When we are almost finished cooking and it comes time to check the seasonings, we always follow this checklist:
1. Does It Need Salt? - Nine times out of ten, it does. Salt reduces bitterness and amplifies other flavors in a dish. We add it a half-teaspoon at a time until we can taste those two things happen and just before the dish actually tastes salty.
2. Does It Need More Spices? - The amounts of spices given in a recipe are usually just a guideline. You may want more or less depending on the freshness and quality of your spices, and on your personal taste. When we taste a dish at the very end, we think about whether enough of the spice flavors are coming through and if they're in balance. Then we add a few more pinches to compensate.
3. Does It Need Some Acidity? - If the flavors still don't shine after we've already added salt and adjusted the spices, the next option is to add a bit of acid. Lemon juice is our top choice, but another citruses, vinegar, wine, or a splash of hot sauce are also work well. These will brighten the flavors in a dish.
4. Does It Need More Depth? - If the flavors seem ok, but the dish lacks that lingering savoriness, try adding something with a lot of umami. We often add a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce. You can also mince a few anchovies or add a tablespoon of tomato paste.
5. Does It Need More Richness? - Sometimes a dish doesn't necessarily need more flavor, it needs something to bring the flavors together. A few tablespoons of butter or a glug of cream will do the trick.
What are your tips for getting the seasonings in a dish just right?