Our last blog post got a few questions about how we make food pairing decisions. Good news, we have two book suggestions for you: The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, and The Flavor Matrix, by James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst . We happily use these resources as jumping off points for flavor combination ideas or when we are stuck with a dish that needs… something.
For us, these books are about inspiration rather than recipe. The Flavor Bible doesn’t include recipes, rather snippets of essays from chefs about specific pairings and a listing of dishes from restaurants. The book begins with notes about what comprises flavor and defines the essence of ingredients. (If anyone has a substitute for mouthfeel, dm me.)
Chapter 3 is where the flavor matchmaking begins. Organized like an encyclopedia of ingredients, it includes a brief description of attributes of an ingredient followed by a very useful list of pairing suggestions. At the end of the list are Flavor Affinities. These are simple equations like: Corn + cayenne + lime + salt = Awesome. Not a recipe, but certainly a formula for a successful side dish.
For those of you interested in the science of cooking, the Flavor Matrix explores overlapping chemical compounds in foods and uses that as a basis for pairing. They also have some gorgeous charts that looked like they were painted by Helma af Klimt. If the charts prove too much, there are simple straightforward recommendations: Best Pairings and Surprise Pairings.
My eye fell on the general entry for melons and was unsurprised by ham/bacon, but I did not see mustard coming. And yet, I can imagine a chunk of melon topped with a smidgeon of Sister Carol’s Mustard. Divine.
Many of these ideas are dated. My grandma’s cooking focused on seasonality. She made some killer dill pickles and understood the power of locality (her garden). She used a pretty tried and true rule: If it grows together, it goes together. She was also a bit stern, so if she insisted it went together, there was no arguing with her. Give some pairings a try. Shoot us a note and let us know what worked and what didn’t, we’d love to hear from you. Some of our best stories are failed experiments (Mae Ploy should NEVER be used in a cocktail and celery is not good on nachos).