People ask me the same questions all the time: when did I learn to cook, who taught me, and where do some of my more unusual dishes come from?
Some people would spin a tale about spending summers canning fruits with grandparents, recipes handed down from generation to generation, staples that my family could count on appearing at the table every week. But that’s not exactly the case.
Most of my food stems from my childhood, sure, but not from cooking at home – it’s from eating out and traveling all over the world with my parents. Peanut soup from Virginia turned into peanut sauce for wings, chicken adobo (chicken braised in a soy sauce-vinegar sauce) in the Philippines became chicken adobo risotto, crepes in Paris turned into bananas Foster crepe cake, high tea in London turned into a dessert bar at a friend’s wedding.
Here at Foodie Secrets, I want to let you in on, well, secrets about food. And what better way to start than to show you how easy it is to recreate or transform restaurant dishes in your home kitchen?
One thing I grew up eating remains the same in my adulthood. Charcuterie platters are my favorite snack, meal, potluck contribution, everything-everything. I could live on these (okay, I totally have), and they’re one of the first things I learned to recreate from a life lived in restaurants.
I’m constantly trying new combinations and new cheeses in my travels, and the board above is one of my favorites for its variety in flavors and textures. The cheeses are manchego (firm but buttery texture, sheep’s milk), cabra al vino (semi-hard, goat’s milk, wine-washed rind), and bleu de basque (aromatic, creamy texture, sheep’s milk). The meats are jamon serrano and hard-cured chorizo. With French mustard, cornichons, and an apricot-walnut-cherry compote that I still haven’t quite figured out, this is one of my favorite plates of all time.
Inspired by that brunch, I set out to make a charcuterie platter for us to snack on while watching movies one night. Since I’m the only fan of soft, stinky cheese in the house, I substituted some still-fragrant but more palatable truffle cheese. For the cabro al vino, I found some Drunken Goat. And because bleu cheese is a bit strong for my dining partner in large quantities, I used a sharp Irish cheddar instead.
I’m obsessed with the hard-cured Spanish chorizo, but it’s hard to find when you’re rushing through the market at 7pm after work, so I chose summer sausage to take its place. In lieu of the jamon serrano (because no one flies back from Europe with ham for me, for some reason), I went with rosemary ham and herb-turkey. Adding two types of salami (chianti and black pepper) and my leftover prosciutto satisfied my cured meats craving.
The cornichons made it to the board, along with candied walnuts and pecans, as the sour and sweet components. And because I had deli meats happening but wasn’t in the mood for mustard, I also added a red pepper spread with eggplant and garlic.
I rarely keep baguettes in the house because they go stale before we can finish them, so I subbed crackers and bagged crostini to round out our snacky dinner.
Every single thing on this platter was sourced in about 20 minutes at the local Trader Joe’s, which made life super easy that night.
Even though we’d have spent less getting the Spanish board from Monsieur Marcel, we had so much leftover food that I put together this board again at work later in the week, made frittatas and breakfast foods, and sandwiches for a few lunches. All in all, I’m pretty happy with this Restaurant Recreation.
I’ll dive more deeply into actually making restaurant dishes in future Recreating the Restaurant posts, drawing on some of my favorites from this past year.