Satisfying, flavorful and creative preparations provide endless menu possibilities.
When life turns unpredictable, people turn to the familiar. Restaurants looking to satisfy that need are turning to comfort foods and braised meats as a convenient and economical solution.
Comfort foods grew more popular as pandemic stress increased, and it’s likely consumers will look for more easy-to-prepare comfort foods and global flavours in 2021. This is an opportunity for restaurants to get creative and offer menu choices that go beyond what people are willing to prepare at home.
One way to take comfort food to new heights is with braising. It’s simply searing the protein—beef, pork or chicken—and putting it in a roasting pan with a broth or sauce, covering it tightly and slow-cooking until it’s fork-tender.
Nostalgia meets convenience
“One of the things we’re focused on for 2021 is comfort food,” says Darren Lexa, Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialist in Alberta. “The types of foods operators are looking at are ones that make an impression.”
For restaurants, comfort foods that stand out also offer convenience. They can be prepared in large quantities and be used across many applications. Plus, Lexa notes, it produces great flavor from less-expensive cuts of meat. Beef short ribs, pork shoulder or poultry are very affordable and versatile.
“Stews and braised meats travel well and fit the portability conversation,” he says. “But don’t overlook creativity. Try a braised short rib pierogi in a Chinese takeout container. Or do a bowl build, a twist on lasagna or even a lobster mac and cheese.”
Almost any braised meat can be used in a sandwich, as a centrepiece for an entree, shredded in pasta dishes, or, with a little Hispanic flavor, used like barbacoa in tacos or burritos.
Calling out braised meats and adding some creative flair elevates the perception on the menu. You can draw a higher price, while providing generous portions and great flavour—a value for the operator and the customer.
Poutine is a great example. Braised beef and mushroom poutine showcases creativity and takes old-school recipes to new levels of comfort.
“I think that’s the hook right now,” Lexa says. “Figure out how to take something that’s been around for decades and put a new twist on it that makes it intriguing and on-trend.”