The Fifth Taste is a cookbook but most importantly it describes the alluring fact that there is a another taste beyond sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Hard to discern and elusive to many American palettes,umami is the undescribable element of a things like oysters, shitake mushrooms, tamari, worchestershire sauce, fish sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Umami taste comes from an amino acid, glutamate, that is present in most foods that contain protein. Often times, it is enhanced when cooked for long periods of time. And yes, it is the main component in MSG (mono-sodium glutamate). I was surprised to learn that corn is high in umami as are fermented foods and even sourdough bread. Here is a recipe that I created from what I learned about umami. It is really delicious and even better the next day. Served with potato pancakes, this would be great for Passover.
Brisket with Dried Fruit
3 Tbsp. buter
3 large onions, chopped
2 (12oz) bottles of beer, Lager style works well
1 Bay Leaf
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper
5 lbs beef brisket, room temperature, cut in half to fit pot if necessary
1/2 cup each: prunes dried apricots, dried cherries
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. freshly grated ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the butter in the bottom of a dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the beer, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil.
Salt and pepper the brisket liberally on both sides. Place in the dutch oven and make sure it is immersed in the beer and onions. Cover and place in the oven for 3 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and take out the brisket from the juices, placing it on your serving platter. Skim away any excessive fat. Put the dutch oven over a moderate heat and add the remaining ingredients to it. Simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile slice the meat against the grain and place it onto your serving platter. Pour the sauce over the meat and keep warm, in the oven (at 250°F) until you are ready to serve.