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LAYERING THE FLAVORS
Seasonings in cooking are often listed as: salt, herbs, spices,
aromatics, butter, fat, vinegar, oil, and mustard.  The aromatics
are the vegetables, herbs and spices used as the base of the
favors.  Just as a reminder, herbs consist of the leaves of
aromatic plants and do not include the stems or seeds.  On
the other hand, spices consist of the bark, buds, fruit, flower
parts, roots, seeds and stems of selective plants and trees.
 
The approach to creating taste through layering of flavor, uses
the correlate that the strength of a flavor increases within
a food based predominately on: 1. amount of an ingredient
added to the preparation process and, 2. the length of time
it has cooked with the food.  Therefore the ratio of ingredients
to each other and the timing of placement directly impact the
amount of flavor in the finished dish.
 
The style of layering used in Paulette’s Red Kitchen starts with a mix
of vegetables to for a base pallet, then spices and herbs are added at different
stages to the preparation and cooking process followed by the liquids.  The combinations of different herbs, spices and liquid types is endless and totally within the control of the creator.
 
Layering flavor in any creation has a few key aspects to it. There are the components, and then there is the timing of placement.  Keep in mind the amount you need for any of the listed items is dependent upon what you are cooking and  what cooking method you are using. The suggested amounts listed below  should match those variables.
 
First layer: Chop up to a total of 2 cups of aromatic vegetables, including
at least 3/4 cup of the onion family.   Most recipes suggest a saute of
these vegetables and it may range from ‘sweating’ the vegetables or
creating ‘tranlucent’ onions.   The sweating of the vegetables is to heat
the vegetables just enough to create the effect that the water, sugar
and other liquids in the vegetables just begin to seep out and often looks
like little beads of ‘sweat’ on the vegetable.  In sweating the vegetables, they are not cooked all the way through and still retain much of their original shape and fiber.   In contrast, when the recipe calls for sauting onions until ‘translucent’ the vegetables will be softer and can even begin to change shape given the amount of actual cooking that has taken place.  
 
The cooking of these vegetables at this stage is forming a base layer of flavor upon which the rest of the cooking will take place.  The second layer consists of the addition of herbs and/or spices.   The desired outcome will dictate the choices and/or combinations of herbs and spices.   When one major dominant flavor is desired, one should always add a second flavor to enhanse the dominant flavor. 
 
First,chop up to a total of 2 cups of a combination of the basics, including at least 3/4 cup of the onion family.   The coarseness or fineness of the chop is dependent upon the other ingredients you are putting into your creation and the final effect you want to achieve.  Most recipes suggest a saute of these ingredients with butter or oil.  The primary building blocks of flavor are: onions/leeks/scallions, carrots,celery, fennel and sweet green or red peppers.
 
Second, the next layer consists of the herbs and spices, and this
combination is wide open to your imagination and taste preferences.  
Some of the primary spices that create excellent layers are:
Star anise (1-2 at the most)
Cinnamon sticks (1-2 whole sticks)
Ground all spice (1/4 t to not more than 1 t)
Ground cumin (1-2 t)
Ground sweet paprika (1-3 t)
Ground coriander (1/2-2 t)
Ground cardamon (1/8-1/4 t)
Ground smokey or hot paprika (1/2 t)
Sesame seeds (1-2 T)
Mustard seeds (1 T)
Hot pepper flakes (1/4t)
 
Some of the primary herbs that create the second layer
are fresh chopped (use only 1/2 of suggestion if using dry herbs):
Rosemary (1 t)
Thyme (1 T)
Oregano (2 t)
Bay leaves (1-2 whole)
Basil (1T)
Oregano (2 t)
Dill (1 t)
 
Third, are the flavor boosters, or contrasts.  The end result desired is a complexity of flavors and these ingredients create backgrounds and accents for the other flavors.  Thus the concept of 'layering the flavors'.   Some of the flavor compliments are:
Olives (no more than 1/2 c)
Tomato paste (1-2 T)
Tomato sauce (1/2 - 1 c)
Dried mushrooms reconstituted in water (1/2 oz)
Ginger (1 T grated)
Anchovies or Anchovie paste (1/2 t)
Garlic (1 T minced)
Hot pepper (1T finely chopped)
Robust vinegar, red wine or balsamic (1-2 T)
 
Fourth, there is the liquid that you may want to add. The total amount of liquid would relate to the method of cooking you are performing.   For stewing, braising or poaching then at least 2 - 3 cups would be needed.  For just finishing a saute, maybe 1-3 T would help create a sauce by deglazing the pan. The liquids that add the most complexity are some of the following:
Broth of choice (1 1/2-2 c)
Dry red or white wine (1-2 c)
Beer (1 1/2 c)
Canned tomatoes and juice (1 c)
Soy Sauce (1 T - 1/4 c)
Mushroom soaking water (1- 2 c)
Apple Cider (1-2 c)
Rice wine (1 c)
Vermouth, Sherry, Brandy, Tequila, etc (1 c)
 
The total amount of liquid would relate to the method of cooking you are performing.   For stewing, braising or poaching then at least 2 - 3 cups would be needed.  For just finishing a saute, maybe 1-3 T would help create a sauce by deglazing the pan. 
 
The salt and pepper would be added after all the layering has ocurred and adjusted to taste.  Some combinations will not require salt or pepper based on the ingredient combinations so do not ‘auto’ salt.  Adding salt and pepper can become a habit that is actually disrespectful of what you have created.   So taste and then salt.
 
A listing of the suggested steps and ratio of ingredients is available under the Recipe Tab, using the button entitled  Layering Ratios.
 
Some traditional flavor combinations are:
 
Big Red Wine: onion, carrots celery, bay leaf, garlic, red wine, beef broth, dash of red wine or balsamic vinegar at very end of cooking.
 
Rustic Style: onion, carrots, celery, thyme, paprika, tomato paste, dried mushrooms and soaking water, garlic, vermouth,fresh parsley at end of cooking.
 
Provencal: leeks, carrots, celery, rosemary, thyme, basil, bay, garlic, tomato paste, olives, red wine, chicken broth,
brandy.
 
Southwest: onions, carrots, oregano, coriader, sweet and  hot peppers, cumin, garlic, beer, beef broth, red wine, crushed red tomatoes,  fresh cilantro at end of cooking.
 
Country Italian: onions, celery, fennel, thyme, oregano, basil, anchovies, garlic, red wine, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, hot pepper flakes,  fresh parsley at end of cooking.
 
Oriental: onions, carrots,  sweet pepper, star anise, cinnamon, raisins, ginger, garlic, soy sauce,  dried mushrooms and soaking liquid, rice wine, chicken broth, sesame seeds at the end of cooking.
 
Explore and enjoy!