Tradition calls for a divide between savory and sweet flavors in the meal, with the fun stuff saved for dessert. But a growing number of adventurous chefs are crossing the line and combining salty, savory and sweet in menu items beyond just desserts.
Of course, the American table has always had its savory-sweet side, with such classics as ham with brown sugar glaze, molasses-laced barbecue sauce and even traditional Thanksgiving dinner—when sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce sit along turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing.
McDonald’s pushed the envelope with the McGriddles breakfast sandwiches, which nestle eggs and savory breakfast meats between sweet maple griddle cakes. The chain is also testing a chicken version of the sandwich, which is available all day.
Similarly, Dunkin’ Donuts menus a Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, tucking a fried egg and bacon inside a split glazed donut. And the Chicago restaurant Honey Butter Fried Chicken slathers fried chicken and French toast with bourbon-maple syrup and honey butter.
Savory-sweet preparations can be useful and pleasing elements of cuisine, according to Christopher Koetke, vice president, school of culinary arts, at Kendall College in Chicago.
“We certainly put things like honey, fruit juice and maple syrup into savory preparations,” says Koetke. “My personal advice is absolutely to do so, but never lose sight of the balance.”
Indeed, it takes discernment to find the right touch of saltiness or hot spice to make a chocolate dessert pop, or the nuanced sweetness that enhances a savory dish. The goal is an overall flavor profile that is balanced and multidimensional. “For instance, not all barbecue sauces have sweetness, but when they do, they have umami and salt and acid in addition to the sweet,” says Koetke.
Koetke also says that lately, many chefs have focused heavily on sweet, so a touch of savory flavor can be a welcome change. “In my personal view, the pendulum has swung pretty far over to the sweet side, to the point that some dishes taste cloying and mess up wine parings,” he says. “But it’s starting to swing back with the rise of acidic flavor profiles and things like pickling and kimchi.”
This post is sponsored by Knouse Foodservice