How to Be a Better Cook - Add a Little Crunch to Every Meal! Textures Matter...
Crunchy and Delicious!
Good cooks know that flavors need balance and that sweet must be balanced by sour and that rich foods need an acidic counterpoint to tame them. Good cooks also know that you can elevate the merely good to the great by thinking about the balance and contrast of color and texture.
No matter how well prepared a plate of poached chicken breast with boiled skinless potatoes and steamed cauliflower may be – it remains a monochromatic nightmare unlikely to create much interest at the table. Color creates drama and beauty and the colors on a plate influence our perception of the taste of a dish – and it is important to think about them.
And like monochromatic food – mono-textural meals are just as bad!
The Importance of Crunch
You want to serve a plate that has a balance and contrast of textures. You want the creamy and smooth with the meaty and toothsome and ideally – on the best of plates – you want all of that combined with something with a dynamic crunch. CRUNCH!
Everyone likes crunchy food – it must be in our DNA or something, but put a crispy-fried coating on pretty much anything and people's mouths will start to water at the sight of it!
So, as a general rule – if you are thinking about a menu for dinner, and you're wondering what you might do to improve upon it – think of the balance of flavors and the balance of colors and think also of the textures on the plate and on the palate. Think about whether or not you can get away with adding a little bit of crunchy goodness!
Try adding something crunchy to everything you cook (within reason) and see if your meals don't start tasting just a little bit better.
The CRUNCH List
Here's a quick list of foods and techniques that you can use to add crunchy goodness to your next meal:
- Nut crusts
- Panko bread crumbs for deep frying
- Bean sprouts
- Fresh carrots, julienned
- Deep frying as a technique makes just about anything crunchy
- Spring roll wrappers (you can wrap just about anything in a spring roll wrapper to delicious effect!)
- Wonton wrappers – fried crispy
- Pork rinds (great in Asian noodle soup)
- Crisped chicken or duck skin
- Bacon, crisped
- Radish slices
- Ice - As in crushed ice for desserts
- Onion slices (raw)
- Phylo pastry
- Corn flakes or other crunchy cereals
- Fried rice vermicelli
- Potato chips (homemade or store bought – especially kettle chips!)
- Water chestnuts
- Dill pickles
- Fleur de sell sea salt (this is such a great sneaky bit of crunch!)
That's obviously just a very partial list of things that you can incorporate into your next meal or recipe to add a little textural contrast, and I'm sure if you put your head to it you can think of many many more.
Here's to happy cooking and even happier eating as you strive to create balanced and contrasting meals!
I should credit Michel Richard and his book Happy in the Kitchen for getting me thinking more about texture and the appeal of crunchiness. He boasts that his chefs call him Captain Crunch for his insistence on a little crunch in every plate. His book is very worth a read.
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