Foodservice is Getting Back to the Ease of Scratch Cooking

Want to see how easy it is to make three staple ingredients (Cheese Sauce, Gravy, and Ranch Dressing) and ignite those creative juices? Watch our chef!

Restaurants, K-12 schools, healthcare and college dining halls have diverse menus and making fresh sauces and dressings from scratch can seem unimaginable. Grabbing a RTU jug and pouring it into serving containers seems like the easiest and most efficient use of time and definitely the safest choice when it comes to flavor and outcome. Agree? Not altogether. Plus, depending on your culinary staff, you might be depleting morale by limiting their freedom in the kitchen. There’s a better option. Utilizing a dry mix can capture the essence of scratch cooking yet save time and not harness your culinary professionals’ creativity and experience.

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Want to see how easy it is to make three staple ingredients (Cheese Sauce, Gravy, and Ranch Dressing) and ignite those creative juices? You will discover just how customizable dry mix products can be with the simple addition of herbs, spices or vegetables. Made fresh fare is perceived as higher quality by customers and they are willing to pay more for it. Therefore, taking the 60 seconds to combine these mixes with water, or in the case of Ranch adding mayonnaise and buttermilk, is totally worthwhile. We like to call it – Speed Scratch.

For example, ranch dressing can be transformed easily into over 45 delicious recipes. From fresh salads to unique sandwich toppers, ranch rates on the top of the popularity scale for chefs and diners alike.  To spark your imagination think Thai Ranch Dressing, Mojito Ranch Dressing, and Sriracha Honey Ranch. The same goes for cheese sauce. Everything is better with cheese, right? Just ask your food friends in the pantry and fridge waiting for the popular add-in or topper: potatoes, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, tortilla chips and fresh vegetables, among others. Lastly, instant gravy mix takes the most difficult part of mixing gravy out of the equation; getting the flour to butter/oil and water mixture consistent each time (not to mention the flavor). The guess work is removed as minutes turn into seconds for a finished product and the amount of recipes that utilize gravy mix is mind-blowing. Check out these ideas.

These videos have their own page on Foothill Farms’ website at http://foothillfarms.com/resources_videos.cfm

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:

It All Starts Dry! Versatility Is Where You See The Difference

Tacos and Rice

FOODSERVICE SCENARIO

The first of the month is approaching and it’s time to place orders and reorders. You’ve seen what is working and you know what isn’t. The menu can be tweaked but with menu changes comes new products to purchase. Your foodservice broker introduces you to a dry mix product that correlates to your menu change. WAIT! Did you say “DRY MIX”?

YES WE DID! NO NEED TO FEAR CHANGE…IT ALL STARTS DRY!

One of the benefits of using a dry mix is that customers receive a mixture of the basic ingredients rather than having to purchase each one of them individually and possibly, mince and dice multiple ingredients before ever starting to cook. Dehydrating vegetables and blending fresh, dry seasonings along with smart packaging, opens the door to a world of menu VERSATILITY. This is where the possibilities become endless! For example, a container of Chipotle Flavor Taco Seasoning Mix isn’t just for making the obvious; it can easily be combined with cream cheese, mayonnaise, rice, ranch dressing or brownie mix (yes BROWNIE mix) to make many culinary concoctions. In fact, one package of dry mix can be used for as many as 50 servings and in at least 10 different recipes.

Another strong attribute of dry mix is the capability to adjust the strength of the flavors or alter the thickness of the sauce or gravy. When the mix starts dry, you can make the product according to package directions or slowly add liquid until the desired thickness or flavor is reached. This closely resembles “cooking from scratch”. Although, cooking from scratch exudes craftsmanship, it also means additional prep time and expense.

There is a trendy, culinary term that backs the concept of dry mix called “speed scratch”. Speed scratch is loosely defined as the process in which a chef utilizes a prepared mix in replacement of individual basic ingredients and then adds a handful of additional ingredients to make the creation signature and to finish the dish – FAST!

Versatility isn’t just a matter of menu expansion or culinary art, it also helps restaurants and foodservice providers make more profitable meals. How? Dry mix is lighter and less bulky than RTU products, which translates to “more for your money”. It also allows more flexibility for food storage since refrigeration is not required.

Dry mix lends itself more to menu versatility, higher profits, less storage worries and more time for doing what you LOVE to do!