Elements of Taste

Overview

Four-Star Chef Gray Kunz has teamed up with food writer Peter Kaminsky to put together a cookbook that looks precisely at how the dynamic of great taste is achieved. By putting into plain language the thoughts that a chef has when he or she creates a recipe, The Elements of Taste has forged a revolutionary approach to cookbook writing. Every dish in this book is conceived according to the interplay of fourteen categories of taste.

In exuberantly married dishes, Kunz and Kaminsky...

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The Elements of Taste

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Overview

Four-Star Chef Gray Kunz has teamed up with food writer Peter Kaminsky to put together a cookbook that looks precisely at how the dynamic of great taste is achieved. By putting into plain language the thoughts that a chef has when he or she creates a recipe, The Elements of Taste has forged a revolutionary approach to cookbook writing. Every dish in this book is conceived according to the interplay of fourteen categories of taste.

In exuberantly married dishes, Kunz and Kaminsky demonstrate how these tastes interact and build on one another and, most important, how we experience them. They show you exactly how to make delicious dishes and tell you how and why they work. Truly inspired combinations include Halibut with Spring Onion Stew in Watercress Mussel Broth, Spiced Shrimp in Cardamom Ancho Chili Sauce, Oven-Crisped Chicken with Maple Vinegar Sauce, Ham Hocks and Spare Ribs in Cherry Beer, Poached and Crisped Turkey Leg Provencale with Lemon Pickle, Chilled Lemongrass Soup with Coconut-Pineapple Ice Cream and Papaya, and Citrus and Passion Fruit Souffle. Describing the heat, the texture, the timing of taste as you bite through these mouthfuls, the authors go beyond merely telling the home chef how to put together these dishes. In clear, concise language they explain how each flavor fits into the total taste experience.

More than a primer of flavor, this is a practical and seductive introduction to the world of taste, including over 130 recipes by one of the acknowledged masters of contemporary cuisine. When you have cooked through this book, you will be able to look into your own pantry or refrigerator to create your own four-star meals.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Look past recipes and you'll find taste: a sensual, living language that few truly understand. "Following a recipe requires little more than an ability to fill a measuring cup and read your watch," New York magazine food critic Peter Kaminsky contends. "The accomplished chef understands how taste works, what its components are, how it can be layered, how it must be balanced." Teaming up with former Lespinasse chef Gray Kunz, Kaminsky introduces us to the true art of cooking by defining the subtle connotations of flavor.

Meals should not be understood as recipe-book stacks of ingredients, claim Kunz and Kaminsky; instead, we should learn to read meals as complex, meaningful narratives that unfold over time. To parse flavors in this way requires some effort, but the process enables us to shift from imitating dishes to creating them. "This book is...a step toward a new way of understanding cuisine," Kaminsky insists. "It is a method and a vocabulary of taste."

The authors introduce us to the wordless world of taste by analyzing its 14 basic elements through a simple yet complete system that identifies all flavors. "We have devised [this system]," Kaminsky explains, "for the simple reason that there isn't another one to be had." And the system makes sense: as Kaminsky's manifesto progresses, he shows us how to use this system to understand the properties, traditional uses and possibilities of each taste. For example, in his discussion of aromatic spices like cinnamon and star anise, Kaminsky explains: "Spiced aromatics...bring to mind trumpets and flutes: they rise over the rest of the ensemble." Such spices must be used differently than others: "Their function is not so much mouth taste as it is the aroma that pulls up taste." Kaminsky's descriptions are both accessible and lyrical; reading them deepens our feeling for various ingredients.

Though Kaminsky and Kunz are focused on defining tastes -- giving the reader his or her own tools with which to create explosive new dishes -- they also include a good selection of recipes. Like illustrations of a larger narrative, these classic dishes help us to see the complex flavor relationships that the authors describe. Kaminsky and Kunz open horizons of taste and then let us explore. (Jesse Gale)

Publishers Weekly
Kunz (former four-star chef of New York's Lespinasse restaurant) and Kaminsky (New York Times food writer and author of The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass) team up for a cookbook variation. Instead of arranging food by course or primary ingredient, they identify 14 basic tastes (salty, sweet, floral herbal, "funky," meaty, etc.) then groups them into four categories: Tastes That Push, Tastes That Pull, Tastes That Punctuate and Taste Platforms. The resulting recipes are, understandably, high-concept chef food. Explaining how they layer and balance tastes, the authors conclude each recipe with Our Taste Notes, which take an oenophile's approach to flavor description. Sweet Scallops in a Pink Lentil Crust with a Hot-and-Sweet Bell Pepper Reduction ends thusly: "The taste comes through first as crunch, then salt, and then heat. Next you get sweetness from the scallops.... The celery leaves provide a final garden note with some bitterness to close down the taste." Components are combined fearlessly. Green Onion Fondue includes scallions, tomatoes, dates, cornichons, mint and ajowan. Lady Apples with Gruyere Celery Pork Pockets are stuffed pork chops tweaked with cumin, mustard, prosciutto, turnips and quartered lady apples. As complicated and as multi-ingrediented as many recipes are, the directions are admirably clear, and some recipes, such as Oysters and Cabbage and Two-Tomato Coulis with Three Basils, are quite simple. While some readers may initially find the concept to be contrived, most will welcome this unusual means of creating and characterizing food. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Kunz, who earned four stars as the chef of Lespinasse in New York City, and Kaminsky, a food writer, have written an unusual cookbook. Kunz is known for his innovative recipes; having trained in Europe and worked in Singapore, he was one of the first young chefs to combine Asian and French flavors and cooking styles. He and Kaminsky have come up with a vocabulary of taste, comparable to the vocabulary of winespeak, based on 14 basic tastes they identified, from "Tastes That Push," or heighten the other flavors in a dish salty, sweet, and picante to "Tastes That Punctuate" sharp, bitter tastes like that of horseradish. They have grouped their 130 recipes according to these tastes, e.g., Seafood Casserole with Floral A oli falls under "Spiced Aromatic" and Gratin of Sweet Peas, Tarragon, and Pistachios is under "Garden," one of the "Taste Platforms." Each recipe is followed by Taste Notes, descriptions similar to wine notes; many of the headnotes describe the ideas and experimentation that led to the recipe. This is certainly an interesting approach, though some readers will find it unbearably esoteric. In any case, their book is full of delicious, imaginative recipes and gorgeous photographs of the sophisticated presentations. Highly recommended. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316608749
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 11.31 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword viii
Introduction 2
The Fourteen Elements of Taste
Tastes That Push
Salty 27
Picante 35
Sweet 42
Tastes That Pull
Tangy 57
Vinted 66
Bulby 78
Spiced Aromatic 90
Floral Herbal 102
Funky 114
Tastes That Punctuate
Sharp/Bitter 121
Taste Platforms
Garden 129
Meaty 141
Oceanic 160
Starchy 174
The Elements of Cuisine
The Chef's Larder
Breadings 187
Glazes 192
Spice Mixes 199
Toppings 205
Broths 214
Sauces 219
Brines 230
Pickles 235
A Chef's Note 247
Acknowledgments 251
Index 252
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Recipe

TRUFFLED SPAGHETTI SQUASH AND LATE GARDEN VEGETABLES

Here we have truffles, wine, cream -- all things that often are served with pasta. We lightened it with a medley of fall vegetables anchored by spaghetti squash. At least that is what our method looks like in retrospect. Actually we opened the refrigerator at the Kunz apartment and most of the ingredients were there already (okay, we admit it, chefs sometimes have truffles lying around). It was a cold nasty day when neither of us wanted to go marketing, so we cooked with what we had.

Ingredients
2 spaghetti squash, halved
3 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 shallot, finely diced
1/4 cup julienne of celery root
1-1/2 ounces black truffles, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup julienned butternut squash
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place the spaghetti squash, split side up, in a roasting pan. Dot the squash with half the butter, season with salt and pepper, then roast until a forkful of squash separates like strands of pasta, about 40 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and spoon out the "spaghetti." Set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and celery root and cook until they just begin to soften, about 1 minute, then add the truffles. Cook for about 1 minute more, then add the cream, spaghetti squash, julienne of butternut squash, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, then serve garnished with parsley.

Our Taste Notes
The shallot opens the bouquet then the floral herbal parsley moves the taste toward the garden crunch of the squash and celery root. By contrast, the cream seeks out the wintry earthiness in the celery root and funkiness in the truffle. The squash has garden vegetable taste, and background sweetness. The cream also picks up picante and spiced aromatic tones. The last notes are roundness from the cream and truffle perfume.

CITRUS AND PASSION FRUIT SOUFFLÉ
Serves 6

This is a prime example of what we call a "Chef's Dessert." Most desserts start with the idea of something sweet and just keep building on sweetness. Thus, soufflés -- which can be wonderful and light -- often are just a mound of overpowering sweetness. Here, the idea that started the dessert was tanginess and then using only enough sugar to balance it. The trial and error that went on between chef and pastry chef required Chris Broberg, the pastry chef at Lespinasse, to run up the three stories to the chef's office about a hundred times before the dessert was just right. But pastry chefs can always use a little exercise to stay trim.

Fruit
1 tangerine
1 lime
1 lemon
1 passion fruit
Approx. 2 cups sugar (don't worry, you bake the filled fruit on top of mounds of sugar, you don't include this all in the recipe)

Preheat the oven to 475° F. Slice about 1/2 inch from the top of the tangerine, then cut the lemon, lime and passion fruit in half. Scoop out the flesh of each fruit, taking care not to rip the citrus sieve and set the rinds aside. Press the fruit through the sieve, then sweeten the juice to taste (the juice should still be sour but have some sweetness to it).

Divide the sugar between six forms of a cupcake tin (each cup should be about one quarter full). Place a reserved rind in each sugar-filled cup. Spoon a tablespoon of sweetened citrus juice into each and set aside.

Soufflé Batter
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar

Put the egg whites and yolks in separate bowls. Put half the sugar in each bowl. Whisk the yolks until the thicken and have a satiny sheen. Whisk or beat the egg whites until they are firm enough to pull up into peaks but not so stiff that they stand up and remain that way. Fold half the egg whites into the yolks. When they are fully combined, fold in the rest. Spoon the soufflé batter into the fruit rinds. Place the soufflés in the lower third of the oven and bake until they rise and brown, 6-7 minutes. Serve immediately.

Our Taste Notes
The fluffiness of the soufflé is matched by the sugary sweet aroma of the first bite. The very tangy and lightly sweet fruit juice in the bottom of the rind comes as a surprise. The floral note in the fruit juice further pulls up the round and creamy sweetness of the soufflé.

APPLE PAN ROAST WITH STEEL-CUT OATS AND CINNAMON
Serves 4

This is a quickie cobbler. Serve with vanilla ice cream and maybe a little Calvados in the deglazing. Toasted oats have a unique nuttiness among starches. They crust up well to balance the soft apples and would work well for sliced pears and peaches or a new twist on French toast. Yes, this is basically the kind of quick cooking recipe you see on the side of a cereal box., but we tried it and liked it and the kids finished everything.

Ingredients
1 egg plus 1 yolk, whisked together
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup steel-cut oats (flakes)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 teaspoons sugar
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced in 1/2-inch wedges
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons Calvados
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the egg and flour. Whisk until smooth, then whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set the binding aside. Mix the oats, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon sugar together in a bowl. Brush one side of each of the apple wedges with the binding, then dip the side in the oat mixture.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, crust side down, and cook until the oatmeal is well-toasted. Turn the apples over and continue to cook until the apples are tender, about 4 minutes in all.

Arrange the apples (like a tarte tatin), crust side up, on a serving plate. Add the remaining sugar to the skillet and allow it to melt and slightly carmelize. Deglaze with a mixture of lemon juice, apple cider, and Calvados. Finish the sauce by swirling in the butter, then pour it over the apples and serve.

Our Taste Notes
The nuttiness of the oats and the spicy aroma of the cinnamon gently pull the sugar forward. The roundness of the butter is cut but the lemon tang and the Calvados.

Copyright © 2001 by Gray Kunz & Peter Kaminsky.

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