Everyday we cook we come across crossroads where we have the choice to add flavor to a dish or just proceed as we have always done. When I was first exposed to professional cooking I was taught to soak softshell crabs in buttermilk. I did not know why, I did not ask. My job was to clean the crabs and cover them with buttermilk. Fifteen years later we looked back at the procedure and wondered about the addition of flavor. That was a few weeks ago. One softshell preparation had the crabs soaking in our smoked coconut-lovage milk. Another round of crabs were marinated in Oldbay and A-1 buttermilk. The crabs were then dredged in flour and deep fried in a blend of rice bran oil and smoked tallow. The results were more flavorful crabs with flavor profiles which were now dish and ingredient specific.
The small addition of the marinade sparked thoughts of other moments to introduce flavors into our cooking. When making pate a choux, what flavor is your milk, butter, flour and eggs? Look at that, a classic with four distinct possibilities to add flavor not including mix ins. We are faced with an option at every turn in the pathway of cooking. It is up to us take the time to pause, examine and seize the opportunity.