There is a difference, I was once told, between something being complex and something being complicated.
The two words are very similar and without careful scrutiny can be mistaken for the same thing.
If we study the definitions, the differences between the two become more clear.
adj.1. Consisting of interconnected or interwoven parts; composite.
adj.1. Containing intricately combined or involved parts.
2. Not easy to understand or analyze.
Complication is easy. At least when it comes to food. Throw a bunch of random ingredients together. A swipe of sauce here. A pinch of powder there. Easy. A monkey can make a complicated dish.
I used to think that a complicated dish was a good dish. The more components, sauces, colors, shapes and sizes the better. After all, more is better right? Obviously (or not so obviously), not. It is important that food is understood. An idea must be communicated through the food to the diner, or the experience is lost - the same as attempting to read a book in an unknown language.
It's been a long road to understanding why simple is better. And an even longer road to grasp the concept that simple food can be complex.
A recent experiment, turned into a perfect example on the merits of simple yet complex food.
A single raw Peconic Bay Scallop was cooked into the center of an Aebleskiver. These are little pastry balls of Danish origin. I first ran across them in the kitchens of Noma where they had been cooked through and later studded with smoked dried fish.
The airy pancake-like batter cooked perfectly around the inserted scallop, gaining crispness on the outside as it was basted with rendered pork fat. Inside, the scallop treasure steamed to an ideal medium rare - just barely translucent. These wonderballs were served alongside a tiny crock of seaweed sour cream. The briny vegetal funk permeated rich tangy dairy.
So here we've got pork, pastry, scallop, seaweed, and sour cream. On the plate - it appears to be two simple components. When consumed - it floods the mouth with complex images, flavors, and aromas.
It wasn't known it at the time, but something wonderful had been created.
A simple, yet very complex preparation of a single scallop.
The dish was a shining example and a goal to always reach for.