Straight from the Chef’s Mouth – A Guest Blog by Chef Martin

Sometimes cooks get hung up on not being able to make a dish properly because they are missing an ingredient. I remind myself and my colleagues that when the dish was made for the first time it was just that person’s impression of how THEY thought it should taste. It doesn’t mean it is set in stone until the end of time! You can selectively omit and recreate!

Loosen Up and Experiment with Flavor

Chef Martin
Chef Martin

It took me a while to realize that there comes a time when you stop playing by the rules; following recipes by the book. Sometimes cooks get hung up on not being able to make a dish properly because they are missing an ingredient. I remind myself and my colleagues that when the dish was made for the first time it was just that person’s impression of how THEY thought it should taste. It doesn’t mean it is set in stone until the end of time! You can selectively omit and recreate!

It is important to understand how ingredients complement each other, and then go to town creating your own unique, tasteful memories. Experiment! Obviously there are dishes that are classic in everyone’s mind: pot roast, mac n’ cheese, spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and of course apple pie. Comfort foods get their reputation from the whole dining experience, not just the way it tastes. Biting into a slice of apple pie might bring back memories of your grandma’s apple pie served at her dining room table but for someone else it will be a different experience altogether. Don’t let “comfort food” pin you down! In my experience, people like culinary twists to old favorites.

I love to experiment in the kitchen. My wife is always amazed on days that we have nothing in the pantry, or so she thought, and I come up with a dish that she enjoys eating. She will ask me what the dish was called and my response (and dead giveaway that I experimented) is “Anything you like…I made it just for you.” Chefs know the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach!

I love that young chefs are being given “market baskets” as part of their testing. It reminds me of the story of how the first Caesar Salad came to be. I believe in simplicity, I am not overly impressed with chefs putting dishes together with twenty ingredients. That kind of culinary snobbery tends to confuse the pupil in understanding what is complimenting what.

With summer just around the corner, I am reminded of a couple of cool ideas that I have tasted lately that have given me a WOW moment: watermelon and basil and cantaloupe and lime juice. Unique flavor combinations are gaining in popularity. A recent Technomic report asked 1500 consumers how appealing they found 12 different flavor combinations both in 2009 and in 2013. Eleven of the 12 saw rise in their popularity in 2013. Tomato-basil received the strongest reception followed by honey-ginger. The next three top favorites were chipotle-lime, rosemary-orange and mango-habanero.

Chef Martin Experiments with Flavor
Chef Martin Experiments with Flavor

Foothill Farms and I have created new recipes; blending unique flavors to create delicious, appealing dishes, dressings, sauces, and salsas. Food should be fun! You shouldn’t be judge on how close you got to copying someone else’s effort.

Check out these recipes:

Customization Options are in the Sauce!

Consumers want more power over the dishes they are eating through flexible menus and by choosing their own ingredients for a particular dish. Having a few classic or signature sauces on hand that are easily adaptable will increase the options served on a daily basis and help satisfy even the most discerning customer.

We are no longer working in a one flavor fits all industry. The number one food trend according to Technomic’s 2013 Year in Review: 10 Macro Consumer Foodservice Trends is customization. Consumers want more power over the dishes they are eating through flexible menus and by choosing their own ingredients for a particular dish.

Our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!
Our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!

How do you achieve this daunting prospect of individual choice in foodservice? Look no farther than the sauce! By offering a spectrum of sauce choices customized from a few Foothill Farms® basic sauce mixes, food professionals leave room for individuality on a much bigger stage. Having a few classic or signature sauces on hand that are easily adaptable will increase the options served on a daily basis and help satisfy even the most discerning customer.

Chicken, fish, beef…let’s face it, if a sauce is drizzled over it, the dish instantly moves up the gourmet ladder. Foothill Farms® Béchamel Sauce mix easily transitions into a mild Mornay Sauce, ready to embrace a baked tilapia filet. The same mix can make a velvety smooth Veloute´ Sauce to serve over a grilled chicken breast. Moreover, our Béchamel Sauce mix is the base for our Blue Cheese Sauce and Gorgonzola Sauce recipes. Looking at our product this way illustrates the benefits of using dry mix. Sauce mixes become customizable food art simply by adding a handful of fresh ingredients.

Likewise, a kid and senior-friendly Alfredo Sauce has a multitude of applications. It can be tweaked to form a Ragin Cajun, palate-pleasing blackened fish topper, transformed into a creamy, Memphis BBQ Parmesan Sauce, or whipped into a pasta-ready Garlic Alfredo Sauce. Do we have you mentally creating new dishes already?

Shrimp and Broccoli Alfredo
Shrimp and Broccoli Alfredo

Wait, we haven’t even discussed dessert! Satisfy the sweet tooth with Foothill Farms® Crème Anglaise Custard Sauce which is every bit as customizable as the entrée sauces. Crepes or bread puddings topped with Lemon Crème, Raspberry Rum Crème, and White Russian Crème will finish any dinner on a high note while Chocolate Peanut Butter Crème and Almond Crème beckon for a partner of ice cream or cookie wafers. Implementing dessert sauces stretches menu offerings and accentuates chefs’ craftsmanship.

Serve a sauce as a dip!
Serve a sauce as a dip!

If the goal is to take menu choices further without increasing food costs, trying dry sauce mix is worth the experiment or should we say EXPERIENCE! Trust us! Behind-the-scenes, our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!