How do you know what flavors work together? Perhaps the best place to start is to study traditional recipes from around the world as well as from the classical cuisine passed down to us through Escoffier. These are dishes that have stood the test of time. We know the flavor combinations work because they have been used over and over for decades or even centuries.
We have already seen some classic flavor combinations in our discussion of veal blanquette.The pairing of white meat, cream, and lemon, with a hint of nutmeg, is a quartet of flavors that you will find repeatedly in classic and regional dishes.
International or ethnic dishes provide other examples. In northern India, many dishes are based on a mixture of onion, garlic, and fresh ginger pureed together and fried in a little oil. Studying these recipes suggests to us that these three flavors might be used together in new dishes as well. Similarly, the combination of ginger and soy sauce from Japan, paprika and cured ham from Spain, garlic, tomato, and parsley from Provence, and olives and anchovies from around the Mediterranean are all successful flavor mixtures that we learn to use when we study classic dishes.
For chefs who want to create their own dishes, studying classic recipes is a good place to start.
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