This blog was first posted by Chef Nikki Pettineo, Chefnikki.net.
I'm about to let you in on what might be the most well kept secret in the global food community. Most cultures around the world start their dishes with a unique blend of aromatics that are the gateway to your palate's worldly adventure. What I mean to say is, you may not even know it, but the foundation of what makes Chinese cuisine, French cuisine, Cajun cuisine and Haitian cuisine unique lies in the very first thing that is added to the pot, aromatics. These blends consist of highly fragrant vegetables and sometimes herbs and are meant to be added to fats and introduced to heat in order to start each dish. Now, we all might be familiar with the standard French aromatics of Mirepoix: 50% onions, 25% carrots, 25% celery, but how many other aromatic blends do you know of from other countries? I present to you, my guide to aromatics from around the world!
First up on our global tour, we are visiting Italy! In Milanese cooking, there is an aromatic blend called "Gremolata"
Next up, one of my favorite aromatic blends is Sofrito. This blend originated in Spain and made its way through many Spanish colonized countries. Many Caribbean Latin countries have their own blend of Sofrito, but the one I'm most familiar with is the Puerto Rican version.
I will sometimes make Sofrito and freeze it in ice cube trays for easy dinner production at home. Sofrito typically consists of cilantro, culantro, onions, garlic, green bell pepper, salt, pepper, and sometimes seeded tomato. For me, being able to pop one of these Sofrito cubes into a pot with oil and then saute some chicken in it or make some tasty beans really quickly is sometimes a life saver during the week!
Now you know I'm not going to leave out our Ragin' Cajun' brothers and sisters! Cajun cuisine is in an of itself a blend of international flavors, which I love. The most prevalent flavors are a mix of French, West African, and Spanish cuisine. This is where the aromatic powerhouse the "Holy Trinity" is derived from. Onions, green bell pepper, and celery are the base of Cajun favorites like gumbo, shrimp etouffee, and jambalaya.
By dropping the Holy Trinity into a hot oiled pan, you're making an unsaid contract with whoever is in nose distance that you're about to knock their socks off with this arsenal of flavor!
Swinging back down to the Caribbean, we're visiting Haiti next. Haitian cuisine is known for the aromatic blend called "Epis", which translates to "Spice" in English. Epis is really great when used to marinate meat and veggies, but is also used as an aromatic starter.
Epis consists of parsley, onion, garlic, green bell pepper, cilantro, celery, scallion, bullion cube, clove, thyme, lime, vinegar, and olive oil. The mixture is pureed in a blender and then added as needed.
This aromatic blend works really well when frozen in ice cube trays. You can chuck a cube into your rice cooker the next time you make rice to add some soul to your dinner.
Using the Cantonese Trinity will elevate your next stir fry and you can even add spicy chili peppers and star anise to add even more depth of flavor.
So the next time you're looking to add a little umph to your dinner, try adding one of these international super stars to the pot at the very beginning of your cooking process. Just a little fat in the pan and an aromatic blend will turn your meal from drab to fab!