|Thyme Wild Mushroom Barley-sotto|
I’ve been thinking a lot about acid lately.
We sat down for a lunch of this barley-sotto today, and while the flavor was nice, it felt like it needed just a little something to make it sing. As much as I love the flavor of mushrooms, dishes that are mushroom-centric can seem a little muddy, especially those that cook for a long time. JJ reminded me of my discussion with him about the importance of acid in food, and suggested we add a few drops of lemon juice. That was it. Perfect.
Acid’s role in balancing out a dish has been proven to me again and again in the kitchen as I am playing with food during recipe development. Taste: does it need more salt? Taste again: more of a certain herb? more spice? more pepper? It needs something…but I’m not sure what. If this has ever happened to you, as it has to me hundreds of times, the chances are good that the missing component is acid.
I add acid to my borscht soup once the textures are perfect and just after I turn off the heat. I use a mixture of lemon juice and red wine vinegar because I like the balance the combination these two acids provide against the otherwise heavy backdrop of cabbage, tomato, beets and beef.
I was making Asian Chicken Salad for a party the other day, and after tasting the dressing multiple times, I finally realized that it didn’t need more ginger or chili or sesame oil. The missing ingredient was acid. I added the juice of two limes and the dressing suddenly became 5-star.
I’ll add a bit of lemon juice to chicken noodle soup sometimes. The cassoulet I made with Touluse Sausage didn’t taste right until I added lemon juice – the pre-acid version was simply too cloying.
Here are some other examples where acid enhances the flavor of your food:
- Papaya + lime
- Mango + lime
- Fish + lime or lemon & salt
- Avocado + lime or lemon and a little salt (especially important for Guacamole)
- Strawberries + balsamic vinegar
- Tomatoes + balsamic vinegar or salt & lemon juice
- Roasted root vegetables + red wine vinegar or tart orange juice
- Asian dishes with coconut milk + lemon or lime juice
Get your pots out and start playing with acid!
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice