Some of the most memorable restaurant meals leave you wondering, “How did the chefs do that?” They manage to morph regular ingredients into something completely unexpected. It all seems like some sort of kitchen wizardry, but there’s no magic involved. Often, the secret is nothing more than some simple science or a basic technique. This means you can easily pull off some of the most impressive restaurant tricks right in your own kitchen. They’re perfect for when you want jaws to drop at your next dinner party.
1. Fake caviar
Some chefs love playing mind tricks with their customers, especially with caviar that isn’t actually caviar. The technical term is spherification, but it’s basically just imitation caviar made out of any liquid you choose. It works with juice, coffee, vinegar, or just about anything else you want to experiment with. Since these tiny orbs are usually used as a garnish, something with a bold flavor works best.
You can find a number of different methods for this kitchen trick, but the one featured on Flo & Grace is the easiest. You’ll need your liquid of choice, vegetable oil, and agar-agar powder. Though it used to be difficult to find, agar-agar is now pretty accessible. In a worst-case scenario, you can always order it online. In a nutshell, you dissolve the agar-agar in the liquid, bring it to a simmer, then use a squeeze bottle to squirt droplets into a glass of chilled oil. Give them a good, but delicate rinse, then keep your imitation caviar stored in water set in the refrigerator.
2. Cured egg yolks
This ingredient has been showing up on menus more and more, but there’s actually nothing new about it. You’re more or less using the same salt-curing technique people invented long ago to preserve foods in the absence of refrigeration. For this particular ingredient, you store yolks in a salt-and-sugar mixture for several days to draw out the moisture, then bake them in a low oven until dry. You can check out a full recipe by heading to Bon Appétit.
Now for the why. It certainly looks cool to use a zester to grate cured egg yolk over salads and soups, but it’s also a great way to punch up taste. The salty, fatty flavor adds depth to everything it touches. Try shaving some over your next avocado toast or batch of fried rice.
3. Powdered pepperoni
You can turn a bunch of things, including vegetables, into powders with the use of a food dehydrator and coffee grinder. The dehydrator sucks out all the moisture, leaving you with a brittle veggie that breaks into a fine powder once you give it a whirl. We’re guessing most people probably don’t want to invest in a food dehydrator just to tinker around with powdered tomatoes, though.
Instead, stock up on some tapioca maltodextrin. With this ingredient, you can turn high-fat ingredients into fluffy powders. Why would you ever want to turn pepperoni into powder? Because the popcorn potential is phenomenal, according to Serious Eats. All you have to do is render the spicy sausage in some butter, strain out the meat, then whisk the tapioca maltodextrin into the cooled fat. You’ll also want to give it a final pass through a sieve to make sure it doesn’t clump.
Try the powder on popcorn as well as some homemade potato chips. Don’t feel limited to snack foods, either. Add a sprinkle to your next bowl of mac and cheese for a life-changing bowl of noodles.
4. Chocolate bowls
This fancy dessert dish is surprisingly easy to make. You don’t technically have to temper chocolate to turn it into bowls, but you really should. Skipping this step will leave you with dull dishes that melt too easily. Thankfully, you can easily temper chocolate using your microwave. For step-by-step instructions, head to Food52.
Now that you have your chocolate, inflate a few party balloons. Dip the balloons into the chocolate until you’ve achieved your desired depth, then let them cool on a parchment paper-lined sheet tray. You can even create a flower-like design with a simple method from Martha Stewart. Once the chocolate has hardened, pop the balloons, and you have the most delicious dessert bowls ever.
5. Candies with liquid centers
Think Fruit Gushers, but with booze and a hard candy exterior. These sweets take an extremely delicate hand, but they’re not difficult. You’ll need a ton of cornstarch, some sugar, and a high-proof spirit. Basically, you make a simple syrup, then add your spirit of choice. Once it’s cool, you’ll pour small portions into indentations formed in a baking dish filled (and we mean filled) with cornstarch. Top it off with more cornstarch, then let the candies sit for at least a day. Check out the full method on Molecular Recipes.
To remove the candies, you’ll want to work very carefully. It helps to keep track of how many you made so you can have an idea of how far apart they’re spaced in the pan. Lightly dust them off with a pastry brush, then they’re ready to eat. It’s like a post-dinner drink and dessert in one tiny, delicious bite.
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