Flavor Pairings

Have you ever had a Sweet Tart? Have you ever thought about why it is so appealing? I mean, it's just a fairly hard, powdery candy … so what makes it special? An underlying sweetness pops with tartness in the foreground. And while it might not be the best example out there, it's pretty universally recognizable. Find that kind of flavor pairing mojo in your menus or even at the individual dish level can help you transform from an ordinary cook to one who has people asking, "So what is in that dish? Can I have the recipe?"

A classic flavor combination — sweet and tangy, like that candy — can be found in more interesting food, of course. One of my favorite simple joys is roasting a whole sweet potato to the point where the sugar is pooling beneath it and making an amber caramel and then topping it with the creamiest, tangiest blue cheese I can find. The heat from the potato melts the cheese that is in contact with the orange flesh and the top maintains a crumbly texture. Bite after bite, that's bliss to me.

Another combination that makes my heart swoon is sweet with spicy. That's why nearly all of my homemade barbecue sauces include hot peppers and fruit. Whether it's a roasted poblano-pineapple sauce or a dark cherry-chipotle sauce, my grilled foods always have a great flavor combination blanket to look forward to.

This is not a post that's meant to list all the possibilities (I couldn't) or give you any particular recipe or formula (this really is more of a try things here and there in small amounts and move forward kind of thing). I just want you to spend some time thinking about how to stretch your pairing skills and be a bit adventurous. Start out by saving that last bit of preserves and stirring it into your favorite BBQ sauce. You might just fall in love!