Concept 2: High Heat Develops Flavor

Hi everyone! (I thought it would be funny to start writing my posts as if I have a huge fanbase of followers.)  We are turning up the heat this week! To contrast Concept 1's "Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking," Concept 2 is about high heat. This concept was heavy on the science. My general takeaway is that when proteins reach a high enough temperature, molecules mix with each other in unique ways to create new flavor compounds. The new molecules are brown in color that we all know to be the sign of a well-roasted piece of meat.

Let me paint you a picture, if I may:

Imagine all the molecules that make up protein (amino acids) as guests at a house party. At first, they are all staying pretty close to the friends they came with. But as drinks start flowing, (aka, the party starts to "turn up the heat"...get it?), they start mingling with each other and form connections with new people, creating new friendships (or in our case, new flavors).

Fun Facts on the Maillard reaction

This whole process is called the Maillard reaction and it happens generally above 300 degrees Fahrenheit. So, fun fact 1: That's why anything you boil won't brown the way it will on a stove top or grill. Boiling water never reaches the needed temperature to cause the Maillard reaction! I thought that was interesting, and I'm sure you do too.

Fun fact 2: because the molecular reaction is a result of temperature and not time, if your chicken breasts aren't getting a golden crisp at the temperature you're cooking at, they not going to if you just wait a little longer. You need to turn up the heat.

Tying it back to last week

I made pot roast for my parents last week, which was oh-so-tender thanks to last week's concept of low temperature cooking (crock-pot.). But almost every single recipe I found recommended browning the roast in a pan before placing it in the slow cooker. I don't have that kind of time in the morning before work (and it was a Monday no less), so I skipped that step. But now I know why they all called for browning! Maillard reaction at its finest. Then slow cooking the rest to prevent overcooking and retain moisture.

rolling my sleeves up

I got overly ambitious this weekend. I did not realize just how much I was planning to make on Sunday, and ended up spending over 5 hours in the kitchen. I made:

  • Mulled apple cider
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Spaghetti Squash with Garlic and Olive Oil
  • Roasted zucchini with Yogurt Dill Sauce
  • Skillet roasted cod* with Roasted Red Pepper, Hazelnut, and Thyme Relish*
  • Apple pie in mason jars

The * stands for the Concept 2 recipes that I picked out for this weeks cooking lesson. But by the time I was making that.. probably hour four in the kitchen, also the same point I stopped counting my glasses of red wine, I became more focused on finishing than taking great photos, so I don't have all the finished products. You can just take my word for it that they were all delicious.

All in all, everything turned out pretty delicious. The hazelnut relish was the consistency of firm mashed potatoes, and I was expecting them to be a little more viscous, but that could be due to me using my blender instead of a food processor (how big of a deal is that? its probably in this book somewhere). Ok, here's the visual recap:

I always love hearing from you guys, so please keep commenting!  ;-)  See ya next week with Concept 3!!