I am a fan of big, bold flavors in my food and grand gestures in the kitchen to match. A blazing hot pan, a 3-inch ribeye, big lobsters, 500-degree ovens, triple-cream cheeses…I could go on and on. There is something exciting about seeing a huge hunk of meat, not too many cuts removed from primal, sitting on the counter waiting to be cooked. And huge clouds of billowing smoke wafting through the house always has been, in some weird way, appealing to me. Of course, the old and easy trick of using artery-clogging amounts of fat (my favorites are butter and duck fat) to improve the flavor of a dish is an integral part of my repertoire (and that of most restaurants). So, I surprised myself when I decided to prepare a subtle (for me, at least) meal as a birthday celebration for a relative. Okay, seared tuna is not a delicate dish, but in fact, tuna is not a boldly flavored food. I served the seared tuna on a bed of turnip and potato purée and garnished the tuna with a spoonful of sautéed leeks. And damn, it was good! This is one of the things that separates me from real chefs: the ability to understand and appreciate how different foods go together. I sort of fell into this one and still had to do a bit of testing to make sure that the resulting combination didn’t taste like old socks soaked in cod-liver oil and garnished with match heads.
The point, if there is one, is that with some work and study (and a bit of luck), we can make dishes that work as well as those that come out of the best restaurant kitchens. I am not suggesting that they will be as well executed, but we can, at least, be in the same league. Or maybe just get bumped up to the Majors every once and a while.