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Old 12-31-2007, 09:07 PM   #1
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Spices/Herbs - rules for which/where?

I apologize if this is not the correct area so please move if necessary.

So, as the title mentions... spices. I just spent about 20 minutes searching about different spices and most of the information I've come across has to deal with where the spice originated and what the spice comes from (as far as the plant, etc.)

One of my weaknesses of my learning to cook are spices. Sure, I can follow a recipe and add a teaspoon of majoram or a pinch of thyme... but what I want to know is when creating a something from ingredients I have on hand for a quick meal, what spice matches what meat, vegatable, etc.

I believe I'm a pretty good cook... but I believe I can be better when I learn what bold spices I can add to make things even better. Salt and pepper are a given. I can usually throw around some cumin when I'm making my chicken chili. Enough about that though...

What kind of spices do you pair with what kind of ingredients? I love fish, shellfish, pork, chicken, beef, lamb, veggies... I love casseroles and stews... I love spicy to the point where I'm fanning myself. Two things I do not like are cilantro and mustard. Yes, I've experienced both numerous times and I do not like them in any context.

So please! What spice do you feel is necessary to make a dish? Give me some inspiration and insentive to create new and wonderful meals!

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Old 12-31-2007, 09:54 PM   #2
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Go here and check the second row for info on what spices/herbs go with what kinds of food.Just remember these are suggestions and you dont want to use them all at once
kitchen charts
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Old 01-01-2008, 12:46 AM   #3
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Hey man, I would check out the book Culinary Artistry

It is all about pairing foods with complimentary foods...what seasoning go with what ect.
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Old 01-01-2008, 12:48 AM   #4
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I'm someone that believes that you can pair almost any flavors together. In fact, an increasingly popular trend in designing upscale "nouveau cuisine" restaurants is to simply list the flavors of the dish, not whether it is a braise, pan-seared meat, roasted whatever. Taken from Alinea's sample menu :

Trout Roe; Coconut, Licorice, Pineapple
Salsify; Caper, Olive Oil, Smoked Salmon
Bison; Turnip, Candy Cane, Juniper

The trick is to understand both your spice/herb and the ingredient you wish to pair it with, and think about the best way to bring those flavors together. You mentioned fish and lamb among your favorite things to eat, and as an easy example, I'll use rosemary as our example herb. Rosemary and lamb are a pretty classic combination, in part because both ingredients have a rather strong flavors. Now, there's no reason you can't use rosemary with fish, only remember that fish generally has subtle and gentler flavors, especially when compared to rosemary. So while you might add several large sprigs of rosemary to the roasting pan with your leg of lamb, your filet of sea bass or your scallops would benefit much more from being served with a small amount of finely minced fresh rosemary and parsley to finish with, or with a few small dots of rosemary oil on the side. Another thing Alinea actually uses rosemary for is to serve a sprig of it on the side of your dish in piping hot water, where it steeps and you have only the aroma of rosemary to accompany the dish.

Combinations aren't always obvious and can sometimes require a good deal of though or sometimes just dumb luck to stumble on top of something great.

If you're looking for the most tried and true flavor classics tested by time go buy a copy of Auguste Escoffier's "The Complete Guide to Modern Cookery" (Le Guide Culinaire), originally published in 1903 I think. It contains most everything you need to know about about modern cooking, and contains over 5,000 recipes.
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Old 01-01-2008, 12:50 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by criniit View Post
Hey man, I would check out the book Culinary Artistry
This is also a very good book. This book also takes into account the traditional flavors of the current season (butternut squash and pumpkins in fall, for example.)
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Old 01-01-2008, 12:55 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by college_cook View Post

If you're looking for the most tried and true flavor classics tested by time go buy a copy of Auguste Escoffier's "The Complete Guide to Modern Cookery" (Le Guide Culinaire), originally published in 1903 I think. It contains most everything you need to know about about modern cooking, and contains over 5,000 recipes.
Only problem with that book is it only covers classical french cuisine. Plus it is quite a read think mine is near 1k pages. For Escoffier everything starts and stops with "perfect stock" everything in french cuisine is taken from that.

If your serious about increasing your knowledge of classical french I would defiantly recommend this one.
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Old 01-01-2008, 12:59 AM   #7
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What a broad and varied topic you bring up! When I first started to cook this is one area I decided to concentrate on (in addition to techniques).

I started by working with one spice or herb at a time, and learning how to use it with various foods. For me, the first one was basil, possibly because I fell in love with Pesto the first time my mother made it for me. I learned that it goes really well with tomatoes, both raw and cooked, and with mushroom soup, and really well with pork. And since it goes with each of those things, it stood to reason that I could combine some of them, so pork chops stewed in mushroom soup flavored with basil and garlic became one of my specialties. in my early days of cooking.

Once you find a few flavor pinwheels like that, you'll find yourself coming up with new combinations all the time. The key is to start with one thing and let it grow from there. You mentioned cumin, and that is a wonderful spice to start off with. Not only does it go with so many things, it also has a lot of different ethnic uses. For instance, it is an important ingredient in chili flavoring, not to mention Indian curries as well as Moroccan and other Middle Eastern flavors.

For the record, my favorite curry spice blend is cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cayenne pepper and turmeric.

Anyway, my best advice is to start with one or two flavors and let it grow from there. You'll get better mileage out of questions regarding one spice or one flavor than you will with a broad topic.

If there is any rule of thumb, though, it is this: use dried herbs and spices at the beginning of the cooking process, especially before a significant amount of non-oil liquid is added; and add fresh herbs at the end of the meal. This is because dried spices give up their flavor more slowly than the fresh, and the fresh will lose it altogether if cooked very long.
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Old 01-01-2008, 01:04 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by criniit View Post
Only problem with that book is it only covers classical french cuisine. Plus it is quite a read think mine is near 1k pages. For Escoffier everything starts and stops with "perfect stock" everything in french cuisine is taken from that.

If your serious about increasing your knowledge of classical french I would defiantly recommend this one.
Realistically, almost all of the techniques and methods we currently use for cooking, as well as many of the flavors and foods we enjoy today descend directly from classical French cuisine.

You don't have to follow the recipes exactly. You can always just thumb through the pages for ideas. A common thing for that book is for the author to describe the method for making a basic dish, and then immediately follow it with several simple but profound variations. Off the top of my head I remember the sauces section following the buerre blanc and the mother sauces... Sauce vin Blanc, Sauce Nantua, etc.

You could even go to your local Borders with a notebook and jot down things you see.
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Old 01-01-2008, 01:08 AM   #9
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Realistically, almost all of the techniques and methods we currently use for cooking, as well as many of the flavors and foods we enjoy today descend directly from classical French cuisine.

You don't have to follow the recipes exactly. You can always just thumb through the pages for ideas. A common thing for that book is for the author to describe the method for making a basic dish, and then immediately follow it with several simple but profound variations. Off the top of my head I remember the sauces section following the buerre blanc and the mother sauces... Sauce vin Blanc, Sauce Nantua, etc.

You could even go to your local Borders with a notebook and jot down things you see.
Very true, I'm just biased against it..lol I love nouvelle cooking and don't use mother sauces very often. But then again I still own the book :) I do defiantly recommend for every cook to read it!
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Old 01-01-2008, 06:45 PM   #10
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Thank you all for your advice. And thank you jpmcgrew for that site. Can't wait to explore it.
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