When you hear the word "gourmet" you may envision complicated dish but there is such a thing as tastefully simple gourmet food.
Simplicity in Gourmet Food
With the culinary world getting so much attention over the last few years with such names as Emeril, Rachel Ray and Gordon Ramsey chefs are the new celebrities. With this new found appeal to the food realm there are more people than ever wanting to throw elaborate dinner parties and gourmet picnics. One big misunderstanding is that gourmet food is synonymous with the word difficult when, in fact, many gourmet recipes can have as few as 3 ingredients; simple flavorful food can be gourmet cuisine. Presentation is also an important component in presenting high class, upscale gourmet delicacies.
What is Gourmet
If you go by the strict definition, gourmet food is prepared to perfection, the best of the best in quality and food that is creatively presented to the consumer. If we take this definition to the white board you could call 100% USDA ground hamburger meat gourmet as long as it's perfectly prepared and looks pretty on the plate. However, to truly find gourmet, we have to look beyond common supermarket food and prepared goods to items that are not easily found. It is in these ingredients where true gourmet food emerges, especially when combined with other specialty ingredients. The following items are often considered gourmet:
- Smoked Paprika
- Serrano Ham
- Prosciutto di Parma
- Mascarpone Cheese
- Goat Cheese
- White Asparagus
- Lobster Tail
- .. and hundreds more
Using any number of gourmet ingredients when preparing more basic foods like steak, chicken and vegetables will turn a normal meal into a gourmet one.
Tastefully Simple Gourmet Foods
When talking about simple gourmet food that tastes good you can begin with sauces. In the culinary world there are what they call "mother" or "grand" sauces. There are 5 mother sauces from which all other sauces are made. Once you master these you are well on your way to making simple foods gourmet.
- Espagnol (brown sauce)
- Bechamel (white sauce)
- Veloute (blond sauce)
- Hollandaise (butter sauce)
- Tomato (red sauce)
You can use sauces in nearly every course to add layers of flavor to your cooking.
Generally considered a finger food or "bite-sized" the appetizer is before the meal arrives. There are several kinds of appetizers which include:
- 1st Course Appetizer: These are individually plated and precede dinner.
- Amuse Bouche: In some circles this known as a "tasting" and it is a single bite that is served when then the guest first sits.
- Canapes/Crostini: These are generally found at dinner parties on trays and butlered to guests. These appetizers are generally stuffed finger foods or small bites on toasted bread.
Several gourmet appetizer ideas include:
Angel Hair Nests: A small amount of angel hair tossed with oil and vinegar then formed into a nest. Cooked shrimp is placed in the center with lemon butter sauce drizzled on top.
Sundried Tomato Crostini: A baguette sliced on the bias to small rounds then brushed with oil and rubbed with a fresh cut garlic clove then broiled until crispy. Fresh basil and sundried tomatoes julienned and spooned onto the bread then dusted with fresh parmesan.
Tomato Ceviche: The top of a medium-sized tomato is cut off and the inside scooped out. Fine dice several vegetables like cucumber, zucchini and squash then stuff the tomato with the vegetables. Add shrimp on top and squeeze a little lime juice over it.
Herbed Goat Cheese on Parmesan Crisps: Sprinkle a nonstick baking mat with shredded parmesan cheese and melt in the oven until flat and crispy. Blend together goat cheese with herbs and spices of your choosing then spoon or pipe onto the crisps.
When thinking about your main course you need side dishes that go well with it; you want to serve foods that match the same "flavor profile". Many chefs believe in a strict formula of providing one or two vegetables and a starch with a protein. The following side dishes can be considered "universal" as they can pair nicely with red meat, poultry or seafood.
Bacon Wrapped White Asparagus: Lightly fry the bacon until it is just crisping and drain on a paper towel. Blanch the white asparagus per normal methods then wrap 4 or 5 with a strip of bacon. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with smoke paprika then broil for a minute or until hot.
Cauliflower and Parsnip Mash: Boil cauliflower until tender then mash with cream, butter, fresh parsnip, salt and pepper to taste then scallions (green only) to garnish.
Succotash: Toss mixture of edamame, sweet corn, pimento and diced black olives with saffron powder then steam. Toss in a fry pan over high heat with a little white truffle oil then toss to coat; sauteing for one minute.
There are a great many soups that are very simple to prepare, taste fantastic and marry well with a very diverse menu. Gourmet soups may contain ingredients that are more exotic than those in run-of-the-mill vegetable soup.Pumpkin Soup: Get several large pumpkins and brush with oil then roasted until soft then scoop out the pulp and set it aside in a container. Render bacon in a pot with diced carrot, shallot and celery using the bacon fat as the oil. Scoop out the roasted pumpkin, thin with chicken stock and simmer 45-minutes. Season the soup with salt, pepper and just a small amount of ancho chili powder.
Potato and Leek Soup: Heat oil in a pot and saute onions and celery. Trim the leeks, wash well then slice and put them inside the pot to saute until soft. Fill the pot halfway with equal parts chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil then add peeled and dice potatoes. Simmer until soft then add one cup of cream and use a submersive blender to cream the soup then season to taste.