The secret behind your favourite platter…
Visiting some of our favourite hotels or gourmet restaurants remind us of the highly savoured oriental or a western platter as it lets one indulge in its aroma, pampering the taste buds. These exotic dishes even hypnotise you with their fantastic appearances and allow you to have an out-of-the-world dining experience. Grilled Zucchini with Cottage Cheese, Vegetable Au Gratin, Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, Paprika Roast Chicken, Cranachan, Mushroom-Val-Au-Vents, Hot Romesco and the like on one hand Malai Kebab, Lamb Vindaloo, Chicken Razala, Pakhala, Murg Musallam on the other hand to name a few, certainly tantalise all with their rich flavours and eye-catching appearances. Have we ever given a thought about the cooking techniques used to prepare them? Why are they so favoured among some chefs? What could be the benefits? A brief thought on how they are curated with love and care by the chefs would compel you to think of the advancements and variety taking place in the food industry on the whole. Below is a list of some of the cooking techniques and their benefits at a glance.
Sous Vide: Sous vide, which means "under vacuum" in French, refers to the process of vacuum sealing food and putting it in a water bath. This technique is about bringing food to a precisely controlled temperature to deliver super-juicy, flavour-packed results from edge to edge, every time. Executive Chef, Aungshuman Chakraborty of Intercontinental Mauritius Resort Balaclava Fort, Mauritius, who has astonished his customers with the magic in his continental delicacies over a few decades, says, "Sous Vide is one of my most preferred techniques as it is very useful for preparing non-vegetarian dishes like meat or sea food. One can cook different types of dishes with this technique from steak to vegetables. Also, Sous vide is one of the most favoured techniques among some chefs as it helps in retaining the food's own flavours like no other methods." Sous Vide Salmon, Sous Vide Prime Rib Roast, Sous Vide Turkey Breast, Sous Vide Chicken Taco, Sous Vide Beef Carnitas with Tangerine-Chipotle Sauce, Sous Vide Pork Belly to name a few could be some of your great weekly eats.
Molecular Gastronomy: Cocktail Ice Sphere, Transparent Raviolis, Aperol Gel and Paper, Honey wrap, Alder Plank Grilled Salmon, Smoking Mai Tai, Crab Ice Cream – sounds mouth-watering? Well, such recipes are prepared using Molecular Gastronomy. It is the application of scientific principles to the understanding and improvement of small scale food preparation. Molecular Cuisine is a modern style of cooking, and takes advantage of many technical innovations from the scientific disciplines. Many chefs are interested in this process as it involves the addition of certain chemical components to the food to give a physical change so as to make the dish look more appealing and beautiful. The most unusual thing about modernist cuisine is that it involves a perfect blend of two disciplines – physics and chemistry. It is true that if you add lecithin in a sauce and churn it, it will form foam and stay like it for a longer time. Olive too sets a perfect example of this process – it freezes and converts into powder on passing liquid nitrogen in it. This process truly brings delight to its recipes as it helps in enhancing the tastes of the foods as well.
Curing: Chef Aungshuman says, "Curing is an age-old process of preserving meat for later use. With just a few ingredients – salt, nitrites, and time – the meat transforms from water-packed and pliable to dry and stiff. Curing meat is a preservation process going way back to ancient civilisation long before refrigeration. History has it that probably some primitive tribe might have discovered that a dead animal washed ashore hadn't rotten, and although the meat was salty and gray, it was still tasty and nobody died. Henceforth, they delved into experimentations and along the way, they killed a few kinfolk. Eventually they figured out how to preserve meat with salt." Looking at its benefits, you will find that curing at home is done with healthier ingredients, which also saves money. In the contemporary world, this process has been ruling the roost in the food industry to cure meat products. Some of the palatable recipes prepared with this technique are Cured Salmon, Salmon with ginger mustard sauce, Salami Milano and Smoked salmon.
Confit Cooking: Have you ever thought that 'food preservation' can also be considered as an art? Executive Sous Chef Pankaj Jha of The Suryaa, New Delhi, who is being appreciated for his proficiency over decades in the hotel industry, says, "'Confit' is derived from the French word, which means 'to preserve'. As opposed to deep frying, Confit cooking techniques signify that food is cooked at a lower temperature, thereby describing it as a slow cooking over a long period of time as a part of preservation using oil, grease or sugar syrup." Confit recipes are of any kinds that are immersed in oil or fat for flavouring and preservation.
Confit cooking involves fruit confit which are candied – whole fruits or pieces. It is of significance that the fruit is fully immersed in sugar to its core. However, larger fruits take more time to infuse as compared to small fruits. Hence, cherries are confit whole, while melon confits are rare.
Meat confit is yet another concept of its own kind where confit of duck or goose are usually prepared from the legs of the bird. The meat is salted and then seasoned with a variety of flavoured herbs. Once cooked, the meat is later preserved in a jar and covered with the fat.
It is a desired technique among some chefs as Confit foods can last for several months when stored in a cool place. Also, they are easy to prepare and are economical. In addition, this method is very suitable for tougher and cheaper cuts of meat as they benefit from slow process of cooking over a long period of time. For those, who want to munch onto some finger-licking yet healthy appetizers, Duck Confit Tamales, Duck Confit Banh Mi Sandwiches, Chicken Leg Confit, Pork Confit, Duck Corn and Goat Cheese Flatbread Pizzas are some of the crazy options you can opt for.
Cold Stone Ice Cream: Cold stone ice-cream, also known as stir fried ice-cream is a technique where the ingredients are placed on a chilled stone usually a metallic slab at a temperature of -35 degree Celsius. This process is characterised by its uniqueness as it involves placing the ingredients including real fruits like pieces of strawberry, mangoes, berries, cherries and ice-creams of various flavours onto the slab and mixed along with milk. The mixture is then stirred while crystallising until it gets creamy. Chef Pankaj Jha says, "At 'The Suryaa', we encourage our customers to try their hands at preparing their own preferences of ice-creams. We have been showered with a huge appreciation as this has become a much 'sought-after' form of concept among our guests at the hotel. They have taken a lot of interest in this dessert."
Smoking: When we talk about smoking, 'cigarette smoking' pops up into our minds. So do we only smoke cigarettes? What if you are told that smoking beef, pork roasts or fish is in prominence too, (which is of course 'not injurious' to health). Smoking is a process involving browning, flavouring, cooking and preserving food. It is a technique of cooking meat and other foods over fire. Pieces of woods are added to the fire so as to enhance the smoky flavour in the dishes. It is beneficial as smoking adds aroma to meat, fish and poultry and helps in their preservation to some extent as well. So, it is too funny for words when we say that salmon, beef briskets, bacon, hams, and herring are all smoked. History highlights that Smoking of meat dates back to the era of early men living in caves.
Can you imagine hot smoking, cold smoking and smoke roasting? Some chefs prefer hot smoking for their dishes, as it involves the process where meat is slowly cooked and smoked at the same time in a controlled environment. The air temperature in hot smoking should range within 52 to 80 degree Celsius so that the food items are fully cooked, moist and flavourful. Hot smoked foods are often reheated and require further cooking like Hams and Ham Hocks. They are fully cooked once they are properly smoked.
On the other hand, Cold Smoking recipes are prepared at temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degree Celsius where foods take on a smoky flavour retaining its moisture. However, cold smoking does not cook foods and meats should be fully cured prior cold smoking. This method is very dear to many chefs as it is used as a flavour enhancer for products like scallops, pork, beef, chicken breasts, salmon, chops and steak.
Smoke Roasting or 'smoke baking' is a process having attributes of smoking clubbed with either baking or roasting. This process may be carried out in a smoke roaster, cold wood-fired masonry oven or barbeque pit. So worry less about 'smoking' and satiate yourself with the delicacies of Smoked Herb chicken, Smoked Pork Butt, Alder Plank Smoked Salmon, Fennel-Smoked Salmon, Honey Smoked Turkey and much more.
Teppanyaki: The authenticity of Japanese cuisine can be understood once you go easy on the Teppanyaki recipes. Satisfy your bellies with the delightful tastes of Japanese Beef Steak, Hibachi Steak, Yakiniku Beef, Tappenyaki Shrimps-Mushrooms, Chicken Steak and Mushroom and a lot more.
Tappenyaki is a Japanese style of cooking on an iron griddle using shrimp, steak, okonomiyaki, yakisoba and monjayaki. The word 'Teppanyaki' is derived from 'teppan', which means iron plate and 'yaki', which implies grilled, broiled or pan-fried. Tappenyaki dishes could be as scrumptious as you wonder since ingredients like beef, shrimp, scallops, chicken, lobster and assorted vegetables are used to beautify and refine the recipes.