I’ve had many (ah-ha moments), and they’re always a thrill. I write about one in the new book, the time my chef instructor at the CIA, Michael Pardus, tasted my cream of broccoli soup and said, “This is good. But I want you to take this back to your station and taste it again. Then I want you to take a spoonful and put a drop of white wine vinegar in it and taste the difference.”
I did. A single drop changed that soup from fine, just OK, to very good if not better. It was a lesson that would apply not only to broccoli soup, or soup generally, but to everything. The importance of acidity and the ability to use it (Technique #5), would become something I’d consider in everything I made, from soups to stews to sauces, to sandwiches, to meats and fish, to whole composed plates, even to sweet things (I add cider vinegar to butterscotch sauce, for instance, just a few drops, all about balance).
Sea scallops were on sale at Whole Foods yesterday, so I got some and seared them in clarified butter using the technique from Ad Hoc. Squeezing some lemon on before serving is "optional," but in this case caused the same reaction Ruhlman had above.
I've made a few recipes from Ruhlman's Twenty (i.e., "the new book"); the Braised Lamb Shanks with Lemon Confit (and Ras El Hanout) was good enough that we had it twice in one week.