Editorial consulting by the Culinary Institute of America
When I was a kid, I loved my swiss army knife. I had the really thick one, the one with all of the neat tools, right down to the little white plastic toothpick. That knife came in handy so many times, and that’s what made it great. One tool, many uses.
There is a culinary term, appareil, that simply means one preparation for many uses. These are prepared items that, when added to other food preparations, change its characteristics completely. An example of an appareil would be a sausage stuffing that could be used to stuff poultry, make raviolis, or even flavor a sauce. Hummus is another prep item that can be made in large batches and finished with individual flavors to provide multiple menu uses. Menu engineers call this a “Plus-One” strategy. You can see the efficiency: Instead of making individual, fully finished items start to finish, you are getting a head start with the pre-made bases.
In today’s commercial kitchens, these bases are often called “work in progress” for accounting purposes – items taken out of inventory to make a batch of sauce, dressing, or protein blend, but may spend up to a week in the walk-in before they can be recognized as revenue (i.e., sold). Take a basic cream soup recipe, for instance. Most classical cream soups are made with the same method: combining aromatic vegetables with a flour-based thickener and a main flavoring item, whether it be celery, broccoli, or chicken. A liquid is then added, brought to a simmer, pureed and then finished with cream. Cream soup bases are often made in bulk without the main ingredient and, when needed, the main item may be added, simmered to doneness and pureed. That soup base is valuable for its versatility and efficiency.
The list goes on. Got a great cornbread recipe? Add ingredients like onions, jalapenos and cheddar cheese and spoon that jazzed-up batter into a pot of hot oil to make delicious hush puppies that are perfect served alongside a steaming bowl of chili. Fresh pasta is another part of the cook’s repertoire that allows for endless variations by simply adding one or more ingredients. Adding beet juice to a cream or alfredo sauce base gives the traditional dish an explosion of color and sweetness. Or try adding cocoa powder and sugar to a standard dough to make a dessert variation.
Speed Up Breakfast with a Plus-One Strategy
Breakfast is a the most demanding meal for speed and variety. Breakfast batters like waffles, pancakes and muffins are very similar in makeup and preparation, often only needing one or two changes in the recipe to toggle between the three. Imagine a gold-standard waffle. Now imagine the sweet, juicy tang of wild blueberries embedded in the crisp squares of a freshly pressed waffle. That same batter can be poured into muffin cups and baked to golden brown perfection. Now imagine a delicious wild blueberry pancake batter with the addition of some coconut or almond milk. To load it with more nutrients and antioxidants, garnish the pancakes with a wild blueberry lemon compote and some fresh whipped cream.
From Ordinary to the Extraordinary
Indigenous, 10,000-year-old berries from the craggy glacial barrens of Maine and eastern Canada, Wild Blueberries have a mystique all their own. With their color, intense flavor, nutritional story, and “sense of place,” Wild Blueberries are a great Plus-One tool to take a base preparation to signature status.
Here are six quick Plus-One concepts:
About the Author
Chef Lance Nitahara, PCIII, CEC, CPC, CHE
Lecturing Instructor, CIA Consulting
Chef Lance Nitahara is certified as a ProChef Level III (PCIII), Certified Executive Chef (CEC), Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC), and Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE). He twice gained national attention as the winner of two Food Network challenges: In 2010 he won the highly coveted Chopped competition; and in 2012 he took first as sous chef on Iron Chef America. Chef Nitahara is a 2008 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He returned to his alma mater as a faculty member in 2015 after a diverse career in New York, Montreal, Kansas City, and his native Hawaii. He serves as a judge for SkillsUSA and ProStart student culinary competitions.