create a restaurant experience at home with Whirlpool
by Rebecca Hadfield
We’ll be the first to admit, dining at a restaurant can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes life can get between you and that prized corner booth. From arranging babysitters to the big bill that comes at the end of the meal and, let’s be honest, the distance from our big, comfy sofas, going out to eat can be a whole THING.
Thankfully, we can treat ourselves to a restaurant experience at home with just a little planning and some helpful tech in the kitchen from our friends at Whirlpool.
Besides the food itself, one of the best ways to ensure a memorable, restaurant experience is good planning. Before you do anything else, ask yourself a few questions:
Who’s on the guestlist? Whether you are cooking for your household and just want to kick things up a notch, or you’ve invited guests over for a special meal, the “who and how many” of your guestlist is an important thing to consider. An intricate, plated dinner is more achievable if you are cooking for two or four than it would be for a large, multi-generational gathering.
What’s the occasion? If your meal doesn’t land on or near a major holiday, look for unconventional holidays or events for inspiration—Cinco de Mayo, or even Taco Tuesday, for example.
How much can you invest? This is a question of both time AND money—will you have all day to prepare the meal, or will it need to come together in an hour or less? Can you afford to serve steak, or are you on more of a burger budget?
Decide on a Menu
Once you have answered the questions above, you’ll be ready to jump right into menu planning. Although this part can be lots of fun, many people get overwhelmed or start overthinking and second-guessing themselves. Before that happens, take a deep breath, and think about these easy menu-planning cues:
Pick a theme, any theme. There’s a world of cuisines that you can draw inspiration from when choosing a theme, but don’t limit yourself to just places. Movies or TV shows, books, historical eras, sporting events, and colour palettes are all fair game when planning a special meal.
Cook with the seasons. If it’s hot outside, think cool salads and grilled meats or seafood. When the weather cools off, turn to warm, comforting dishes, roasts, and long-braises that can take all afternoon on the stovetop or in the oven.
Let the ingredients be your guide. Sometimes, all it takes is for one special ingredient to get the ideas flowing. Check out your local farmer’s market, fish monger, or specialty grocery store for inspiration.
Show off your skills. Pick a dish that showcases what you do best, then fill in the blanks with easy sides. And, if reheating is what you do best, there’s no shame in picking up ready-to-eat entrees and sides at your local grocery or specialty foods store.
Copy the pros. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Well, it’s also a foolproof way to kickstart your menu. Check out the menus of your favourite restaurants online and choose dishes that can be recreated at home with the help of your Whirlpool kitchen appliances.
Shop Like an Expert
Once you have a menu in mind and have done your recipe research, jot down all the ingredients you need and create a list based on all of the places you plan to shop—the meat market, wine store, grocery store, bakery, etc. If there are any unusual ingredients on your list, make sure to leave yourself enough time to source them and have ideas for alternate ingredients in mind or a back-up plan, just in case.
To allow yourself enough time to prep and get ready, do your shopping well in advance, taking advantage of your fridge’s freshness-preserving features to keep produce, meats, and cheeses at their most-appetizing best.
The French door fridge above has Whirlpool's FreshFlow produce preserver which absorbs ethylene to keep greens fresh, as well as a full width pantry drawer that can be used for charcuterie, fruit and veggie platters, or desserts. Plus, deep, adjustable door bins make it easy to organize sauces, condiments, and specialty ingredients.
Channel Your Inner Sommelier
Many restaurants take great pride in their wine lists, and the same can be true for your at-home “restaurant.” If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, having a few bottles on hand can save you extra trips to the store and keeps you ready for impromptu “fancy” meals, weekday happy hours, and drop-in guests.
While having a decent selection of wine at home can be an initial investment, it’s far less than what you would spend for the same bottles at a restaurant. To keep your wine in perfectly drinkable condition, it’s a good idea to invest in a dedicated wine cooler or beverage fridge.
With a 34 bottle capacity and attractive wood-front racks, this under-counter, single-zone wine cellar has plenty of room for reds and whites and can be set to your preferred temperature. On the right, Whirlpool’s dual-zone compact beverage fridge has room for 14 bottles of wine, plus room for craft beer, soda, and more.
Prep Your Ingredients
If you asked any professional chef for a piece of kitchen advice, chances are the first thing they’ll tell you about is mise en place, a fancy French term for “everything in place.” In other words, get all your ingredients prepped and make sure your workspace is organized before a single burner goes on. Not only will your cooking go smoother, but you’ll get more enjoyment out of your restaurant-at-home experience AND clean-up will be easier.
You can start on your mise en place the day of your special meal or, better yet, the day before to allow for any overnight steps or missing supplies. Begin by reading your recipe(s) carefully, making note of any time-sensitive steps and opportunities to prepare things in advance, then start collecting and organizing your ingredients.
Besides gathering and measuring-out ingredients, you can also get started on chopping vegetables, slicing and marinating meat, mixing dry ingredients for baked goods, etc. To keep yourself organized, clear off a shelf in the fridge to hold your prepped ingredients—a rimmed baking or serving tray makes it easy to move things to and from your workstation.
When it's time to start cooking, use your range and oven’s features to their full advantage to save time, save steps, and get restaurant-quality results. What do we mean? Here are just a few ways your Whirlpool range, cooktop, or oven can make you feel like a real chef in the kitchen.
With the help of the Whirlpool app, the Wi-Fi connected True Convection range, above, will even act like your personal sous chef to help you tackle multi-step meals. Just use your smartphone or tablet to send instructions to the oven all at once and it will adjust the cooking temperatures as needed.
The same app can be used to control the oven from virtually anywhere. You can preheat the oven from the car if you're running late or, if the conversation in the living room is too good to interrupt, you can set the oven to “keep warm” without leaving the couch. And, if you really want to feel like a chef, voice control lets you tell your oven what to do through verbal commands.
The Whirlpool True Convection wall oven, shown here, also includes a handy touchscreen with Assisted Cooking that not only gives you instant access to the settings your family uses most, but it will also learn and adapt to your cooking habits.
Another time-saving feature you can use on both ovens is Frozen Bake, which lets you skip the preheat step entirely when cooking convenience foods—perfect for when you need to throw in a tray of frozen appetizers or a ready-to-bake pie. True Convection ensures your appies, entrees and desserts will be crisp and browned to perfection without danger of overbaking.
And, speaking of crispy, of the hardest things to recreate in the home kitchen is perfectly crisp, deep-fried food like you find in your favourite restaurant. From chicken wings to mozza sticks and, of course, French fries, it’s been difficult to get the same all-over, even crispness that you get from deep fat frying in a regular oven; some countertop air fryers come close, but they don’t hold enough to feed a crowd.
Thankfully, Whirlpool has answered this problem with the introduction of built-in air fryers in their latest ranges. Working with fan convection to deliver super-charged, even heat, the special, full-width air fry baskets help produce restaurant-quality fried foods in just minutes. And, because they use nothing but hot air, you’ll be turning out delicious meals and snacks with no added fat!
Set the Scene
To round-out your restaurant experience at home, don’t forget all the little details that make dining out a true experience. Fresh flowers, candlelight, printed menus, a beautiful table setting, and the perfect playlist to set the mood are all things that can make your dining room feel like a fancy bistro.
Or, if a more casual experience is what you’re after, take your cues from busy fast food joints and serve your burgers in colourful plastic baskets or wrap your fish and chips in newspaper lined with parchment. Use your sideboard to set up a full-stocked condiment station or, a real blast from the past, a salad bar.
Finally, don’t forget to dress the part. There’s something about getting dressed up or going along with the theme that makes every occasion more special.
To check out the latest line-up of Whirlpool kitchen appliances including the ones we’ve featured here, visit your local Dufresne store or explore our selection online.