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Old 06-21-2007, 12:27 AM   #1
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ISO help choosing spices for cooking

It seems like spicing something is really complicated. There are lots of different spices, and way more combinations even if all the amounts are the same. But then let the ratios change & there can be so many MORE combinations. How do good 'spicers' know what goes well together? example: nutmeg, cloves & cinnamon seem to make things better than only one or two of those at a time. How can I decide when adding a spice will mess up the balance & ruin a spice blend? another example: say i use some hot paprika, then adding cayenne would probably make it spicier than I want it to be & ruin the blend, when it would be better to add something that would work WITH the paprika, but what? That's a pretty simple example, how do I work with subtler things? I know it would probably be bad to include two herbs/spices that are very similar since it would probably be overkill. & then there's the stuff that gets spiced; different meats (or veggies?) would get spiced differently. Is it just experience or what?

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Old 06-21-2007, 05:12 AM   #2
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What do you want the final dish to taste like? Don't just say "hot" or "spicy". You can add 50 different things to a dish make it spicy. Do you want it to have a more Southwestern heat, Caribbean heat, Spanish heat, Asian heat, etc.? Once you figure that out, then use the internet. Look up cuisine specific recipes and see what types of flavor combinations are used, and then go from there.
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Old 06-21-2007, 07:55 AM   #3
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Your last sentence says it all. Experience. Either by

cooking yourself or eating out and then researching the recipes. Experience and trial and error.(or hopefully trial and success!!)
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Old 06-21-2007, 09:37 AM   #4
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Make some recipies to see how different spices affect the taste. Maybe you could find some that you can taste before the spices get added so you can compare.

Just keep in mind, "less is more"
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Old 06-21-2007, 10:10 AM   #5
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Run, don't walk to your nearest bookstore and buy a copy of Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. It is the most comprehensive book on food and flavor pairings you'll ever see!! It has ingredients lists with the herbs/seasoning/foods that pair well with them.

It's a wonderful book!
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Old 06-21-2007, 12:14 PM   #6
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When I first really started experimenting with flavors I would do 2 things
1. Use my sense of smell and find out what spices smell good together (i.e. garlic and pepper, or Rosemary and parsley)
2. I would do sightly larger amounts of food and try different combinations on various pieces. Like lets say chicken wings, I would cook 20 and have 5 different flavor combinations. If I didn't like one, there was another flavor for me to try. This way I could compare each combination and decide which ones worked and which ones didn't.
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Old 06-21-2007, 04:06 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjs
Run, don't walk to your nearest bookstore and buy a copy of Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. It is the most comprehensive book on food and flavor pairings you'll ever see!! It has ingredients lists with the herbs/seasoning/foods that pair well with them.

It's a wonderful book!
that looks like a good book! it looks like it does a lot to demystify seasonings/spices & what they should go with. it's definitely worth a look i think. thx for the heads up
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Old 06-21-2007, 04:11 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Renee Attili
When I first really started experimenting with flavors I would do 2 things
1. Use my sense of smell and find out what spices smell good together (i.e. garlic and pepper, or Rosemary and parsley)
2. I would do sightly larger amounts of food and try different combinations on various pieces. Like lets say chicken wings, I would cook 20 and have 5 different flavor combinations. If I didn't like one, there was another flavor for me to try. This way I could compare each combination and decide which ones worked and which ones didn't.
i thought of doing something like that, like using equal amounts of all the spices one time, then next time doubling one & leaving the rest as they were & seeing how it changed the flavour. then of course going through all the spices in the mix & seeing how it changed. it seemed like a lot of trial & error to get it right though.
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