In the third episode of Samin Nosrat ’s new Netflix series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat , the chef and author heads down to the Yucatán region of Mexico to learn about how to harness the power of acid. Early in the episode, Nosrat notes that acid “does the absolutely necessary job of balancing flavors, which makes it indispensable to cooking delicious food.” This installment of the show features some lovely footage of outdoor markets in Mérida, as well as a step-by-step guide to making one of the area’s signature dishes, pavo en escabeche. What does Samin learn about acid in this episode?
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Applying acid changes food in a number of ways. It adds brightness and provides contrast, but it can also be used to change the texture of the food as well. “Marinating in acid has a different effect on food than cooking in it does,” Nosrat explains. “A highly acidic marinade will tenderize meat. But if left too long, the meat will toughen up, like an overcooked steak.” Browning certain foods, like chile peppers, also produces acid, thus creating new flavors.
To show all of the different ways that acid can change ingredients for the better, Samin and local home cook Doña Conchi make pavo en escabeche, a turkey and meatball stew. First, they pour a marinade of sour orange juice and spices over turkey and let that sit for a few minutes. Then the chefs form the meatballs, and roast the chiles over an open flame. […]