Culinary Sense

Adventures with Food and Life

Sensory Analysis: Comfort Food

Hey Folks,

our next topic in Sensory Analysis is: Comfort Food! Here, we looked at what makes food comfort food, and how it can become a balanced dish.

As I’ve said before, there are five tastes: sour, bitter, salt, sweet, and umami. Sour and bitter can be considered sharp, light, or unpleasant tastes on their own, and sweet and umami are considered rich, heavy, round, and pleasant (either on their own or in combination with other tastes). Salt is a mediator, and balances out and heightens flavors.

The taste of fast food is all about sweet, salty, and umami. There is often very little or sour or bitter tastes in it. Often, our comfort foods also live in the sweet, salt, and umami world. For this class, we made several dishes in “traditional” ways, and also in an alternate way to show that by adding sour or bitter elements (elements that are otherwise missing), you can balance out a dish or food.

Another fun fact: if you have all five tastes in one food, you feel satisfied sooner  (and will eat less).

Here’s what we made:

Traditional pizza and grilled flatbread. The traditional pizza is dough, red sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. It’s tastes are umami, salt, and sweet from the sauce. The grilled flatbread was topped with a salad of arugula, cherry tomatoes, and shaved pecorino, with a lemony vinaigrette. It’s tastes were bitter, sour, sweet, and salty. While neither pizza was balanced, the flatbread did offer up many tastes, and seemed much fresher and lighter then the ‘heavy’ traditional pizza.

Tuna melt and pan bagnat, a tuna sandwich from Nice (France). The tuna melt has bread, cheese, mayonnaise, sweet pickles, celery, tuna, and is griddled. The pan bagnat is tuna, kalamata, red onions, capers, olive oil, and focaccia. The tuna melt is salty, sweet (from the sweet pickle), sour, and umami. The pan bagnat is sour, salty, and umami. Maybe a little bitter from the capers. Overall, the pan bagnat was pretty sharp and aggressive, and the tuna melt was smooth and salty and yummy. However, the pan bagnat could have been creamy to balance out the sour and sharp, and the tuna melt could have used some bitter and perhaps more sweet (tomato and leafy green?) to balance it out.

The sliders were my favorite. I loved both the traditional slider with lettuce, onion, tomato and dijon on a grilled bin and the one with the griddled bun and griddled burger, with melted cheese, bacon, ketchup, and caramelized onion. The latter was pretty sweet and umami, and salty from the cheese and bacon. But the other slider was nice and fresh, with bitter, sweet, salty, and umami. I might have liked the bacon cheddar slider even better if it had dijon instead of ketchup, and maybe some lettuce.

Next, chicken pot pie. We made a traditional chicken pot pit with bacon chive biscuits baked right on top. The alternative version was a lemony chicken stew with lemon thyme biscuits. The traditional one was pretty heavy, but the lemony one was super lemony. Of course, Chef Sarah had wanted us to overdo some of the seasoning so we could really tell the difference between the two dishes. The biscuits, though, were pretty good!

And finally, I ate the best chocolate cookie I’ve ever had! It was basically a brownie, but in cookie form. Soft and gooey in the middle, but a little crunchy on the outside. The other cookie was a crisp, flat cookie that didn’t impress me that much, but it was still pretty chocolaty.

Needless to say, we were STUFFED. Supposedly, we’re only tasting these foods, but in reality, we totally eat sooooooooo much food.

Until next time,

~ Carolynn


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