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Ignoring your food

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General Discussion 14

Ignoring your food

SaltyRaisins | Jul 31, 2009 11:39 AM

Do you find that ignoring (or rather, intentionally neglecting) certain steps while cooking can really add unexpected benefits to overall flavor of a dish?

This thought occurred to me, and made me wonder if it has struck others as well...I think I can even remember the exact moment when the complete thought came to me: I was browning chicken in olive oil for some arroz con pollo, and I had a phone call that took my attention completely from the matter at hand. Came back to find the meat had a seriously wonderful brown crust that "made the dish."

I like how Anne Burrell puts it, "Take the dish right to the edge of disaster and then yank it back." As an example: when observing an Italian nonna making a fegato with peppers in an Abruzzo kitchen, I was struck with how slowly she moved while dealing with very high temperatures, and how deliberate her gestures were- and then, how wonderful the result tasted.

I know that this is understood in many good restaurant kitchens and is in no way "news," (there is even a study that shows that experienced cooks have an innate timing ability, complete with internal alarms, when cooking time-sensitive things), and that for the home cook, having an understanding of temperature curves is important. But sometimes forgetting all that is good, too: I made sausages and peppers yesterday. I had chopped way too many onions to fit into my large pan, not including the peppers and sausages and can of crushed tomatoes. Knowing that sometimes these things work out, I put everything in and forgot about it for a while. Of course, everything cooked down perfectly and the pieces on the bottom were caramelized but not withered- something that would have been the case had I fussed over the onions.

What are your experiences with this "cooking to the brink of disaster?" Are there other dishes that benefit from this treatment that I should know about? Cheers.

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