The Elements of Taste


By Peter Kaminsky

By Gray Kunz

Formats and Prices




$24.99 CAD


ebook (Digital original)


ebook (Digital original) $18.99 $24.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around December 14, 2008. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Gray Kunz has teamed up with food writer Peter Kaminsky to put together a cookbook that looks precisely at what taste is. They have identified 14 basic tastes in the chef’s palate and offer recipes showing how to use these fundamental building blocks.


Copyright © 2001 by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Little, Brown and Company

Hachette Book Group,

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at

First eBook Edition: December 2008

Additional photography on pages 147 and 163 by Tom Aksters.

The Little, Brown and Company name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-316-05549-9

Design by Vertigo Design, NYC


Like a wave approaching shore or a wind blowing across the plains, these tastes push everything forward.


WE WANTED TO SIMPLIFY the long process of a traditional gravlax, by making a fresh herb and salt rapping with gravlax ingredients. The tastes would be the same, bur rather than infusing the salmon, the taste of the topping remains distinct and lets the nice texture of cooked salmon come out while still preserving the oomph of the spices and salt.



2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives

½ cup finely chopped parsley

1/3 cup finely chapped mint

1/3 cup finely chopped dill

Combine the herbs in a large bowl.


1½ tablespoons coarse salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon coarse ground white pepper

In a separate bowl, combine the salt and spices.


2 tablespoons peanut or other neutral vegetable oil

4 6-ounce salmon fillets, each about 1 to 1½ inches thick, skin on

Kosher salt

Finely ground white pepper

Cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the salmon, skin side down, and cook until crispy, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Dot the salmon with butter and place it in the oven for about 4 minutes. (The salmon will look rare in the middle and more fully cooked on the outside.) Remove from pan. Arrange the fillets on warm plates then sprinkle with herbs. Dust lightly with salt and spice mix and serve.


The first taste note is salty. It pushes everything else forward. Next you bite through the spice mix and floral herbs until you meet the tooth resistance of the fish. All of the flavors mix at this point. The aromatic herbs help focus the big flavor of the salmon. The parsley softens the spices. The bulby chives pull up more flavor. The mint works with the nutmeg to pull sweetness out of the salmon. As generations of gravlax makers have known, dill's, freshness marries well with salmon. The end notes are oceanic from the salmon, salty, and piquant from the pepper.


OUR FIRST TRY With this recipe was good but incomplete. All that salt and the sharpness from the whiskey fairly cried, "Give me something tangy and sweet to cut the strong briny pork!" There just happened to be a few ripe pears in the fruit bowl. We cut them in slices, as you would for a tarte tatin, and cooked them quickly in some white vinegar and refined sugar. It was just what was called for.



2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

2 soft ripe pears, peeled, quartered, cored, and then sliced into crescents about ¼ inch thick

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Add the pears. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears are barely tender, 2–3 minutes. Taste—the pears should be both tangy and sweet—and add a pinch of sugar If necessary. Set the pears aside in a warm place.


1½ pounds boneless pork tenderloin

2 cups Bourbon Mustard Brine (page 234)

2 tablespoons grape seed or other neutral vegetable oil

Cut the pork into medallions approximately ¾ inch thick. Marinate the pork in the Bourbon Mustard Brine in refrigerator overnight.

Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Pan-roast the pork, turning once or twice, until it is well browned on all sides, about 7–10 minutes. (Be careful: the honey in the brine can burn quickly so you must keep turning the meat.)


Put two medallions on each warm plate. Place the pears so that a few slices sit on the pork and a few alongside it on the plate.


As you bite through the port, the tang and fruit of the pears pulls out all the meatiness and salt. The mustard and the bitterness in the bourbon help cut these overpowering tastes so that you start the whole process over again with your newt bite of pear. The last notes are sweet, tang, salt, and a long lingering meatiness.


SCALLOPS ARE AN EXTRAORDINARY carrier of flavor considering they are just a simple white piece of flesh. They are light enough for a ceviche yet probably their most surprising characteristic is they have a slight funkiness in them, unusual in seafood. This allows us to cook them with shallots, and with truffles. It also allows us to serve them with really strong earthy wine like a Haut-Brion, usually reserved for heavier meats and game. The bay scallops that are available in the fall are the perfect ingredient in this dish.

To accent the deep fresh flavors in the scallops, we went to our larder and chose a Madeira Mirin Glaze. The saltiness and Sweetness in it pretty much cried out few a topping, so we went back into our larder, scratched our collective chin, and went with a version of our caper, almond, shallot mix that we had played around with in a few dishes.



½ cup warmed Madeira Mirin Gaze (page 196)


3 tablespoons butter

½ cup sliced (raw) almonds

4 tablespoons small brined capers

2 shallots, finely diced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and toast, stirring frequently until fragrant and golden, about 1½ minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and wipe out the skillet.

Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan and hear over medium-high heat. Add the capers and crisp. Return the almonds to the pan and add the shallots. When they begin to color, swirl in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley.


½–2/3 pound bay scallops, rinsed and patted dry

2 tablespoons corn or other vegetable oil

½ tablespoon butter (optional)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. Get it good and hot. Add the scallops and sauté—the flesh is delicate, so resist the temptation to move them around—until they are golden on one side, about 1 minute. Flip them over and cook about 30 seconds more. (You may, optionally, finish them off with butter.) Season with salt and pepper.


Spoon the glaze onto four plates Divide the scallops among the plain. Spoon the topping over the scallops and serve.


First you get the salt of the soy from the glaze. Then there is the vinegary tang and sweetness from the Madeira and rice wine vinegar in the glaze. You get crunch hum the almonds and a contrasting softness from the-scallop. The different textures are a big part of this dish. The almonds, which are bitter, close down the salt and tang of the capers. The final note is floral herbal from parsley; the last echo is ginger.


IN THE FALL, wildlife is foraging on berries nuts, and apples, which are all ripe, fully developed foods. Game meat in this season is rich and flavorful and can stand up to a powerful sauce. In this recipe you finely dice your caramelized vegetables because they will stay in the finished sauce (in many other dishes you discard those caramelized vegetables after the recipe is cooked). The sauce supports the game flavors but also cuts them so that each mouthful starts the flavor process again. Serve this sauce with stronger game, like woodcock, grouse, venison, or elk. Don't confine it to game, though. It's lovely with pot roast or a roast filet mignon. We liked this with pinot noir in the sauce, because it has the strength that game seems to want. A nice malbec would work equally well.



4 venison chops, about 1 inch thick

2 cups Jumper Came Brine (page 232)

Marinate the venison in the Jumper Came Brine overnight.


1 cup Basic Red Wine Sauce—Venison Variation (page 221)


2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral vegetable oil Brined venison

Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the venison and sauté for about 3 minutes on each side for medium rare.


Spoon the sauce onto four plates, place a venison chop on each, and garnish with the reserved caramelized vegetables.


A strong vinted aroma opens the bouquet. Next, the crunch and sweetness of the caramelized vegetables. The salt pushes the meat flavor. Butter rounds out the sharp edges of the wine, and juniper bouquet pulls up all the flavors. Next comes the texture and funkiness of the meat. The last tastes are a mix of wine, butter, pepper, and the sweet nuttiness of the roasted vegetables. They coat the palate and smooth the overall taste.


THIS DISH SURROUNDS THE PALATE with the gentle and hot sides of pepper. The sweet bell peppers give a garden and tangy foundation to the strength of the cayenne. The cayenne pushes with its picante heat. The lentils rather than being a mushy side dish, are there for crunchy punctuation. The sauce would go well with veal, grilled fish, a gutsy ratatouille or any dish with zucchini or summer squash.



¼ cup extra virgin Olive oil

½ medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped

½ cup roughly chopped red bell peppers

Kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Cayenne pepper

Pinch sugar

2 cups thicken stock or water

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup celery leaves, roughly chopped

NOTE: It is one of the crimes of many supermarkets that they trim the celery leaves off the stalk before they put it out in the cooler We find celery leaf to be a fresh, lively herb and we use it often.

Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and toss in the onion, garlic, and thyme. Mix to coat with oil, then add the peppers. Season with a little salt, pepper, cayenne, and sugar (you start seasoning now because you will render out water quickly), then add stock or water. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook gently until the peppers are very tender, about 10 minutes.

Puree the pepper mixture and strain through a fine sieve. Return the puree to the stove and reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (or watch the bubbles—when they start to make slow blurps, you're getting there). Swirl in the butter and bring to a froth with an immersion blender (or by whisking vigorously) Correct the seasoning with salt, cayenne, pepper, and sugar and keep the sauce warm over very low heat.


1 pound bay scallops

About ½ cup Pink Lentil, Turmeric and Green Peppercorn breading (page 190)

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

Pat the scallops dry. Coat one side of each scallop with the breading.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil then the scallops, coated side down. Let them cook, undisturbed, until the breading crisps, about 1 minute. Flip and finish cooking for about 30 seconds more.


Spoon the sauce into four shallow bowls. Place scallops in the middle, and garnish with celery leaves.


This is a very complex taste. It comes through first as crunch, then salt, and then heat. Next you get sweetness from the scallops. The pepper sauce brings garden brightness and major heat at the finish. The celery leaves provide a final garden note with some bitterness to close down the taste.


THE LAST TEN YEARS has witnessed, the return of the striped bass to the waters of the Northeast. In addition to being a great game fish, it is a great cooking fish. It has delicate-tasting white flesh, but is firm enough to grill or barbecue. It doesn't have too many bones: it is easy to cut; and it has a cooked texture that helps it pull out big flavor from sauces and toppings without disappearing into the background.



18 thin scallions

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper

2 tablespoons butter

Trim 16 of the scallions to about 5 inches. Blanch the 2 remaining scallions until the green tops are flexible. Cut the tops into two long Strips and use these strips to tie the trimmed scallions into bundles of four. (If this sounds complicated, all you are doing is making some bundles without string.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On top of the stove, heat a large Ovenproof skillet over low heat. Film the skillet with oil then add the scallions. Season with salt and pepper and pan-roast, turning the scallions occasionally until they are nicely browned, about 5 minutes, then transfer to the oven and continue cooking 15 minutes, then add butter and cook until the scallions are tender, about 5 minutes more.


1 cup warmed Tangy Green Peppercorn Sauce (page 225)


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 6-ounce striped bass fillets, skin on

Kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Zest of 1 lemon, julienned

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Film the skillet with oil. Season the fillets on both sides with salt and pepper and sauté until golden (and just warm in the center), approximately 3 minutes per side for a 1-inch-thick fillet.


Spoon the sauce on four warmed plates. Place a fillet, skin side up, on each plate. Prop the stallions against the bass, then garnish with lemon zest and serve.


The clear clean taste of the sauce rides above everything tangy and salty. The bulbiness of the scallion pulls up the sweetness and the roundness of the oil, honey and butter: a big bouquet. The tarragon pulls up sweetness as well as the oceanic taste of the striper. The fish has toothy texture that calms the strident tastes in the sauce. The final notes are tanginess and heat, and echoing sweetness.


CITRUS IS AN EFFECTIVE WAY to achieve strong concentrated flavor without fat. Ginger is one of those ingredients that serves as a bridge between flavor elements. It has floral notes, fruitiness, and mild heat. In addition to its own spiced aromatic character, it can help ally disparate flavors such as chili and lemongrass, honey and basil. This sauce can be used with flounder, halibut, or striped bass.



2½ cups fresh-squeezed orange juice, strained

1/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine available in Asian markets)

1 stalk lemongrass, sliced and very finely chopped

2 tablespoons peeled chopped fresh ginger

1 dried hot chili

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine the orange juice, mirin, Lemongrass, ginger, and chili in a saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of a light syrup. Season with salt and sugar Discard the chili and keep the sauce warm aver low heat.


1 egg plus 1 yolk, whisked together

4 teaspoons flour

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 6-ounce salmon fillets, 1-1½ inches thick, skin on

1 cup Crispy Rice Flake Crust (page 191)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

Combine the egg and flour. Whisk until smooth then whisk in ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Brush the skin side of each fillet with egg and flour binding. Press this coated side of the salmon into the seasoned rice flakes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the oil, then the salmon, crust side down. Sauté the fillets until the crusts are golden brown, 3–4 minutes, then add the butter and turn the fillets. Cook 2 minutes longer for medium-rare. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Spoon the sauce onto four warmed plates. Place a salmon fillet on each.


There is a very strong crunch at the Outset. Then the oceanic flavor of the salmon comes out as you bite through the fish. The sweet tanginess of the sauce comes forward next. Then the fruitiness of the orange accented by the fruity floral side of the ginger. The ginger and chill pod pack powerful picante heat. This extends the oceanic salmon taste at the finish.


CONSIDERING ITS RICH TASTE, egg nog often seems a bit insubstantial and overly liquid. By heating the yolks ever so gently and then combining them when chilled with the egg whites, the result is an egg nog whose warm sweetness can stand up to the chilliest. New Year's Eve. Surprisingly, this egg nog wasn't invented in the cold of the northern winter. For that matter it wasn't even invented for New Year's Eve at all, but rather for Boxing Day at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong.



¾ cup heavy cream

6 eggs, separated

½ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup cognac

½ teaspoon ground star anise

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup milk

Beat the cream until it forms stiff peaks, then refrigerate.

In a double boiler set over simmering water, combine the egg yolks. ½ cup sugar, and cognac. Whisking constantly, cook the egg mixture until it thickens slightly, is warm to the touch, and looks satiny and white (a zabaglione-like consistency), about 5 minutes. Stop the mixture from overcooking by whisking it over ice, then refrigerate.

Combine die remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, spices, and egg whites in a medium bowl or mixer and whisk to stiff peaks. Chill over ice.

Fold the chilled egg white mixture gently into the chilled egg yolks, then, again very gently, fold in the chilled whipped cream, adding the milk a little at a time as you go. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Serve in chilled glasses or egg nog cups, with a pinch of allspice.


The aromatic spices hit your nose first, pulling up sharp grape aroma from the brandy. All at once you get the sweet, round, satiny taste of the cream and eggs with spiced aromatic highlights from the nutmeg and allspice, pulling at the sweetness.




On Sale
Dec 14, 2008
Page Count
272 pages

Peter Kaminsky

About the Author

PETER KAMINSKY is one of America’s leading angling journalists and authors. His Outdoors column has appeared in the New York Times for thirty-five years. A recipient of the C.F. Orvis Outdoor Writing Award, Kaminsky has been a contributing editor at Field & Stream, Sports Afield, and Outdoor Life and was managing editor of National Lampoon. His angling writing has also appeared in Fly Fisherman, Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, GQ, The Field, and Anglers Journal. Among his books are The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass, American Waters, The Flyfisherman’s Guide to the Meaning of Life, Fishing for Dummies, and Flyfishing for Dummies. As avid a cook as he is a fisherman, he’s written eighteen cookbooks, including three with Francis Mallmann. His television credits include creator and executive producer of The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and The Gershwin Prize for Popular song. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Learn more about this author

Gray Kunz

About the Author

Peter Kaminsky is the author of numerous books, including The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass, Pig Perfect, and The Elements of Taste. He was formerly New York Magazine‘s “Underground Gourmet,” and his Outdoors column runs regularly in the New York Times. His work has appeared frequently in Food & Wine and Field & Stream, and he was managing editor of National Lampoon. He lives in Brooklyn.

Learn more about this author