It is many a person’s dream to learn to cook like a gourmet chef. Although it seems like an impossible feat it really isn’t. Along with getting the techniques right, the seasoned gourmet chef also acquires, with experience, a feel for food and an instinctive sense of what works best. But first we have to get the basics right. We have outlined a few of the many techniques that are easy to incorporate in your daily cooking. Read on to know how to enhance your cooking by using these 8 gourmet techniques.
1. Baking – Roasting
For baking and roasting, dry heat is used to make the food. Therefore you will find that most recipes that involve baking or roasting will require you to preheat the oven. This is to ensure that there is no moisture to interfere with the baking. On the other hand, recipes that involve roasting will require you to keep basting the food with oil or butter from time to time. It is important to remember here that the food is basted with oil or butter but not oiled or buttered prior to roasting.
2. Broiling – Grilling
Broiling and grilling require cooking oiled foods on a hot grill or preheated oven, the key point being that the food has to be pre-oiled and the grill/oven must be pre-heated as well. Remember that the bigger or thicker the meat or vegetable to cook the longer it should be cooked. The item should be placed away from the heat source and should be placed with the grilled side facing up. This not only gives your dish the gourmet style of cooking but also the presentation which matters equally.
Braising uses a combination of dry and moist heats, i.e. the food is seared first and then finished by cooking in a covered pot of liquid. For a really good braise the liquid should be infused with stock or wine. One secret to an amazing braise is to prepare this sauce a day prior to the actual braising. Keeping the liquid overnight helps in intensifying its flavour which then enhances the flavour of the final braise.
Flambéing is to pour a liqueur, wine or spirit over the food and letting it ignite at the end of sautéing your dish. It is a method that requires extreme precaution, as the fire can be hard to control if you’re not experienced. The name literally spells flammable so ensure that you move your hand away quickly as you light the spirit and work fast while keeping the fire at a distance from you.
Frying is one of the most versatile techniques of gourmet cooking. It can be used for almost any item. Although it is a simple technique, using too much oil can make the food lose its nutritional value. Normally, when done in a shallow skillet with oil or butter, it becomes a shallow fry.
Poaching is a moist heat cooking technique that involves cooking by submerging food in a liquid such as water, stock, wine, milk, etc. This technique is used on foods such as eggs, chicken, fish and fruit since they are delicate and can be cooked at a relatively low temperature. Poaching is considered a very healthy technique as it uses no fat or oil for cooking. Eggs Benedict is a prime example of poaching.
Sautéing is very similar to frying but it uses very little oil and the food that is being sautéed should be relatively thin and tender. Sautéing unlike frying is a quick process. There should be enough space between the pieces in the pan so that they brown evenly. The pan should be hot when you sauté food. If you choose to cover the pan, remember not to do so tightly as it will steam the food instead of lightly frying it.
8. French frying
French frying is basically deep frying food in hot oil or fat. But to do it right you need to use an oil or fat that has a high flash point, i.e. the food fries quickly in these oils. Remember, the oil has to be hot because otherwise the food simply soaks the oil instead getting cooked. Foods that contain a lot of water are first fried till they just begin to brown and allowed to sit to cool. They are then inserted in the oil at a higher temperature than before. Remember to drain your fried food on paper towels before serving. More importantly don’t stack or cover fried food as the steam will make it soggy and defeat the purpose.
Some other points to remember about gourmet cooking other than the techniques are quality ingredients and quality tools. A good set of knives will take you a long way in making good gourmet food. It is important to learn how to cut, slice and dice properly so that your food gives you its best flavours and nutrients. You only need to invest once in good pots and pans for your kitchen, so invest wisely. Choose pots and pans depending on what you cook most. You don’t need to splurge on the ingredients and spices but you can most definitely buy good quality spices and ingredients. For example, instead of using garlic powder, use actual garlic as the flavour is more intense than powder. Using paprika instead of regular chilli powder is another way to transform your food to gourmet.
Remember gourmet food is not necessarily difficult. All it takes is a little time, patience and lots of practice to understand flavours and how they are combined best in recipes. Happy cooking!
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