Here are the top reasons that restaurant food tastes great. And…some insider tips to make your home cooking better.
In addition to formal training, chefs have years of experience cooking a wide range of dishes every day. And they frequently prepare the same dish over and over again, honing its every detail.
Repetition—it’s what made the Beatles such a tight band. They played the same songs for hours and hours, night after night, in Hamburg night clubs.
How can you learn the hard-won ins and outs without spending your every moment in the kitchen? Watch cooking how-to videos, not cooking shows. Shows are just that, they’re more about the spectacle than the reality of cooking.
Wanna know how to make jam? Watch four videos on making the particular kind of jam that you have in mind. Compare and contrast.
Wanna learn how to confit a duck? Watch several how-to videos and then play the best one while you’re actively confiting.
Also, get the experts to show you how to cook. If the expert is your grandmother or uncle, it’s free and you get to enjoy a family meal afterward. Take cooking classes. If you only take one, study knife skills, it will change your life.
#2 Superior Ingredients
There are grades of meat that are only sold to the industry. There are farmers growing bespoke crops specifically for top restaurants. There are very old women making pasta by hand in the back of the best Italian restaurants.
How can a home cook compete with this? Grow your own, even if it’s just a couple of pots of herbs and tomatoes on your patio. Fresh herbs have a huge impact on flavor.
Shop locally and seasonally. It’s not just a tree-hugger thing. The fewer food miles traveled, the fresher your food is. Just-picked produce has an incomparable sweetness and fullness of flavor.
Buy the best ingredients. European-style butter has a bit more fat than standard American butter and that makes a big difference on how we perceive its richness. Unsalted butter is better for cooking as it allows you to adjust the salt level from the beginning and it’s often fresher than salted butter—because it has to be.
And that high-end coarse sea salt that makes everything taste like you planned it just that way is now local. Amagansett Sea Salt can compete with any top finishing salt—just ask the chefs behind 1770 House, Craft, The Dutch, Eleven Madison Park, The Getty, Gramercy Tavern, Mast Chocolates, Mirabelle, Nick & Toni’s, The NoMad and Topping Rose House, to name just a few of their clients.
I often tell people who want to know what it’s like to review restaurants that the first step to enjoying an evening out is deciding to enjoy your evening out.
No night will be perfect. When a nervous server spills a little water you can crack a joke, rather than getting upset. If your glass of rosé is far too cold, give it a few minutes to warm up.
Relax at home too. I’m currently writing a book about home entertaining. I could write a book about how not to entertain at home: Don’t overstuff your oven so that it takes THREE hours for the chicken to cook; don’t assume that the beer your guests insist on bringing will arrive chilled, don’t let your guests’ dog lick up some spilled chocolate, even if they say it’s okay; don’t stress!
The main thing to do is relax and have lots of appetizers, drinks and party music at hand. So you blew it; no one ever died because their Champagne was served in the wrong kind of flute!
Stacy’s cookbook The Hamptons Kitchen, co-written with Hillary Davis, is due out from The Countryman Press in July, 2019.
You can follow Stacy’s informed and opinionated foodie adventures on Twitter @hamptonsepicure.