I’ll venture a guess that you are pretty good at putting together clothes that match, having learned to do so when you were about 6. Perhaps you’re even a master at choosing the perfect accessory that pulls an entire outfit together (if you are, could you call me?).
Creating a menu that works together is simply a variation on this theme. Just as you wouldn’t wear a wintry boucle jacket with a summery chiffon skirt, there are certain dishes that just don’t belong on the table at the same time.
I’m often asked about how to put together a meal where the foods seem to go together, the way restaurants do it. It’s easier than you may think! Here are a few simple guidelines to consider when planning meals that match.
1 ) Combine dishes from the same type of cuisine. For example, pair a soy glazed salmon with snow peas tossed in sesame oil and rice vinegar and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The Asian influence in both of these dishes will make them work together beautifully.
2) Eat seasonally. Mother Nature knows a thing or two about food pairing. If you eat foods that come into season at the same time, they tend to work well together. Consider matches like acorn squash with granny smith apples or fresh summer tomatoes and with cucumbers and radishes.
3) Try to balance the flavors and textures on the table. For example if you have a hearty beef stew, consider serving a salad with a tangy vinaigrette to lighten up the meal. Think about classic pairings like pulled pork barbecue with coleslaw – it works because of the balance. Flavors to consider include savory, salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and astringent. Textures include crisp, soft, creamy, chewy and crunchy.
4) Avoid having too many dishes with the same ingredient. Cheese is a common culprit here. You don’t need a ricotta stuffed chicken, cheddar scalloped potatoes, and parmesan topped green beans all in the same meal no matter how much you may like cheese.
5) Balance richer, high fat foods with simpler, lower fat ones. A simple lean protein is a lot more enticing when paired with a rich savory risotto. A hearty grilled cheese is delicious with a cold, crisp Granny Smith apple.