Food is the latest trend. With so many food bloggers, influencers, cooking tv shows, top fashion chefs, recipes and video tutorials available everywhere, in recent years social pressure to be able to cook something more advanced than omelettes and mac & cheese has raised a lot. Moreover, we all have that foodie friend who is always boasting about knowing everything about gastronomy. Yes, the one that instagrams all he eats and cooks. The same who always says “yes, is fine, but…” when he tastes the dishes he orders at the restaurant. That one who has tasted the latest food trend sooner than anyone else. We are even afraid to invite him to our dinners just in case he thinks our star appetisers are too old fashioned.
These days, it seems if we don’t know what kale, kimchi, kefir or kumquat is, we are ignorant. Also, that if we don’t have our own ceviche or creamy cheesecake recipe, we haven’t learnt cooking ramen, tataki or dim sum or we don’t serve zucchini as spaghetti or broccoli and cauliflower as rice, we are old fashioned cooks. But many of these latest trends are just these: trends.
Is it necessary to follow the latest food trends to success among our guests?
Even though knowing and tasting new food is always interesting, especially if they help us eating healthier, being aware of the latest is very difficult unless we invest all our free time reading about food. If not, when at least you start drinking matcha tea latte and kombutcha, you would probably discover the next trend at that moment are macrobiotic distillates.
Let’s take look at the latest gastronomic trends for foodies, especially social media hits. They are based on showing new ingredients. The more weird, peculiar, rare, exotic and visually attractive the better. Some cooking techniques also success, but, even though they are very dramatic and photogenic, they are quite easy at heart.
So, our answer is no. It’s not necessary to follow the latest food trends to success among our guests. It might be interesting. Even really funny. But not necessary.
Instead of this, we suggest you give relative importance to trends and focus on master the cooking techniques every good amateur chef should know. This way you will be able to get used to new trends and success among your guests, even if you don’t cook with that week Instagram food stars -or the social network that is going to replace it in a not so far future-.
EASY COOKING TECHNIQUES YOU MUST KNOW TO COOK ALMOST AS A PROFESSIONAL CHEF
It’s easy to get a little bit confused when you are following the steps of some recipe or Internet tutorial. You may have heart about some concepts you don’t know exactly what they mean or what are you supposed to do.
If you are looking for a tutorial about basic cooking techniques, stop reading at this point. But if you want to go in deep in some of the techniques every professional chef master, this is the right place. The following are just few of these techniques. You can use them as a starting point.
1. Marinate and macerate your ingredients to give them a special unique flavour everybody will ask for.
If you are asking yourself which is the difference between both cooking techniques, again this is the right place for you. The truth is both concepts are very similar to each other thus easy to confuse and both are quite usual in cooking. Let’s see what they mean!
To macerate is to plunge raw, dry or comfited ingredients and aromatic herbs and spices into liquid for a certain among of time. This technique is generally used in confectionery, for example, to make fruit marmalade.
To marinate is to soak some ingredient into a much more seasoned and aromatic liquid than the one used to macerate for a maximum of 24h. This is made to tenderize food, soften strong tastes or aromatize ingredients before cooking.
2. Flambé recipes always impress your guests, especially when you do this in the table. Don’t use the first alcohol you find at home. This is the right way to do it.
To flambé means to wash a preparation down with liquor and light it. It’s very important to choose the right alcohol to do it correctly. Don’t resign yourself with the first bottle you find. Check it contains between 30% and 40% alcohol. Low alcohol content beverages don’t set alight properly, we don’t recommend you try to flambé with wine, beer o champagne. It’s better you choose distillates, such as rum.
There is a wide variety of dishes you can flambé. We recommend you choose Brandy to flambé meat, especially to flambé bush meat or poultry meat. If you are cooking seafood, try to use anise. Shrimps and prawns will taste delicious. Regarding desserts, one of the most famous recipes is Crepes Suzette flambé with an orange alcohol like Cointreau or Grand Marnier.
3. Fried food makes people smile. You may think to fry is very easy, but to fry as a professional is not so easy. Use the right cookware and temperature.
To deep fry is to plunge food in hot oil. Even though we all know this, often we don’t do it the right way. First off, we use a frying pan. Using a frying pan to deep fry is not the best idea to achieve the best results because, unless you are trying to fry very plain and small food, oil never reaches to completely cover your ingredients. Ideally, you should use a deep-fryer. If you don’t have space enough to own one, or if you don’t deep fry often, you should use saucepans.
On the other hand, you must have perfect control of the cooking temperature. Carefully pre-heat oil up to 180ºC ensuring it doesn’t smoke. Eggs, potatoes or coated food will turn out less greasy and taste better. Remember you can reuse deep frying oil if you filter it after every use .
4. Scald -or blanch- food. A fully professional chef technique, invisible to the naked eye yet noticed on taste.
In cooking to scald -or to blanch- means to plunge any food in boiling water during a short amount of time to clean it from dust and superficial gas. At the same time, we give them a new colour scheme, more vivid and intense.
To scald correctly, you must bring water to boil up to 80ºC – 100ºC in a stock pot . Then, boil ingredients between 10-30 seconds to 2-3 minutes, depending on the food kind, size and cut. To complete the procedure, chill it fast in a bowl with cold water and ice.
You have probably already used this technique to peel tomatoes, for example. But you can also use it to smooth flavours or remove bitterness from certain ingredients, such as artichokes or aubergines. By scalding, you will be able to serve much more colourful appetising vegetables. And if you use this technique before grilling vegetables, you will discover why restaurants’ barbecues are always smoother and tastier than the ones we cook at home.
5. Turn to a classic that requires mastering a medium difficulty technique, such as emulsions. Remember: nobody says no to a good Hollandaise Sauce.
To emulsion means to mix by force two ingredients whose properties impede them to naturally mix with each other by using a third ingredient. This ingredient works as the mixer and it’s called “emulsifier”. The most known example is water and oil. They can’t be naturally mixed. However, we can create products such as mayonnaise or salad dressings by adding a third ingredient and beating vigorously. The result is a more dense and viscous mix. Perfect for sauces and dressings. The most common emulsifiers are egg yolks, mustard, gelatine or xanthan gum.
To master emulsions, you must perfectly control time and temperature. The biggest mistake is adding fats too fast. You must mix liquid ingredients with the emulsifier first. Then you can slowly add fat ingredients. You must wait until the sauce is viscous until adding the rest of fat. Otherwise the emulsion will curdle.
Regarding temperature, avoid overheating. Overheating emulsions with eggs such as Hollandaise Sauce, for example, coagulate egg proteins. The result is a light unappetising lumpy sauce.
6. Reduce, reduce and reduce to achieve the most intense tastes.
How do professional chefs get such intense tastes? Good cooks don’t add artificial enhancers. Real chefs perform reduction techniques. To reduce is thicken a sauce or broth by slowly cooking it low heat until you get syrup consistency. Flavour intensifies whenever liquid evaporates.
You can reduce wine, balsamic or Jerez vinegar, fruit juices, brandy, cognac or broth, for example. The trick is to reduce aromatic liquids and flavours you want to intensify and enhance in your dishes. We suggest you practice this technique by cooking a good lobster stew.
These tips and concepts will help you improve all your recipes and cook many new ones. Don’t forget to keep learning and trying new things to keep improving your cooking abilities day after day. Creativity is one of the most important abilities in cooking.
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