine regions near us and the options for local vinegar is plentiful. We do lack long-aged vinegar (such as Italy’s famed balsamic, many older sherry vinegars and Japan’s Ume Boshi Vinegar) so they tend to play a role in my kitchen as well.
My use of acid in cooking changed on March 1. I know the exact moment because it came in the middle of a speech by Fergus Henderson at Terroir V (the day before I got to meet him in person thanks to our friends at Hooked). Chef casually remarked that the primary challenge embraced in the kitchen is to ‘balance salt and acids.’ The moment was profound – I thought of how many recipes and cuisines I had experienced in the world and how often their cuisine had added acid – yet almost none of my cooking did. I used vinegar when told to but when cooking freestyle (the way I typically cook), I didn’t use any acid at all.
Acid is a cornerstone of our cooking now. A stir fry reaches new levels with a splash of wine vinegar and even stock reaches new levels with a bit of lime juice. Spaghetti sauce loves balsamic or ume boshi vinegar and a touch of cider vinegar is awesome in pizza dough. The truth is that, when adding a bit of acid at a time, I’ve never had a fail and almost always had a tangibly better meal – and most wouldn’t detect the vinegar at all.
What’s a lesson from your kitchen this year?