Thursday, February 12, 2009
On the Workbench...Lemons
All food can be broken down to 4 tastes, sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Clearly people are the most comfortable with sweet and salty, those being the basis of the entire junk food empire and a couple possible reasons for the pudging of America. The important thing to remember is that these tastes all work together to enhance each other. For example, bitterness can lower the perceptible sweetness in a dish and sourness can sharpen the sweetness in a dish. Great Chef's throughout the world use sour tastes as naturally as they use oils and salts. They might keep a collection of vinegars and acids right next to their Olive Oil and Kosher Salt. Sourness is generally used to balance a dish, brighten the flavors, and at time times even to do the cooking.
Vinegars and Acids are generally the main sources of sourness in a dish. For this batch of recipes we will be focusing on Acids, more specifically citric acid and more specifically still, the acid from Lemons. The preparations will all feature Lemon in some capacity, sometimes as the star and sometimes as part of the support staff. Lemons are a versatile fruit in the respect that you can use the juice as well as the skin, and each carries a different lemon flavor. The skin tastes more bitter than sour but with a very fragrant lemon taste. The juice tastes more sour with a less pronounced lemon taste. In other words, if you want a bold flavor of lemon with a slight bitter note use the skin (or peel or zest) and if you are after the acid more than the flavor use the juice.
The following post will feature a long list of flavor matches and some ideas for general preparation. Lemons will have their day in the sun and it will be glorious.