Photo by Chris Andre.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and loved a dish so much that you wanted to recreate it at home? Well, get creative and give it a shot.
You can put your own spin on it, adjust it to your liking (more pepper, less salt) and end up with a new favorite. Here are some tips to make experimenting easier – and more fun!
Start at the restaurant
As you’re dining, try to figure out what’s in the dish. Share bites with your fellow diners and discuss the flavors and ingredients. If you’re stumped, just ask! Speak to the wait staff or ask the chef.
There are other ways to solve the mystery:
- Bring some of the dish home to taste-test, whether it’s leftovers or a take-out meal, and then compare your creation to what you brought home.
- Ask your dining partners to help – make it a game.
- Check online for a similar recipe to use as a starting point for your own testing.
- Buy enough ingredients to test, test, test!
- Taste as you go and adjust as needed.
- Go back to the restaurant after trying your version at home, and compare once again.
Put your own spin on it
For example, you’re dining on a delicious cornmeal-crusted pizza made with smoked chicken, tomatillo salsa, corn and cheese. It’s so delicious and unusual, and you wonder, “How did they do it?”
Gather up the ingredients and get to work on recreating the recipe. Try using apple-chicken sausage, for example, instead of smoked chicken. Maybe the restaurant used lard in the cornmeal crust, and you can’t quite capture the same flavor. Sometimes what you recreate can be better than the original!
Resources to inspire you
Cooks Illustrated magazine is dedicated to helping you find the best methods for recipe-testing at home.
Write in and ask Bon Appetit magazine to help; they reach out to restaurant owners to get recipes for their readers, then publish the recipes.
Cookwise by Shirley O. Coriher, is an easy-to-understand guide that explains why doing things in a certain way can improve the results.
Harold McGee’s book, On Food And Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, is another wonderful resource with tips and food-prep techniques that can help you when recreating mystery dishes.
Enjoy a dish similar to this Quinoa Salad (photo above) that’s served at a restaurant in San Francisco. People love it because it’s healthy, vegetarians can enjoy it and it packs in the protein (quinoa is 21% protein).
Quinoa Salad with Arugula-Cilantro Pesto, Tomatoes and Corn
- 2 cups quinoa
- 2 cups water
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup walnut halves or pieces, toasted
- 1 large clove garlic
- 2 cups loosely packed arugula leaves, rinsed and dried
- ¼ cup cilantro
- 1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, stems removed, halved
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- Cilantro, arugula or mint sprig for garnish
Prepare quinoa: Rinse quinoa under running water for 2 minutes. (This step is very important or else it will taste bitter.) Bring quinoa, water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes, until liquid is fully absorbed and quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
Prepare pesto: In a food processor, add walnuts, garlic, arugula, cilantro and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pulse a few times. Then add lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Puree until pesto is fairly smooth.
Assemble: Toss the quinoa with the pesto, tomatoes and corn. Serve garnished with a sprig of cilantro, arugula or mint.
For this recipe and so many others, you’ll want to have a top-notch food processor to make kitchen tasks quick and easy. And be sure to explore all the advantages of induction cooking – its electromagnetic energy heats faster, uses less energy and keeps the cooktop cooler.