Building Flavor Profiles

Foods offer complex experiences for the senses.When composing a new dish, a cook must first of all understand that more than just taste should be considered.The senses of sight, smell, taste,and touch all come into play. The fifth sense,hearing, also plays a role, as when we react to the sizzle of a steak or the crunch of a potato chip,but this sense is less of a concern for the cook than the other four. Consider how we perceive these characteristics of a dish:

• Appearance (color and color contrast, shape, shine, arrangement on the plate)

• Mouth feel (texture, moistness or dryness, softness or crispness) and temperature

All of these factors are important to making a dish appealing to the diner. The discussion in this section, however, is concerned mostly with aroma and taste.Why not just taste? Taste buds on the tongue perceive only four basic sensations: salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. What we think of as flavor is a combination of taste and aroma.When the sense of smell is lacking, such as when you have a cold, foods seem to have little flavor.

The flavors in a dish can be thought of as primary flavors and supporting, or secondary, flavors.The primary flavors are the flavors of the main ingredients. For example, the primary flavor in blanquette of veal (p. 326) is veal; the primary flavors in calf's liver lyonnaise (p. 321) are liver and onions; and the primary flavors in Irish lamb stew (p. 327) are lamb, onions, leeks, and potatoes.These are the flavors that predomi-nate.When you taste each of these dishes, the first tastes you encounter are the main ingredients. Other flavors, which we can call supporting flavors, support and enhance the primary flavors of the main ingredients.

Examining how a flavor profile is built in a single classic and fairly simple recipe can help you begin to understand some of the general principles involved.

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