8 Tips to Make Your Food Relish-Worthy
What’s “Relish-Worthy”, you ask?
In the NJYC world, that’s code for “restaurant quality” and up until very recently, we thought it was impossible to make relish worthy, restaurant quality meals in our own homes. Sure, our food might TASTE good (sometimes), but LOOK good? Let’s not get crazy.
We usually just feel lucky if the main course and the side dishes come out of the oven at the same time. That goes double for holidays, especially after that year when the fire department had to be called because of a little grease fire in our old apartment in Metuchen that we may or may not have started because we used a super small pan for a 12 pound main course…
But we digress.
Enter the one and only Marcy Ragan, the chef and owner of Relish Your Chef. A major part of her personal food philosophy is a commitment to experimentation and creativity – and she always keeps it fresh, healthy, and delicious.
Oh right, and she makes it look SUPER pretty.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we high-tailed it over to Marcy’s and begged for a few tips on how to make our holiday meal turn out fabulous, fresh and finger-licking good. Here’s what she gave us – and yes, we are begging for more before the whirlwind of December events begins!
Get a game plan. Write out the menu, the guest list, a work plan and a tentative timeline for your day (you might even want to include up to 3 days prior, with a shopping list of course). If you know that your beloved Aunt Janet always makes the mashed potatoes, welcome that offering. Seeing a plan in black and white makes it much easier to take reasonable steps to get things done.
Have High Standards
Buy high quality, local, and in-season ingredients. They have more flavor and take less work to taste great. What could be better than bringing home an in-season butternut squash or Brussels Sprouts and roasting simply with olive oil?
Space It Out
How much space do you really have in your kitchen and your oven? Be realistic about what you can achieve in the space that you have. Hot plates and microwave ovens might need to come into play.
Season it up
Don’t be afraid of salt. Season lightly to layer the effect of salt and the beginning – middle – and end of cooking. A bunch of salt dumped in at the end of cooking will never match building flavor as you go.
Taste as You Go
Get out the spoon and taste what you’re cooking to check its progress. The dish might need more pepper or less liquid. GET IN THERE! Use your senses. Being in tune with the sight, smell, touch, and taste of foods while they’re cooking can be the difference between a good and an amazing dish. A spoon is a chef’s favorite tool.
Find your favorite secret umami ingredients such as miso paste, Parmigiano rinds, Proscuitto rinds, anchovies, tomato paste or soy sauce. Add one of these enhancers to food (soups, stews, sauces) while it’s cooking for a secret flavor bomb extracted from their aged essence (years of flavor-built right in!) Think Parm rinds in Minestrone soup or miso paste in turkey meatballs.
Practice Makes Perfect
Find one recipe you like with a basic technique; such as searing, braising, or roasting. Master that technique with practice and build your repertoire from there. Once you learn one technique, like roasting a chicken, you can branch out to other dishes and roast anything!
Serve good wine. Every guest will appreciate a good glass of wine. Enough said.
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