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Old 08-16-2007, 06:30 AM   #31
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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" flavor.

Well...I could go on about this forever so I'll just take my leave now and go to work!


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Old 08-16-2007, 08:14 AM   #32
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You are absolutely correct of course and that was my point. So often on the cooking forums I read where someone gives another advice about switching parsely and cilantro because they are interchangable. Sorry, can't do it unless you want to change the entire taste of the dish.

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Old 08-21-2007, 01:39 PM   #33
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I agree that cilantro will always give a dish a Mexican or Asian flavor. If you do not like it, just eliminate it from the recipe. There are some "sort ofs" ... For example, if you cannot get or grow flat leaf parsley, use the curley. It won't be as strong, use more. I think you should alway buy imported paprika. It comes in sweet, hot, and smoked. But your regular paprika is not as strong, and most people use it just to color the dish, not flavor it.

I'm a big believer that when you really, really change an orignal recipe, you should rename it.

The original question was about learning to use herbs and spices. To me that means learning the basics, then, when you know what basil, cilantro, clove, etc, taste like, then to branch out. I had a bit of diffuclty learning to truly appreciate some spice combinations .... because they, in my background, are spices used in sweet foods, or in certain dishes (i.e., it took me awhile to learn to love Greek red sauce because it has cinnamon in it. I now love it. Cloves were alway partnered with ham.) In more recent years I learned about North African, southern European, Indian, etc, cooking. Taking them all on at once would probably be more difficult.

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