When cooking is your livelihood, the plate is your resume. That’s why so many chefs work from scratch to ensure their food is unforgettable. When it comes to cooking at home, however, sometimes it pays to put the effort in, and sometimes it doesn’t. We spoke with chefs to see what items require minimal effort for maximal results in the kitchen. Here’s where it pays not to cut corners:
“Pizza dough. It’s just an all-around better product, and you made it yourself versus buying something that came in a bag in the freezer section. [There’s a] little bit more pride. And you can adjust it to your liking. You can always add fresh herbs or spices to it.”
— Rich Parente, Clock Tower Grill
“Coconut macaroons are a fantastic cookie, and it’s gluten free and so simple to make. Nothing in my restaurant is store bought. I like to use the phrase, ‘I think of food like buying toilet paper and buying cheese: You only want to buy the best.’ When you do mass-quantity, you substitute ingredients for mass production. You may not be using the same quality of ingredients, and in smaller batches you get a higher quality product.”
— Page Moll, Hash Food NY
Make Chef Moll’s coconut macaroon recipe.
“A lot of times, store-bought or mass-produced products contain additives for shelf life, color, and stabilizers, among other things. These chemicals or additives can affect flavor and potentially affect nutrition values. Using fresh-made pesto with fresh herbs will be a way more fragrant and flavorful product than any store-bought.”
— Jonathan Botta, Dutch Ale House
Make Chef Botta’s green pesto recipe.
“In my opinion, the most important part of a dish is its beginnings. A homemade stock from scratch creates a superior foundation for so many dishes. Scraps from prior recipes can easily be repurposed to extract the depth of flavor for the next dish. I use this practice all the time with beef or chicken bones, shrimp shells, lobster heads, veggie scraps, and fresh herbs. The execution of making a flavorful stock is simple and can be portioned and frozen to use in future dishes. The foundation of a proper stock can be the difference between a basic dish and a memorable one.” –
—Jennifer Abelton, The Helm
Make Chef Abelton’s chicken stock recipe.
“Salad dressings and aiolis (mayonnaise) are so much better fresh and so easy to make there’s really no reason not to make them yourself. Usually, as with the recipes here, they’re made with simple ingredients everyone has on hand at home. The roasted lemon salad dressing can be found on the local greens salad at Kitchen Sink; we use garlic aioli as a spread on the burgers at Meyer’s Olde Dutch. Aioli can be used for so many things, such as the basis for cole slaw, a dip, or as a replacement for butter on the bread for a grilled cheese sandwich.”
— Brian Arnoff, Kitchen Sink Food & Drink/Meyer’s Olde Dutch
6 lemons, 2 juiced and reserved, 4 split in half
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1 small shallot, peeled
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
Heat a pan (or grill) and place 4 split lemons, cut side down, into the pan. Allow lemons to sear on cut side until well-browned, verging on black. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Juice roasted lemons. Add all juices, plus Dijon, honey, shallot, and garlic, into a blender. Puree on medium high speed until smooth. While blender is running, stream in olive oil, then vegetable oil; finally, add salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.
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