Improve Your Menu with Multitasking Ingredients

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

SECOND IN A SERIES: Multitasking ingredients save time and money in the kitchen. A flavored butter, sauce, dressing, or gravy that can enhance several dishes keeps food costs, labor, and inventory in line. 

Stir It Up Mix Bonus 2: Assorted flavored butters; bowls with sauces and aioli; bowls with dressing, vinaigrette, and dip

Ingredients that can be used in more than one menu item are the Holy Grail of menu management, keeping food costs, labor, and inventory in line. Products from Nestlé Professional are designed with just that in mind—you can use them as is, or as speed-scratch basics for multiple menu applications.

Consider the following examples as a template for maximizing utilization of your own flavor-building inventory.

Flavored Butters

One of the easiest and most convenient ways to add flavor to food is by mixing seasonings and other ingredients into butter, which can then be chilled or even frozen for later use. In addition to using on steaks and other proteins hot off the grill, these butters can be used to:

  • Sauté or dress vegetables

  • Slip under the skin of chicken before roasting

  • Include in a signature bread service

  • Use on cornbread or muffins

  • Float on a bowl of soup

  • Top off a baked potato

  • Spread on grilled or toasted sandwich bread

Get Started: Minor’s® Flavor Concentrates are perfect for creating flavored butters and other meltable spreads. Nestlé Professional Chef Mary Locke suggests the following to offer as schmears for corn on the cob, but the butters have many other uses:

  • Fire Roasted Poblano Flavor Concentrate with butter, Cotija, and a squeeze of fresh lime

  • Herb de Provence Flavor Concentrate and goat cheese

  • Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Flavor Concentrate thinned out with a dab of your best olive oil and toasted pine nuts

  • Fire Roasted Jalapeño Flavor Concentrate and mashed, ripe avocado

  • Chipotle Flavor Concentrate, blue cheese, and crumbled bacon

Dressings as Marinades

Many dressings, particularly vinaigrettes, include an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or citrus juice, which also serve as a tenderizer in marinades. Other common dressing ingredients that tenderize proteins include honey and yogurt (think of tandoori marinade), which also aid in flavor-boosting caramelization when cooked.

Likewise, many marinades can be used as dressings for salads and other chilled foods—perhaps with the addition of an ingredient to make them more clingy, such as oil or mayonnaise.

Get Started: This recipe for Pomegranate Chipotle Vinaigrette—in addition to showcasing such on-trend flavors as chili and the superfood pomegranate—can also be used as is, thanks to its inclusion of both citrusy elements and thick honey and pomegranate molasses for cling.

Creamy Sauces

Creamy, relatively neutral-flavored sauces such as béchamel, Alfredo, and cream gravies have many uses in addition to adding a luxurious touch atop cooked foods.

  • Use as a replacement for cream sauce or béchamel in a casserole or au gratin

  • Flavor mashed potatoes or other vegetables by substituting a creamy sauce for some of the liquid

  • Customize with the addition of tomato, pesto, sautéed onions and mushrooms, crumbled bacon, and so on

  • Use in cream soups, such as Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice or Seafood Bisque

  • Substitute for cream sauce in a classic Spinach and Artichoke Dip recipe

  • Mix with vegetables and a protein (optional) for a main course stuffed baked potato

Get Started: The Nestlé Professional larder includes many products that can be used to create creamy sauces, including Trio® and Stouffer’s® Alfredo sauces; Trio White Sauce and Country Gravy mixes; and Minor’s prep products such as Culinary CreamDry Roux, and Freeze Thaw Thickener.

It’s All Gravy

Talk about a menu workhorse: Gravies of all kinds are the ultimate multitaskers. in ways that go way beyond the mashed potato.

  • Over hearty sandwiches like French dips, open-face turkey, and New Orleans-style po’ boy sandwiches

  • As a dip for fries or tots, or for a classic poutine

  • In casseroles, shepherd’s pie, and pot pies

  • As a binding for meat loaf or meatball mixtures

  • As a flavor-building thickener for soup

  • To moisten a brunch-worthy egg strata

  • In a simmer sauce for pot roast, chicken fricassee, and other braised proteins

  • In quesadillas, instead of—or in addition to—cheese

Get Started: It’s all gravy with convenient products from Trio, Chef-mate®, and Minor’s.  

Sauces = Spreads = Dips

Sauces are the true shape-shifters of the menu-making world. Depending on qualities such as flavor and thickness, a sauce can be used as is or in additional uses such as a warm spread (for sandwiches, for instance) or a dip for finger foods.

Cheese sauce is a perfect example. The binder for mac-and-cheese and the topping for nachos and steamed broccoli can also be used to create a cheeseburger, fondue, or dip for fries. Thicken cheese sauce with a product such as cream cheese to make it more spreadable; or add flavor and body with products such as crumbled cooked chorizo or crabmeat to create a dip.

Stir into scrambled eggs, mix into fritters, layer on flatbread, or mix into beer and broth to create a soup.

Get Started: The Chef-mate family of cheese sauces includes eight different products offering a variety of flavor profiles and menu personalities. See some of the many uses possible with one of the newest cheese sauce products, ¡Que Bueno! White Queso.