As chefs make their way through an Austin culinary arts program, they learn how to create a wide range of dishes with distinctive flavors and fascinating textures. However, a great meal is about more than an expertly prepared entree. It’s a combination of multiple items that complement each other perfectly, resulting in an experience diners will remember and want to share with others.
One of the most important skills that cooking professionals can develop during their training is an awareness of what items will go best together. Once you know which flavor combinations bring reliably satisfying results, you can construct menus that show off your skills with surprising pairings. Here are some tips to help you develop remarkable dishes:
Consider the classics
“Certain foods always seem to go together.”
Certain foods always seem to go together, and there’s usually a good reason. Consider the school lunch staple of peanut butter and jelly. A meeting between sweet and salty flavors is one of the surest ways to please someone’s taste buds, and the sticky textures make these two spreads an ideal match.
Meat and potatoes are similarly proverbial match. Each savory bite of a perfectly seared steak is even more satisfying when paired with the starchy delight of a baked or mashed potato. The mixture of flavors and textures becomes even better when you add the fattiness of butter and the complexity of spices and herbs to the equation.
Keep these classic examples in mind when bringing together contrasting foods on the plate. Fatty and sweet items or salty and acidic ones complement each other, so be on the lookout for intriguing ways to join those flavor profiles. Meanwhile, keep in mind that you can always count on traditional combinations like a savory burger with salty fries or the spice of hot sauce with the tang of a creamy blue cheese dressing.
Don’t be afraid of experimenting
When you’re ready to step outside your comfort zone, you’ll find there are many unusual pairings that can be just as crowd-pleasing as more conventional dishes. Bon Appetit pointed out several examples of seemingly odd combinations that people love. For instance, pineapple and ham pizza works so well because of the balance between fruity acidity and greasy fattiness.
Bacon has become a common addition to a huge variety of dishes because its taste is so versatile. Simultaneously salty, fatty and smoky, the pork contributes the unmistakable aroma that comes from the Maillard reaction during cooking. Bacon is therefore uniquely suited to serve as a topping or side dish for everything from eggs to burgers to doughnuts.
Explore molecular gastronomy
One way to really open up the possibilities of new and different flavor combinations working together is by taking a scientific approach. Molecular gastronomy focuses on how chemical reactions lead to an appealing taste. As FoodNavigator-USA explained, this approach has revealed a number of surprising ways to make a standout dish based on the chemical composition of particular items or ingredients.
Experimenting along these lines has revealed a number of interesting pairs that chefs can try out for themselves. Consider how you might bring together strawberry and coriander, chocolate and fried onion or salmon with licorice. You don’t need a deep understanding of chemistry to get in the kitchen and start trying out some fascinating contrasts.
Pairing foods is all about finding the right balance between tastes and textures. Students working toward a culinary arts certificate online learn a lot by cooking up beloved combinations. Then, they can stretch their creativity by serving sides, toppings and multi-course meals that are certain to get diners talking.