Cinnamon - Beyond the Sweet
Cinnamon is often heralded for its sweet applications—dusted over lattes, swirled in buns, or sprinkled atop oatmeal. But for the culinary explorer, there's another world waiting: the land of savory cinnamon dishes. Venturing beyond the confines of desserts, this versatile spice can elevate a myriad of savory dishes, adding depth, warmth, and a touch of unexpected flair. Let's embark on a journey to discover cinnamon's savory potential and some unforgettable flavor combinations.
The Historical Perspective
Before cinnamon became synonymous with sweet treats, it was a prized ingredient in ancient cooking. The Egyptians used it in their embalming process, but they also recognized its culinary merit. Middle Eastern cuisines have long combined cinnamon with meats and rice. In medieval Europe, cinnamon was a status symbol, featuring prominently in many meat-based dishes of the wealthy.
Contemporary Flavor Combinations
Cinnamon & Lamb
Middle Eastern dishes, such as the Moroccan Tagine, beautifully showcase this pairing. Lamb, with its inherent richness, is complemented by cinnamon's warmth, creating a dish that's both hearty and fragrant.
A classic example is the Chicken Mole, where cinnamon is part of a complex orchestra of flavors, including chili and chocolate. The spice's sweet undertones balance the dish's heat, resulting in a harmonious blend.
Roasted butternut or acorn squash, sprinkled with cinnamon, pepper, and salt, achieves a caramelized exterior. The slight sweetness of the squash is heightened by the cinnamon, while the savory elements keep it from veering into dessert territory.
Rice pilafs, especially in Persian cuisine, often incorporate cinnamon. When paired with ingredients like saffron, nuts, and dried fruits, the result is a fragrant and luxurious dish, perfect as a side or main course.
In dishes like Cincinnati chili, cinnamon combines with cocoa and chili powder, offering layers of flavor that make this dish distinct from other chili varieties.
Tips for Using Cinnamon in Savory Dishes
Be measured: Unlike in desserts, where a heavy hand might be forgiven, too much cinnamon in a savory dish can be overpowering. Start with a pinch and adjust according to taste.
Choose the right type: Ceylon cinnamon, with its milder and sweeter profile, is often preferred in desserts. For savory dishes, the stronger and more robust Cassia cinnamon can be more fitting.
While it's hard to resist a cinnamon roll's allure, the true culinary adventurer knows the spice's potential doesn't stop at sweet. By incorporating cinnamon into savory dishes, you not only create unique flavor combinations but also pay homage to the spice's rich culinary history. Whether you're an experienced chef or a home cook, challenge yourself to explore cinnamon's savory side—you might just discover your new favorite dish.