I spend a lot of time, well I mean on my spare time, thumbing through food magazines and I must admit, I get a lot of good ideas of what to make or plan for. I will usually add my own touch to dishes that I see pictured. One thing that I love to do is to look at a picture of a dish that was prepared and deconstruct it if you will and by doing so can replicate it without even having seen a recipe. It's a lot easier than you would think and a great way to learn to cook wonderful meals.
Deconstruction is simply the process looking at a picture and start removing each layer and determining what that layer is and how it was prepared. By the time you get to the bottom layer (basically the first thing that was put on the plate), you will know exactly how that dish was made and be able to duplicate it in your own kitchen, you know, that scary scary room in the house. Ok, let's try it.
Take a look at the picture in the upper right of this article, blow it up if you want, so that you can get a better close up look at it. Isn't it beautiful to look at? It's almost like a piece of art and looks a lot like what one mind find on the lunch menu of a fancy schmancy restaurant for $15.00. But guess what? We are going to deconstruct this and when finished, will find that this lovely dish will only cost about $2.50 per serving! Remember this, when deconstructing, if you don't know exactly what an ingredient is, ask yourself what it LOOKS like and chances are you'll be close.
What is the last thing that was put on that plate? It was probably the dark brown looking liquid used as garni around the edge of the dish. It could be one of two things, soy sauce or balsamic vinegar. It looks a bit too thick to be soy sauce so we've determined it's balsamic vinegar. There's your first ingredient. We can clearly see that the top layer is tomato and a small sprig of what looks like frizzy lettuce between the two tomato wedges. Below that looks like a couple of baby butter lettuce leaves. So far so good. Although we don't notice what is underneath the lettuce, we can assume it's the same thing that can be seen peeking out the sides. Here we have a variety of goodies. I see thin slices of peach, green and red peppers, and a few more tomato wedges. If you look closely at the picture just north of the lettuce you will notice something that doesn't look like peaches. It's lighter in color and appears to have peel still attached. We can assume these are thin slices of baby new potatoes and they have probably been lightly sauteed, so far the only thing cooked.
OK, so that leaves us with the final layer, the main ingredient. Taking a very close look at it, we can see that it was lightly breaded and pan fried. You will also notice that it has been butterflied. Butterflied means that a piece of meat was sliced open to reveal two identical pieces but not sliced all the way through, so both are still connected. Besides beef, pork, and lamb, chicken breasts can be butterflied very nicely. In this picture we can clearly see that it's got to be chicken breast. They took a half chicken breast, sliced it down the middle and opened it up. It also appears that it was probably pounded with a kitchen mallet to flatten it so that it would pan fry quickly without getting too dark to burn the breading.
You have just deconstructed a lunch entree simply by observing a photograph! Now that you have all the ingredients listed, you can replicate the dish and impress your friends and family. Be very careful not to overdo any single ingredient. A little goes a long way. For instance, from this picture, it appears that 1/2 tomato, a few slices of red and green pepper, a few slices of potato, and a few thin slices of peach and 6 oz. of chicken breast were used. I would say in this case, a whole fruit would serve a party of 4 easily. Don't be afraid to try this the next time it's your turn to prepare lunch or dinner. As a side item, I would recommend breaking a nice fresh and crispy French baguette and corking a nice semi chilled bottle of white burgundy wine and you'll have yourself a wonderful feast. Our deconstruction was simple and so was the reconstruction. Enjoy! (photo provided by www.freedigitalphotos.net)
Posted by Dominique Roche