Anthony Bourdain was not the first person whom I thought of if someone asked me to name a celebrity chef. But he quickly became one of my favorites as I started reading one of his best-selling books, Kitchen Confidential.
Many of us are more familiar with his widely popular television shows in which where he travels and eats his way around the world. But oh boy, did he have an interesting past as a chef. From working as a dishwasher for quick money in high school to climbing the culinary ladder, his kitchen tales are more exciting and dramatic than your average soap opera is. If you are looking for a quick, fun summer read, I highly recommend this book.
He shares not only his memorable anecdotes as a chef but also how to cook like pros in this book. And here is a list of 7 ingredients that you can use to prepare a dish that tastes like one from your favorite restaurants.
Shallots are one of those ingredients that we all know exist, but we never really buy them. Their mild onion flavors are much preferred to classic French dishes, homemade vinaigrette, and sauces than actual onions. In the restaurant kitchen, shallots are one of the basic prep items that are found in every station. According to Bourdain, his kitchen staff use nearly 20 pounds a day.
Ina Garten and Paula Deen LOVE to use butter in every recipe, but so do restaurants. A tablespoon of butter can truly change the game when you are making sauces or sauteeing vegetables.
Do you want a perfectly-caramelized seared steak? You want a rich, thick, flavorful sauce? Use some butter to make an average dish fantastic. Don't forget to use some GOOD butter, not that fake, "I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter" stuff because we all CAN believe that it is not real butter.
3. Roasted Garlic
Every time I cook something, one ingredient that I never forget to put in is garlic. To be honest, I can't imagine the world without garlic! But have you ever roasted garlic in the oven? It becomes this ooey-gooey, soft, and sweet flavor that is simply irreplaceable. Try to spread your home-made roasted garlic on some toast or squeeze that soft gold into your tomato soup. You're welcome in advance.
Do you want to make your food look more Instagram-worthy, #foodporn realness? Some parsley and sprinkle it over your dish. A little parsley for garnish will instantly make your food look more fresh and sexy.
I assume that you are not Ina Garten who can go to her backyard to get some parsley all the time, so make sure you add fresh parsley on your grocery list if you want to be serious about your cooking.
5. Good Stock
You can't discuss good food without talking about good stock. As Bourdain says, "stock is the backbone of good cooking." You may think, "ain't nobody got that time for that," but you are wrong. Making stock is super easy. Just boil a whole chicken with some vegetables and herbs while you binge-watch Netflix. You get a delicious chicken dinner and some good home-made chicken stock. How easy is that?
You may think, "what the heck is demi-glace"? No worries, I didn't know what it was either. It is basically a rich brown pan sauce in French cuisine that is used by itself or as a base for other sauces.
It sounds very intimidating to make it, but as Bourdain recommends you "simply take your already reduced meat stock, add some red wine, toss in some shallots and fresh thyme and a bay leaf and peppercorns, and slowly, slowly simmer it and reduce it again until it coats a spoon."
7. Basil Tops, Chive Sticks, Mint Tops, etc
If you want to be a serious cook, start incorporating fresh herbs into your dishes. I mean, seriously, garnishing your juicy chicken breasts with a nice spring of chervil will elevate your homemade dish into a top, restaurant-quality dish. Get familiar with different flavors of herbs. You cannot only make your dish pretty but also add flavors to your dish. As Bourdain says, "you need zero talent to garnish food."
When we cook, we often forget what constitutes as good cooking. It does not require a long list of fancy ingredients, or complicated recipes. Bourdain's cooking philosophy is simple. He says, "just make sure they're good ingredients, fresh ingredients, and then garnish them."