Thursday, March 20, 2014

An ode to leftovers. Also, what the heck is umami?

You'll be happy to know I've been enjoying corned beef hash for breakfast the last couple days and I may like it even more than the original dinner...well, maybe.  I'm actually a big fan of a big bowl of everything mixed together, rather than the more traditional dining plate with entree and sides.  That bowl of leftover Thanksgiving, with everything piled in at once?  Divine.

That got me thinking, why are so many dishes better on the second day?  What happens in the fridge to make my food even more delicious?  I found some of the answers in this article from Forbes.  It seems that your taste buds are better able to experience a dish as a whole, once their flavors have intermingled for a longer period of time. So, rather than tasting, tomato, onion and cilantro in pico de gallo, I taste a new flavor when they've had a chance to sit for a day or two.  A flavor greater than the sum of its parts.

Additionally, giving a dish time to sit around and mingle, means we are better able to experience the umami flavor. What's umami you ask?  Well, it's something you can talk about with foodies to sound snooty. Additionally, it means 'yummy' in Japanese.  Thirdly, it's the fifth taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.

Chefs, scientists and foodies alike have a hard time defining umami, but they know it's the experience of tasting glutamate.  Mono sodium glutamate (MSG) is a man-made form.  In nature, mushrooms, soy sauce, meat, Parmesan,etc. all have glutamate that our taste-buds experience differently than the other 4 tastes. I like to think of it as flavorful, savory and delicious.  In a word, great!

So, this is all happening in your fridge with your leftovers.  Who knew?

That means when I pulled my corned beef, cabbage and potatoes out to make a hash, it couldn't help but be delicious.

On day 1, I cooked my hash with a little paprika and black pepper and topped it off with a perfectly soft-boiled egg (please ignore the one in the photograph, I accidentally cracked that one when I put it in the water and it got a little close to hard-boiled for my taste).   Day 2, I was in a hurry, so I chopped up my bits and pieces and threw them in a pan with a tablespoon of whole grain mustard and a dash of cayenne.  My stars, was it good (Yep, I said "My stars"). 

And then, tonight, I made a cabbage soup from the remaining odds and ends. I chopped up an onion, and a cup of baby carrots and sauteed them in a Tbs. of olive oil until the onions were translucent. I put in a tsp of black pepper, a dash of cayenne and a bay leaf.

 Then I added 1/4 head of cabbage, chopped (leftover from corned beef and cabbage), the remaining corned beef, chopped ( I had about 1/2 a cup) and a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes and 2 c. water.  I then simmered until the carrots were tender (about 30 min)

It ended up tasting like a deconstructed cabbage roll, it was delish!