Monday, January 4, 2010

Cooking With Glamour

Over the holidays, I needed to buy some fruit to make mulled wine, so I thought I would step it up a notch by buying Meyer lemons and blood oranges instead of the typical lemons and oranges. It made such a difference that I realized how easily we can elevate a simple dish with special ingredients. Chefs do this all the time, taking something mundane, like a grilled cheese sandwich, substituting Guyere for the cheddar, adding some prosciutto and arugula, and voila, what was once a plain old grilled cheese has now been elevated to a croque monsieur.

A good chef often lets the ingredients dictate the menu. He or she orders ingredients based on the season, availability and price and then creates the menu to make full use of the inventory. At least that’s what Anthony Bourdain says and I believe everything that my beloved Tony says. I'm hoping to apply the same practice with my new weekly Greenling delivery.

Paying attention to menu descriptions is a great place to get ideas for glamming up your home cooking. I experimented with this concept recently, taking my cues from some of Austin’s most inventive restaurant menus. Olivia, East Side Showroom, Paggi House, Chez Nous, Jeffrey’s, and Bess Bistro are just a few of the restaurants using fresh, local ingredients in unique ways. Below are some of the unique ingredients used by these restaurants, most of which are readily available for the rest of us to use in our every day cooking.

Bosc pears 
Yaupon honey
Baby arugula
White anchovy
Meyer lemon
Black kale
Sea salt
Local cheeses
Pure Luck Chevre

Fingerling potatoes 
Purple potatoes 
Apple Wood Bacon
Red chard
Niman Ranch lamb, pork, and beef 
Duck eggs
Pure vanilla
Boggy Creek Farm rapini
Curly endive
Lavender extract
Brussel leaves
Marcona almonds
Nicoise olives
Stilton bleu cheese
Candy-striped beets
Sun-dried tomatoes

Oh, and don't forget to serve it up on something pretty. What are some of your chef secrets?

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