A few weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a Rick Bayless cooking demo in Chicago, IL. Intertwining story telling while performing a demo is certainly a skill that he has developed. Beyond the recipe, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about his perspective on food.
Although his cooking style is different than mine, he shares many of the same ideas in which I embrace including, but not limited to, learning methods from other cultures and seeking understanding of the food itself before taking on any culinary endeavors. In addition, he spoke of being knowledgeable and considerate for the sensory system.
One of my graduate level nutrition classes, placed great emphasis on this as well. It was in this course that I was first introduced to the concept of umami, the fifth taste, which also embodies what we have come to know as “savory”. Besides salt, sweet, sour, and bitter, foods that elicit umami are often viewed as superior in some way. Underlying this perspective is a unique interplay within our human biochemical pathways adding further scientific support as to why humans favor the umami taste. However, essentially, umami contributes to making a prepared dish palatable. (It’s also a very fun word to pronounce out loud).
Additional information on umami can be retrieved from the resources at the bottom of this post.
On the day of the demo, Bayless incorporated a dish including autumn squash and pork to illustrate umami. From my understanding, it is the smoked component of the pork that would elicit the umami response. Personally, I do not eat pork. Therefore, upon his suggestion, I tried a version of the recipe with mushrooms. I certainly can not take credit for the creative vision and wonderful turn out of this dish. It is all a credit to Bayless. However, I love to share innovative food concepts and, therefore, am summarizing my take on the recipe.
First, I started with the salsa like sauce by blending pan-roasted onions, tomatillos, and whole garlic cloves.
I added a little bit of Co-Op hot sauce to the tomatillo blend which gave it an orange-like hue.
Then, I sauteed the mushrooms in coconut oil.
With the squash, I had a little help from my CSA who has been sending us an assortment of frozen, pre-prepared vegetables to fill in the lower production of fresh items during the winter months. #TomatoMountain. Therefore, I simply heated this in a pan over low-heat. Finally, layered the items to be served and topped with pumpkin seeds as my non-dairy substitute/swap to cojita cheese.
Even though I may have selected a slightly too hot version of Co-Op sauce, I still lived up every bite of the dish.
Without question, it embodies umami!
Resources for Umami:
Beauchamp, G. (2009). Sensory and Receptor Responses to Umami: An Overview of Pioneering Work. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 723S-727S.
Chaudhari, N. P. (2009). Taste Receptors for Umami: The Case for Multiple Receptors. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 738S-742S.
Curtis, R. (2009). Umami and the Foods of Classical Antiquity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 712S-718S.
De Araujo, I. K. (2003). Representation of Umami Taste in the Human Brain. Journal of Neurophysiology, 90(1), 313-319.
DuBois, G. (2004). Unraveling the Biochemistry of Sweet and Umami Tastes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(39), pp. 13972-13973.
Lindermann, B. (2000). A Taste for Umami. Nature Neuroscience, 3, 99-100.
Lindermann, B. N. (2002). The Discovery of Umami. Chemical Senses, 27(9), 843-844.
Mau, J. (2005). The Umami Taste of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 7(1/2), 119.
Yamaguchi, S. (1998). Basic Properties of Umami and Its Effects of Food Flavor. Food Reviews International, 14(2-3), 139-176.
Yamaguchi, S. N. (1998). What is Umami? Food Reviews International, 14(2-3), 123-138.
Yamaguchi, S. N. (2000, April 1). Umami and Food Palatability. The Journal of Nutrition, 130(4), 921S-926S.
Tomato Mountain Farm, Brooklyn, WI, http://www.tomatomountain.com
Co-Op Sauce, Chicago, IL, http://www.coopsauce.com