Any student earning a culinary arts certificate online spends many long hours honing his or her skills at crafting an array of delicious entrees. However, it’s just as important to put together a full meal that leaves diners satisfied, packed with complementary flavors and textures. By learning about some of the finest side dishes served in restaurants across the country, you may find ideas to develop great combinations of your own.
Perfecting the classics
Sometimes, all it takes is one or two unusual ingredients or an unconventional technique to make a side stand out. With a little creativity, chefs have turned beloved, familiar dishes into irresistible signature items. These examples demonstrate how some fresh ideas can make diners look at an item in a whole new light.
“Chefs turn familiar dishes into irresistible signature items.”
You can order French fries at any fast food joint. However, at Dino’s Chicken and Burgers in Los Angeles, the fresh-cut fries are packed with extra flavor by collecting the drippings from the deliciously seasoned rotisserie chicken. If you like, order a heartier version topped by cheese, carne asada, pastrami and the restaurant’s secret sauce.
For students at cooking schools in Colorado, Cora Faye’s Cafe in Aurora offers an array of great homestyle Southern foods like fried chicken, shrimp and pork chops . Zagat recommended pairing the weekend special of gravy-covered oxtail in rice with a couple of the exceptional sides steeped in family tradition. Guest can choose from options such as pork-flavored collard greens, black-eyed peas and hush puppies.
New York City’s Bogota Latin Bistro specializes in cuisine from Central and South America, including a fantastic selection of tasty add-ons. There’s plenty of steak, chicken and salmon on the menu, but It’s easy to build a great meal without even looking at the entrees. Among the choices are patacones – whole green plantains that are flattened and fried – and the Colombian cornmeal cakes, arepas. Plus, you can enjoy several varieties of empanadas, including chicken, steak, shrimp or a vegetarian option with mushroom, spinach, onion, tomato, peppers and aji pique, a sauce made with scallions and cilantro.
Other restaurants go even farther in developing exciting side items that keep guests coming back. These dishes show chefs’ abilities and commitment to quality, taking routine extras to whole new levels of flavor.
New York’s steakhouses are particularly well-known for their assortments of sides, including tasty takes on twice-baked potatoes, asparagus and creamed spinach. However the items offered at K Rico South American Steakhouse are a cut above the rest. Eater recommended the cauliflower and malanga puree, which is sauteed with oil and garlic and topped by nutmeg, Parmesan and pepper.
Anyone who attends a Austin culinary arts school knows it’s a town that takes pride in its barbecue. Perfectly slow-cooked beef, pork and chicken may be the star, but great sides take the experience at an establishment like Micklethwait Craft Meats to the next level. The creative spins on old-school barbecue favorites include a lemon poppyseed coleslaw and extra-creamy grits made with jalapeno.
At Michelin-starred Al’s Place in San Francisco, the usual relation between produce and meat is reversed, with all vegetarian main courses. Diners dig into healthy portions of pear curry or grits for their entree while enjoying a few bites of beef or fish on the side. Among the choices are red bow trout with tom yum nam khon sauce, smoked brisket – served with sieved egg, pickled mirepoix and maple mustard – or a poached egg in olive oil.
Side dishes offer culinary academy graduates opportunities to explore new approaches to many foods. With some tasty ingredients and a clever spin, those items can get diners coming back and spreading the word about a restaurant.