Weak sauce

I can’t decide which is worse:  food that tastes bad, or food that tastes like nothing.  Last night marked my second meal in a row that was as bland as a glass of water.

Earlier in the week, I whipped up some simple pork meatballs:  ground pork, egg, bread crumbs, garlic, and onions.  While they baked in the oven, I combined butter, maple syrup, and soy sauce for a glaze.  I didn’t follow a recipe, although I had used several maple glaze recipes for inspiration.  I did make sure to taste test along the way and it truly was pretty tasty.  When the meatballs came out of the oven, I dumped them in the pot of glaze and let them simmer in the sticky mixture for a bit before I spooned the finished product over a bed of white rice.  The glaze was pretty good by itself, but once it was on the meatballs and the meatballs were on the rice, you could hardly taste it.  It was like eating plain meatballs and plain white rice.  *Pout*

So I tried again last night.  I didn’t have anything planned for dinner and wasn’t up for a trip to the grocery store.  Using what I had in my kitchen, I made up a pasta dish.  I sauteed chicken breast pieces in a ridiculous amount of garlic, and then I added butter to the remaining juices and made a simple white sauce.  To the white sauce, I added corn, black pepper, and two strips of chopped bacon.  I stirred the chicken into the sauce and poured it all over a serving of egg noodles.

On the bright side, I have finally mastered the thick, creamy texture of your basic white sauce.  The downside:  the sauce tasted like liquid flour.  Even with the garlic, the chicken juices, the pepper, and the bacon, it tasted like a whole lot of nothin’.  How could I have been so stupid to not taste it before I served it?  After my first bite, I made a face at my fiance and reached for the salt shaker.  I’d assumed that since I was adding bacon, the sauce wouldn’t need any salt.  My fiance laughed when I said this, informing me that it would take WAY more than two strips of bacon to flavor a sauce to that extent.  Guess I’m not a bacon expert quite yet…

I’m really struggling with the concept of flavor.  I try to keep it simple because I’m still learning which flavors work well together and which flavors don’t, but simple is equating to bland, bland, bland.  What’s the best way to learn how to combine flavors when cooking?

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