Do you know what gourmet cooking and skydiving have in common?
Well, initially they both sound intriguing…and then terrifying.
Okay, okay, so cooking might not be as scary as free-falling 9,500+ ft. at 120 miles per hour. But, many people assume there are specialized skills and a formal education involved.
I sure did. The image of an executive chef in their crisp white uniform and toque hat using kitchen equipment I can’t identify, while shouting commands in French to the sous chef certainly intimidates me (and yes, I had to look up the official name of a chef’s hat!)
As it turns out, the ability to follow instructions coupled with the right equipment and wholesome ingredients is all that’s required. While practice makes perfect, beginners can have success if they are prepared and ready to learn.
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good from fresh ingredients.” ~Julia Child
Cooking gourmet = using quality ingredients in the freshest form available. There is the perception that fresh foods are expensive and they can be without proper planning.
It’s important to keep the pantry stocked by purchasing in bulk when possible and shopping at a farmer’s market. Expensive items such as olives, exotic cheeses, nuts, etc. can be bought in small quantities at the deli counter or bulk bins.
The basics for gourmet cooking are:
- Use only fresh, quality ingredients
- Know your ingredients
- Which cuts of meat should be braised first?
- Which fruits and vegetable are in season?
- Knowing the specifics gives you more meal options and possible substitutions
- Additions are important
- Sauces and condiments are versatile and stay fresh for long periods
- Spices are inexpensive and also have a long shelf life when stored properly
- Fresh herbs can make a dish go from average to awesome
- Extras are special
- Simple garnishes like slivered almonds or a shaving of parmesan cheese are vital elements in gourmet cooking
- Experimentation is fun
- Be reading and willing to learn new techniques through videos and tutorials
- From blanching vegetables to making a reduction, unfamiliar doesn’t necessarily mean difficult
- Add variety to your skills by trying recipes from other cultures
- Presentation is king
- A balance of flavors, colors, and textures looks beautiful AND ensures a balance of nutrients
- Creative arrangement and plating of food is a key component of gourmet cooking
Incorporating gourmet cooking into your routine means improving the quality of the ingredients and learning how to prepare them properly. The basic principles are achieved through studying cookbooks and the wealth of information available online, including videos and tutorials.
While some ingredients in their freshest form are more expensive than their processed counterparts, it’s still less expensive than dining out.
So, go ahead and “take the plunge” into gourmet cooking. It may be less scary than you initially thought…and a lot more fun!