Forget about reservations, long waits, and the notion that fine dining and good food can only be had at restaurants. Fine dining is no longer synonymous with dining out. It all can be so easy – why don’t you elevate you own cooking game with some simple fine dining techniques? No need for culinary school!
Cooking good food at home isn’t rocket science and doesn’t require fancy equipment.
These techniques and party food ideas will get you started in becoming your own private chef, creating your own fine dining menu. Cooking good food at home isn’t rocket science and doesn’t require fancy equipment.
Under Water Vacuum – Sous Vide
Nothing says fine dining more than a juicy steak or perfectly cooked fish. You can see the quality of a restaurant or private chef, when proteins are cooked consistently the way guests like it. The secret is out – perfection and consistency can be easily achieved with sous vide at home. This fine dining technique allows you to control the ‘doneness’ more than anything else.
How it’s done:
There’s no need for fancy machinery, as you can mimic the same process using a plastic zip bag, a thermometer, and a pot of water. Fill a pot of water, place the thermometer on the side using a sturdy clip or use a skewer to balance it on the edge. Heat water to the desired temperature – which will depend on the type of meat or fish. Place the protein into the plastic zip bag and remove all air from the bag. Hang the top over the side of the pot and weigh it down with a clip to prevent the bag from floating around in the water. Adjust temperature once again, cook, and finish it with a quick sear.
Cooked and Preserved in its Own Fat – Confit
Duck confit is a fine dining menu staple. Chefs use this technique to cook the duck in its own fat. It will make the meat tender, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth-experience with concentrated flavour. This technique is great for cooking meals for smaller groups, because it allows you to preserve the meat until you are ready to serve.
How it’s done:
Start by salting your protein heavily. Add a dry spice rub or some seasoning if you like and then refrigerate the meat for at least a day. Rinse off the salt and place the meat into a pan of melted fat. Cook at 90 degrees Celsius until the meat pulls easily away from the bone. This process should take several hours either on the stove or in the oven. Once cooled, store it in the refrigerator for several days. Remove the fat in warm water before eating. Reheat the meat in a pan for a succulent main dish with crispy skin. Another option is to incorporate shredded meat to pasta sauce or to place on top of a salad – the party food ideas are endless.
Add a Hint of Flavour – Infusion
For those that prefer to start or end the meal with a cocktail, infused simple syrups layer flavour and balance out the harshness of alcohol. If you prefer, you can also drizzle the infused syrup on ice cream or shaved ice for a refreshing dessert.
How it’s done:
For ginger-infused simple syrup, start by putting equal parts of sugar and water in a pot, followed by peeled ginger. The ratio of water to ginger should be around 3 to 1. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let the mix cool down and strain out the ginger before using. Mix 15ml of the ginger simple syrup with 2 slices of orange, 6 mint leaves, 45ml of brandy, 15ml fresh lemon juice, and ginger ale for a Sleepyhead cocktail.
This is one of the most versatile fine dining techniques – you can also skip the sugar and infuse the alcohol itself or infuse savoury sauces.
Set a Fine Dining Mood – Plating & Décor Ideas
Plating is the most noticeable way fine dining restaurants distinguish themselves. Chefs present guests with works of art, contrasting textures and colours, and ingredients piled high. Similarly to fashion, good food styling can make something simple look extravagant. Luckily, there are a few techniques that you can master in no time.
How it’s done:
Begin with a plain white or black plate so that the ingredients can be the main focus. Create designs with chutneys and sauces. For thicker sauces, place a scoop of it on the plate and smear half of it with the back of the spoon along the edge of the plate. For thinner sauces, use a squeeze bottle to draw abstract patterns.
Next, style the food by piling the ingredients on top of and against each other. Height creates a more visually interesting dish. Finish the plate with a garnish, typically a fresh herb or zest that complements the flavour of the meal. Keep the proportions in mind though. Just like you strive to wear clothes that suit, you want to ensure that plate and portions fit well together. An oversized plate will make your meal look small and possibly lacking.
The fine dining experience is not limited to what is on the plate; here are a few home décor ideas to set the mood and create an appetising ambiance. For an intimate gathering, use candles and softer lightening, like table lamps. A simple way to add colour and texture to the table is to arrange flowers or plants in the centre of the table. Fine dining etiquette requires guests to dab their mouths with a napkin, so place one that plays off the flower arrangement or table setting. The table linen does not need to match; contrasting patterns and texture create interest.