Along with the skill set I mentioned in a previous post, another way to up your game concerns plating in more complex sense. It involves techniques of modernist cuisine.
I consider Ferran Adrià —like many others—to be an artist among chefs, a Leonardo da Vinci of modernist cuisine, if you will. I’d love to have enjoyed a meal at his restaurant, but honestly, I don’t know if I could have eaten such culinary masterpieces.
Bringing It Home
In no way do I claim to be such a chef, but I do believe in making meals enjoyable times that are pleasing to as many senses as possible. At the very least, it can encourage lingering and conversation at the table.
You can reserve it for a special meal, or make it a weekly treat; I prefer the latter. After all, skills like this one require practice. Who better to be the recipient of your training than loved ones?
A couple of elements struck me as simple ways to bring home the magic. They include:
small plates or tapas, if you like
Let me explain.
Elements of Surprise
Small plates or portion sizes offer several advantages not the least of which is quick plating. They allow for experimentation, helpful if you can’t decide between two dishes. Of course, you have the health factor of smaller portion sizes.
Foods that don’t take up the whole plate have an advantage: the food has the opportunity to stand out against the white canvas of the plate. Colors pop. The presentation takes center stage.
Controlling Your Sauces
One of the frustrating things a beginning watercolorist struggles with is running colors. Unlike oil paints, watercolors have a mind of their own. I suspect this trait leads many to gouache or acrylic painting instead.
The key is thicker paints. With modernist cuisine, it means fluid gels. The premise is simple. Begin with a sauce, thicken it, and break it down to a consistency that you can work with. Agar is a good choice for a thickener because of its versatility and use in both hot or cold preparations.
An immersion blender works well for breaking down the gel after it has set. What you get is a thicker version of your sauce. You can then “paint” the plate with dots and swirls to make it look like something out of a fancy downtown restaurant.
Adding Modernist Cuisine Pop
The finishing touches involve color. Single parsley or cilantro leaves, for example, work very well. You can also use chive flowers or edible flowers you find at the grocery store. A simple sprinkling of petals can add a stunning addition to your presentation.
The best thing about these touches is their simplicity. A little flower adds so much. Your dish will look gorgeous, and you’ll get the kudos for being a true food artist.