Horacio Rivadero's Tips on Cooking Like an Inspired Restaurant Chef
|All photos by Emily Codik|
|Chef Horacio Rivadero of The Dining Room|
Chef Rivadero believes that truly excellent dishes showcase fresh ingredients, evoke memories, and are a perfect balance of flavors and textures. Feeling overwhelmed? Don't worry. He has also shared one of his great seasonal recipes, featuring Serrano Wrapped Scallops with Yellow Corn Sauce, Corn Pico de Gallo and Black Trumpet Mushrooms, for those nights when you need some inspiration directly from the chef himself.
To start building an excellent recipe, Chef Horacio starts off with fresh ingredients. Menus and dishes cannot be static, because they are completely dependent on the availability of ingredients. He seeks out local produce and makes it a point to mention that the locavore movement is not just a fad. It's about a commitment to quality and freshness. To keep up with produce, the menu at The Dining Room evolves according to the season.
At home, try keeping an open mind when you head to the grocery store or farmer's market. Let the produce decide what's for dinner and not the latest suggestion from your favorite Food Network host.
Once stocked up on freshness, Rivadero considers influences, like those sweet memories of the basil garden his mother kept in the backyard during his childhood in Córdoba, Argentina. He begins to brainstorm about the pairings of these ingredients, considering cultural, personal or gastronomical inspiration. In the case of the featured corn-filled recipe, Rivadero thought back to the scallop and corn chowders he savored on a trip to New England.
Rivadero also thinks about balance. He stresses that a properly executed dish showcases both sweetness and saltiness. When you are dreaming up your dinner, think about the individual flavors of each ingredient. Remember that a hint of acid brightens up the palate. A mixture of raw, cooked and crispy textures makes flavors more compelling. Try to add different elements of creaminess, crunchiness and fluffiness.
For the recipe below, Chef Horacio mixes sweet, creamy corn with raw, fresh corn. The jalapeño adds a hint of spice. He adds trumpet mushrooms, fortified in sherry, for a deep earthiness that compliments the salty jamón serrano. The scallops are seared to achieve a crispy, browned crust. The variety of flavors, textures and aromas keeps the dish interesting with every bite.
Try to keep in mind that every single ingredient has a purpose, even garnishes. If you dine at The Dining Room, you will never spot a plate superfluously dusted with minced parsley on the edges. You will also never see arrangements of flowers or inedible foods atop an entree. Rivadero believes that garnishes should not only be edible, but they should take part in the entire balance of the dish.
Basically, don't try to impress your guests with dishes loaded with minced herbs. If the garnishes can fly away and disappear with a gust of wind with no harm to your dish, think about another option.
If you're still not feeling too inspired by childhood memories or bountiful produce, try out this recipe which showcases fresh, sweet corn. Chef Horacio uses corn from Homestead in his rendition, which reaches its seasonal peak in the months of April and May. Serve it as an appetizer at your next dinner party and your guests will think that you too are an inspired restaurant chef.