Food

CL Approved: Bitter by Jennifer McLagan

By: Canadian Living
Canadian Living
Food

CL Approved: Bitter by Jennifer McLagan

By: Canadian Living

Bitter is probably the least favourite of the 5 tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami [savoury]). When was the last time you craved something bitter? Salty? Yes. Sour? Sometimes. Savoury? Sure. Sweet? All the time! But bitter? Not so much. So when we received a copy of famous chef Jennifer McLagan's new cookbook, Bitter, in the Test Kitchen I was intrigued. Author of award-winning cookbooks Bones (2005), Fat (2008) and Odd Bits (2011), McLagan is a staunch supporter of the misunderstood bitter flavour. However, bitter is on the rise. One of the hot food trends for 2015, bitter flavours are everywhere. From bitter greens, to hops-y craft beer, bitter ladened cocktails to high cacao content dark chocolate, the sophisticated, predominately adult flavour is popping up everywhere. Humans have an aversion to bitter flavours, a natural safety response to stop us from eating bitter poisons, toxic plants or other things that can harm us. But bitter can add nuance and balance to a dish - something that in our over salty and sweet world can be a welcome and intreguing surprise. beer jelly There were many recipes in Bitter that I was curious to try. This Beer Jelly (above), made with wheat beer, highlights the bitterness in beer. The strong beer flavour means you only need a few cubes to enjoy the effect. McLagan suggests serving it alongside "fatty smoked fish, beer-poached shrimp, country ham, or a plate of Cheddar cheese, smoked sausage and pickles." radicchio pie uncooked One of my least favourite lettuces is radicchio, it's bitterness overwhelms me. I wanted to challenge my perception of radicchio, so I tried this Radicchio Pie. For the pie, which looks like a big strudel, radicchio is cooked with pancetta and tossed with Fontina cheese before being encased in flaky pastry and baked. radicchio pie radicchio pie slice I am happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this pie. Cooking the radicchio really mellows out the bitterness, making it only mildly bitter and very pleasing. The cheese and flaky pastry just help to complete the experience. A definite winning appetizer at any dinner party! walnut cake Walnuts, with their slight bitterness and astringent quality, are either loved or hated. They are full of good-for-you fats that when oxidized gives them a rancid flavour (a rancid nut is something you never want to eat). Food Director Annabelle Waugh has the secret to creamy and buttery tasting walnuts. McLagan's  Walnut Cake (above) is only barely sweet with pleasing bitterness from the walnuts, orange zest and dusting of cocoa. Similar to our Honey Walnut Cake and Orange Almond Snacking Cake, it was very delicious.   Excerpt from Bitter by Jennifer McLagan, HarperCollinsCanada. Photography by Leah Kuhne
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CL Approved: Bitter by Jennifer McLagan

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