Tips to Master the Art of Michelin-Starred Cuisine at Home

At Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant in New York City, two tasting menus are offered daily. The Prix Fixe dining experience costs $325 and patrons are treated to either a nine-course chef’s tasting menu or a vegetable tasting menu where no single ingredient is ever repeated throughout the meal. This is one of only six three-star Michelin rated restaurants in a city best known for its culinary prestige.

Michelin is the pinnacle of epicurean directories. The stars, only awarded to the finest restaurants, keep chefs across the globe on their culinary feet, striving to be the best. The rating is so coveted by chefs that there’s a rumor fiery-tempered Gordon Ramsay wept when his New York restaurant was stripped of its two-star rating.

But wait. Michelin is a tire brand. In fact, the founders of the Michelin tire company created the Michelin Guides more than 100 years ago. The guides were just as prestigious then as they are now. Visit ‘Michelin: Tops in Tires…and Truffles, Too’ to read the full story of how the publication came to be.

While you may not be quite ready to tackle Keller’s Pommes Dauphine or Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras, you can make a statement in your own kitchen that screams gold star. Here are some tips to bring culinary greatness into your home.

Prepare

Before you even fire up the stove, you must be think ahead and prepare yourself for the culinary dance.

  • Arm yourself with the proper cooking tools – a sharp knife, tongs, a few cutting boards, an efficient oven heated to the right temperature (check with a thermometer), measuring cups and spoons, cast-iron pan, and other necessary bowls and kitchen essentials.
  • Master your “mise en place.” Prepare the ingredients ahead of time so everything is at your fingertips when you’re cooking. French for “everything in place,” mise en place is the set up to making your dish perfect. Have everything measured, peeled, chopped, etc. and put in small bowls near your cooking station.
  • When shopping for quality ingredients think fresh, fresh, fresh. Vegetables and meats should be sourced local and come from a farmer’s market or specialty shop. Think ahead so you aren’t running to the store at the last minute for a forgotten ingredient.

Practice

Another key to preparation is practice. Since you didn’t study under Keller, you will undoubtedly run across unfamiliar ingredients in your quest to rule the roost. Spices and other ingredients can be unpredictable so practice with them to know them.

Plan each step ahead of time and write the process down to avoid making mistakes, advises David Chang of Momofuku fame.

Cook

Cooking is like composing a symphony with each instrument being an element in the meal you’re preparing. Here are some tips:

  • Taste as you go.
  • Salt as you go. Use a small bowl of kosher salt and sprinkle evenly with your fingers. Add pinches as you taste as you go.
  • Make a salt blend by adding a ground spice (coriander) or herb (rosemary) to a base salt. Seasoning adds complexity to flavors and brings your meal to the next level.
  • Measure everything. Don’t guess. It never comes out right.
  • Sear poultry, pieces of meat, and fish and finish in oven for a moister result. Put the pan straight from the burner into the oven.

Present

To have a 3-star Michelin dish not only your flavors but your presentation must blow away your guests. It’s an abstract piece of art that marries color and texture. Here are some secrets to haute plating:

  • Showcase highlighted ingredients. If you say there is pork and mint on the menu, be sure both ingredients are clearly in the presentation.
  • Use white dishes so you can see the food. Start the plating process on this white space and cover with liquids first (they stay stable at bottom of the plate and thicker sauces form a glue to layer other elements of the dish and keep them in place).
  • Fill extra space with color. If you look at your plated meal and see all green and brown, find a way to add color.
  • Final saucing should be done last minute. Spoon straight from the pan if it’s a pan sauce just as the plate is about to hit the table.

A 3-Star Michelin meal is described as “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” Follow these tips to make a meal that has your guests wanting to come back for more. Visit the website for Michelin-star recipes.

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