Originally Posted by ironchef
Danica, sorry for hijacking your thread.
So here, let's give it back to her!
The cilantro/spaghetti sauce debate raises a good point. With the addition of a few "signature" spices or herbs, you can totally change the direction of a dish. Basic ingredients like beef, chicken, noodles or pasta are a canvas. The herbs and spices you use give them identity.
(This is going to sound a whole lot like someone describing wine as "mushroomy" but stick with me a minute...it will make sense.)
I give you: Roast chicken. Any of the following added to either the cavity of the bird or (my preference) shoved under the skin will define the resulting flavor.
Rosemary or sage gives chicken an earthy, autumn or winter-like quality. Round out with chopped shallots, olive oil and S&P. Place some carrots and quartered onions in the cavity.
Basil and oregano added gives an Italian flavor - round out with chopped garlic, olive oil, S&P.
Tarragon and thyme will give a French flair, round out with chopped shallots, olive or even walnut oil, S&P. (Do I dare suggest softened butter
If you'd like to give an Asian flavor to a roast chicken (which would be weird but doable), add ginger, garlic, sesame oil, five spice powder, soy sauce and freshly ground pepper - combined into a paste - definitely under the skin.
Going back to your original question - I have another suggestion.
Not only taste
each herb but drink in the aroma
. Blow all your air out, place the herb in front of your nose and slowly
breathe in through the nose. Make sure the herb is bruised
to release maximum aroma. (Beware of this technique with ground spices, I think they call that "snorting." LOL) Some herbs and spices are used not so much for what they taste like, but the aromatic dimension they lend to food. i.e. Cumin. I don't taste
cumin so much as smell
it in a dish. Cayenne - blazing hot and not used so much for its flavor
but for its heat.
Chipotle pepper - used for its smokiness
vs. any "pepper"
Well...I could go on about this forever so I'll just take my leave now and go to work!