A Master Chef's Look at Food Trends for 2021
After an insane 2020 with politics, natural disasters, wildfires, and of course COVID-19 stay at home orders, many people have turned to cooking as a source for comfort beyond just basic nourishment.
In most homes, food preparation style trends are highly cyclical, and after spending nearly a year at home, I'm pretty sure that we all are looking towards goals of better health, losing that extra 19lbs we all gained, and taking sustainability even further this coming year than ever before. Many of us have discovered new cooking styles, tried ingredients that we might have bypassed before, and have made a switch to utilize these new found things, to make them become a stable part of our culinary cycles even going beyond the new year.
Hot Food Trends for 2021
Wild Mushroom Jerky! Not your standard jerky. More and more chefs are turning towards incorporation of plant based items on their menus, from full plant based meals, to even plant based snacks. If you're thinking about going vegetarian, vegan, or just want to eat less meat, you can certainly still enjoy plant based jerky and get all of those textures, umami and saltiness flavor profiles that you love. Look to alternatives such as eggplant, mushroom, coconut or even jackfruit based jerky. Mushrooms pack loads of vitamins and essential nutrients that help protect your body and boost natural immunity. Look to different styles of wild mushrooms versus traditional white button mushrooms, as they all have different unique flavors, textures, and are so much more interesting than plain boring white buttons.
Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). A star Mediterranean and middle eastern cooking, the chickpea isn't just for making hummus anymore. Garbanzo beans have become center stage on many menus across the world cuisine map lately, from Greek, to Moroccan, Indian, Spanish Tapas, or even American dishes. Chickpeas are available in virtually every grocery store coast to coast, and are extremely cheap, pack a wealth of nutritional value, and insanely easy to cook and can incorporate excellent texture, and nuttiness to your dish. Aquafaba (a fancy word for the water that canned and other packaged chickpeas are stored and soaked in). Aquafaba can be used as a milk or even an egg replacement in dishes for those with allergens or dietary lifestyle choices. What is so special about this mystical ingredient? Ask the delicious meringues, macarons or even ice-cream made from it, and you will quickly learn.
Designer Milks Move over soy, and almond milk... you've had your time in the limelight. Now enter the next generation of designer lactose free milks. With a plethora of new designer milks on the market such as oat, coconut, rice, hemp, just to name a few, those with dairy allergies, or people that are looking just to get a bit healthier, now have many more choices available.
Breakfast makes a come back! With so many of us working from home for the forseeable future, breakfast has made a marked resurgence. No longer just being consumed on the weekends, but more so people are making time for "the most important meal of the day" on the daily regular. Instead of just grabbing a cup of tea or coffee on the way to your hour long stop and go commute to the office, people are taking the time to eat breakfast. Even if it's something basic as a fresh fruit smoothie infused with designer dairy free milk and a hand full of nuts or seeds, or a more traditional style breakfast of protein, eggs, or even gluten free pancakes.
Micro-local coffee is by far this Master Chef's number one for 2021 and beyond. Buying small batch, hand roasted, artisanal coffee that is roasted as local as humanly possible to you makes all the difference in your coffee consumption. The love affair between the bean and the cup runs so deep and well beyond the boring, broad market mass produced crap that you get from the big named coffee companies. When you buy coffee from a boutique small batch roastery, such as my all time Bay Area's favorite coffee Weaver's Coffee & Tea in San Rafael, CA, you really get the best quality from the micro amount of time between when the beans are roasted, and when they end up in your wake up cup. Look to small batch, or rare production coffees like my current favorite, Weaver's Java Blue Batavia. This amazingly deep flavor, smooth, and rare coffee is one that should not be missed.
It's time for an oil change. Move over canola or extra virgin olive oil. There's plenty of alternative choices available on the market these days with extraordinary flavor that can really jazz up your dishes. Either in salad dressing or in the pan, more people are branching out with alternative cooking oils that each add their own unique flavor and properties. Oils such as walnut and pumpkin seed oils lend a nutty depth of flavor, whereas oils such as sunflower seed oil or grapeseed oil can be used at high cooking temps, but are delicate enough to be the star in a salad dressing.
Birria (beer-ya) is an incredibly rich warm meat stew hailing from Jalisco, Mexico. The dish is easy to make and extremely affordable as well, as it utilizes the cheap, tough cuts of meat from beef, lamb or goat. The meat is infused with Mexican chiles and spices, and slow cooked for hours until the meat is completely tender and juicy. Birria can be consumed both as a stew, or the meat can be strained out of the rich broth, and crisped up on a flattop or in a pan to produce delicious street tacos, or a twist on the original quesadilla called a "Quesabirria". Don't forget a good squeeze of fresh lime juice over the top to make all of those flavors pop!
Gochujang Gochujang by far is my favorite Korean chili paste of all times. According to our friends at Wikipedia, Gochujang or red chili paste is a savory, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment, popular in Korean cooking. It is made from chili powder, glutinous rice, meju powder, yeotgireum, and salt. The sweetness comes from the starch of cooked glutinous rice, cultured with saccharifying enzymes during the fermentation process.
This spicy chili paste adds huge flavor depth and aromas, and is the star ingredient for both the marinate, as well as the pop of flavor infusion in my highly requested Korean buttermilk fried chicken sliders.
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About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.