My Favorite Fall Color – Brown
On: October 01, 2013
From New England to Appalachia, and all parts in between including our beautiful Ohio, when we talk about fall colors, the hues of orange, yellow, purple, and fiery reds readily come to mind. Consider embracing another color, this one related to good eating in the autumn — brown. You see, one of the factors, or better said signs, of good tasting food is proper browning, be it a golden brown loaf of DLM Farmhouse Bread, the caramelized onions you pile up on a Beeler’s Bratwurst, or the crisp, chewy crust of a perfectly baked Naples-Style Margherita Pizza.
Some years ago I had the opportunity to take a 10-week course in basic cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris — the same one Julia Child attended. The instructing chefs would often stress the importance of caramélisation to attain full flavor. Caramelization was used as a catch-all phrase for all types of browning, from the most basic — browning of sugar to make caramels — to more complex dishes such as searing a piece of meat until brown before braising. Strictly speaking, the latter example is actually not caramelization. The simplest caramel is made by heating sugar, which gives the sugar added flavor. Think of the crust of a crème brûlée, which is made with sugar that has been briefly heated by a torch.
What produces the browning when you sear a piece of meat is a reaction between amino acids and sugar. It is called the Maillard reaction, so named for the French scientist Louis-Camille Maillard who first described it in 1912 in Paris. Actually, most browning of foods is the result of the Maillard reaction, from the aforementioned searing of meats to roasted peanuts to crusty breads.
In any case, not to be too picky about describing the exact chemical reaction, my point is that browning equals flavor. And you see it in action in every great cuisine. France’s famous beef stew, Boeuf Bourguignon, starts with searing the meat to brown before introducing liquid and cooking slowly. If you skip the browning of the meat, you don’t get that deep savoriness in the dish. Germans insist on a well- browned thick crust on their bread. And the great Chinese cooks achieve browning of meats and vegetables in a searing hot wok.
We want you to enjoy good food to its maximum potential, and that’s why we love browning. That’s why we work with very hot grills in our kitchens and at Jack’s Grill, so that we sear meat properly. It’s why we bake our breads to a golden brown hue (when I shop our Bakery I ask for the darkest loaf in the display), and why we invested in pizza ovens that reach up to 1000 degrees for our DLM Naples-Style Pizza to attain a crispy, chewy crust. So this fall, whether you are picking out a loaf of crusty bread, searing a piece of meat, or baking an apple pie, embrace the beautiful browns because proper browning means better eating.