Desperately Seeking Season

Published November 22, 2011 by livinggraciously

This has not been the best of days. It’s two days before Thanksgiving, and I took the car in this morning for what was supposed to be a simple alignment. Turns out that instead we have a litany of repairs that add up to…well, our Christmas present will be a working car! We can put a bow on it and everything!

Additionally, we aren’t going to get it back until tomorrow afternoon. They hope. This is really bad, because not only haven’t we done our Thanksgiving dinner grocery shopping, we have guests for dinner tonight and tomorrow night, meals for which I was going to go shopping this afternoon.

This is even more bad because we’re a little on the “Old Mother Hubbard” side in the kitchen this week. Ferrett was out of town with the car over the weekend, and no shopping got done before he left because I was immersed in work stuff. What we had left for protein was three chicken breasts and some frozen ground turkey.

If things go drastically wrong, tomorrow night’s guests will get meatloaf, but looking through the cupboard I decided I could make Thai curry for tonight’s.

Now, this is a known favorite of mine, but has to be adapted when Ferrett is around since he doesn’t eat peppers.  He doesn’t really care for water chestnuts, either, but I decided that he would just have to live with those. I had some sweet potatoes, which I julienned, and onions, and some fresh basil. Once I stirred it all together with the curry paste, the coconut milk, and the fish sauce, it was…okay. The sweet potato made it sweeter than usual, so it had to be adjusted for a little more heat, but everything else was individually all right. But I wasn’t happy. My tongue was not excited.

The flavor wasn’t bad, it was just kind of…flat. I stood over the pot, stirring and frowning. It didn’t need more salt, and black pepper is not the right flavor profile for this dish. What was it missing?

Well, it was missing the bell peppers, but that taste was out of the question. I thought to myself, besides their our flavor, though, what do bell peppers bring to this dish?

Then I realized: acidity! I reached in the fridge for lime, and squeezed a couple teaspoons of juice into the pot. (None of this “try in a spoon and see if it works” business; I commit!) Sure enough, that brightened the flavor right up and made the whole dish “pop.”

It’s a lesson I need to remember: sometimes what’s needed is to increase the umami profile of a dish, not just to pursue more of what’s already there. The proper balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty really does make a difference, and it’s too easy to fall back on just salting something more instead of actually paying attention to what’s happening on my tongue. I need to keep working on that.

But hopefully not by making meatloaf tomorrow.

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