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Awful to Good


IndyRob
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Long story short - I decided to make some authenticish Mexican Red sauce from dried chiles.  I watched various YouTube videos in Spanish and English and settled on what seemed a traditional approach.  After toasting some of the chiles and adding some chicken broth, I simmered and tasted - awful.  It wasn't done yet, but I'm accustomed to building flavors - not trying to (for lack of a better word) salvage them.

 

But I continued on faith.  After straining, reducing, adding the required cumin, oregano and salt, something started to work.  It did take a bit of adjusting, but in the end the result was remarkably good.

 

I thought about Mole, which seems similar.  Is Mexican cuisine unique in this regard?  I can't think of anything in American, British or French cuisine where you start out with something awful and somehow fix it to great effect.

Edited by IndyRob (log)
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I'm curious as to what you thought was awful about it - was it bitter, or just flavorless, or something else?  I can't think of any western cuisines that do this, but I can think of a lot of SE Asian ones - making something with fermented shrimp paste that originally smells really strong and slightly putrid, but winds up being something magical...

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Next time, remove the seeds before toasting. Then, after toasting the chilis, soak them for a while in very hot water, then discard the water. That should help with the bitterness.

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10 minutes ago, Alex said:

Next time, remove the seeds before toasting....

 

I did that.  But that's not the point.  My end result, as I said, was remarkably good.  I just don't know how, from that early starting point, one figures out that it needs just a bit of some of those other things.

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Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems to me most foods are awful until they are fully cooked.

 

Ever eaten a raw potato?

Most spices are pretty awful until cooked. That's why we tend not to put them in salads. Flavours take time and heat to meld and sometimes to mellow..

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13 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems to me most foods are awful until they are fully cooked.

 

Ever eaten a raw potato?

Most spices are pretty awful until cooked. That's why we tend not to put them in salads. Flavours take time and heat to meld and sometimes to mellow..

 

I don't think a raw potato is awful - just unappealing.  The taste doesn't change much with cooking.  It just needs softening and some help from salt and perhaps other things.  Raw meat or fish can even be a preferred treatment.  Both can also be dried similarly to chiles but not be awful.

 

We don't really eat spices as a primary, or even secondary component.  We put spices on things like potatoes.

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44 minutes ago, IndyRob said:

We don't really eat spices as a primary, or even secondary component.  We put spices on things like potatoes.

 

Whether spices are primary, secondary or whatever is utterly irrelevant. They contribute to the taste of a dish, sometimes greatly. And if some are still raw or partly so, the dish can taste awful. As you found out with the chillies.

 

Whether a raw potato is awful or not rather depends on one's definition of awful.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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8 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Whether a raw potato is awful or not rather depends on one's definition of awful.

 

So I guess I'm the only one who steals slices or juliennes of raw potato when I'm cutting them up for scalloped or fries? I always get out the salt and pepper, and quite like a raw potato when I'm hungry. One good thing about living alone is that you never have to cook unless you're hungry. 

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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I, too, am a raw potato muncher. 

 

In the "tastes awful along the way" camp, I'd put homemade mustard. Until it mellows, its pretty harsh.

 

 

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