While rummaging in my attic I found half of the world’s cookbooks, a collection that began in the 1960s. Sorting them was a chore. I was looking for “stories” about cooking and discovered a gazillion items I want to pass on to you. One story was about taste vs flavor. Well, not versus but the differences. I’ve been using the terms interchangeably, which alerted me to my ignorance.
We can’t taste food until our saliva begins to dissolve it and enzymes start breaking it down. Our mouth has taste buds on the tongue and palate that recognize the five basic tastes. Sweet, sour, salt, bitter and savory with savory being more difficult to define. Japanese call it umami, a protein taste that’s detected in soy sauce, cured meats and some cheeses. And here comes the distinction between flavor and taste.
The five tastes plus aromas you perceive creates flavor, i.e. taste + aroma = flavor. For instance, it’s easy to detect and appreciate the smell (aroma) of a ripe water melon when you cut into it or coffee brewing or fish frying. When you’re seasoning food it’s your quest to combine sweet, sour, bitter, salt and/or savory to reach the taste you desire. It’s not about herbs and spices; it’s about combining tastes.
This recipe for crappie, cashew nuts and tangerine peel combines tastes to yield a “tasty” flavor.
- 2-4 crappie fillets
- Celtic sea salt to taste, finely ground
- Black pepper to taste, freshly ground
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 1/4 tablespoons cashews (roasted and chopped) or pine nuts
- 4 2-inch wide strips of tangerine peel
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter at room temperature
Set out butter to soften. Heat a large sauteing pan over high heat, about 360 degrees F. Sprinkle both sides of the fish with sea salt (Celtic sea salt has a briny taste) and pepper, and dust the skin, or if skinless, dust the side that is closest to the bone with a thin layer of flour. Add the canola oil to the hot skillet, then add the fish, flour-side down and cook until the underside is done. Add butter, cashews or pine nuts, tangerine peel and capers to the skillet, and then flip the fish over. Immediately begin basting the fish with a large serving spoon, tilting the pan slightly and spooning the hot butter over the fillets until the inside of the fish begins to flake and the exterior has turned brown and the butter has browned.
TIP: Taste your food as you prepare it so you can make adjustments as you go. For instance, it’ll be difficult to remove the salty taste once it’s in your preparation.
Crappie & Potato Chowder
- 4 cups raw crappie fillets, chunked
- 4 cups shredded potatoes
- 1/2 cup celery, diced
- 1/2 cup onion, diced
- 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 to 2 cans evaporated milk (to suit desired thickness)
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- Red pepper flakes to taste
Cook crappie and potatoes in a pan just covered with just enough water so it will come to a boil. Sauté the celery and onion until tender; drain. Combine all into one large Dutch oven or pot. Add cream of mushroom soup, evaporated milk and butter. Simmer together until hot. Do not boil or milk will curdle. You can top this soup with crumbled bacon, shredded cheese and red pepper flakes. Serve with salad and fresh bread.
- 3 cups cooked crappie fillets
- 1/2 cup onion finely chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
- 1 cup potatoes, shredded (or mashed potatoes)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- cracker crumbs ground in blender
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
Mix or grind the fillets, onion, celery and potatoes together. Add salt, pepper, and egg together. Form into patties. For uniform patties, scoop mixture with ice cream scoop. Heat butter and canola oil in a skillet on medium-high and roll the patties in the crushed cracker crumbs (say that 5 times fast ;>) Fry the patties until they are golden brown on both sides.
Crappie Patties Sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon Celtic salt
- Black pepper freshly ground to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon dried dill (optional)
Heat the garlic and butter in a saucepan on medium and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste. Gradually stir in the milk and bring to a boil. Cook for two minutes while whisking the sauce. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the crappie patties.