One of the biggest cliche lines in any cooking show or competition is 'depth of flavor.' Depth of flavor refers to the layers of flavor within a dish. Using various techniques: toasting or blooming spices, fresh vs dried herbs, adding flavorings at the beginning or end of cooking, reduction, roasting and caramelizing ingredients, seasoning, et al, a chef can manipulate the flavor of a dish. The technique is absolutely true - if overused as a measure of a truly great dish on television.
I re-learned this recently when I used leftovers from several other dishes to prepare a simple dish of stuffed peppers. My leftovers were a tomato sauce used the night before in Ciopinno - and a korean broth I'd used in ramen for lunches during the week. (homemade ramen is a WHOLE other post/story, idea) So when I set out to make my stuffing for the peppers I used the broth to cook the bazmati rice and I added the leftover cioppino sauce to hamburger along with a single diced habanero pepper.
My favorite broth for ramen is Doenjang Jjigae or Korean Fermented-Bean-Paste Broth.
- 2 1/2 cups (600ml) rice-rinsing water or water (see note)
- 10-15 dried anchovies, heads and entrails removed
- 1 piece dashima (also sold as kombu, which is the Japanese name)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste), such as Togul
In a medium saucepan, combine rice-rinsing water (or water) with anchovies and dashima and bring to a low simmer. Cover the saucepan halfway with a lid and maintain low simmer for 15 minutes. Taste an anchovy; if it still has a noticeable amount of flavor left in it, continue simmering until most of the flavor has been cooked out. Strain, discarding solids. Then - whisk in the doenjang. It should dissolve easily in the broth creating a miso soup like consistency.
for the Cioppino tomato sauce:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 large shallots, chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice, fire roasted if you can find them
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 5 cups seafood stock (or chicken stock if you make this sauce only for this recipe)
- 1 bay leaf
Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.
for my stuffed peppers recipe - I cooked bazmati rice according to directions in the Doenjang broth. It comes out very hydrated - and with that distinctive umami flavor from the anchovies. I cooked a 1/2 pound of hamburger - seasoning with salt and pepper - then added a cup and a half of the Cioppino tomato sauce to the hamburger mixture - and then also the rice.
I prefer stuffed peppers that are still crunchy versus completely soft - so I parboil the peppers for three minutes each - then remove them from the hot water and submerge in a water bath to keep them from continuing to soften.
I then prepare them in a baking dish - and stuff them almost full with the hamburger rice, mixture. I top the pepper with several tablespoons of the tomato sauce - and then top each pepper with feta cheese.
I then bake the peppers for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. They are PIPING hot when they come out - so I usually give them five, ten minutes on the counter before serving.
To say that the depth of flavor on this dish was off the charts - is an understatement. I did not think how nicely all these flavors would combine. I have been eating a bowl of the leftover hamburger stuffing the last couple of days for lunch on it's own.
It's great to have a traditional cooking lesson reflected so clearly in one recipe. Now - would you go to all the trouble of making the seperate broth and sauce everytime? maybe not - but it shows that that little extra bit of effort - truly pays off in spectacular ways.
The photo used on this post is not my finished dish. While delicious - none of my photos of this preparation turned out post-worthy. this is stock photography - very close to looking like ours did with a better lighting coordinator and a less hungry husband on set.