With numerous success restaurants around the world. Michael Mina has earned his MasterChef Legends elite status. Ahead of his appearance on the FOX television culinary competition, the celebrated chef shared his insight on finding the balance in a great surf and turf, exploring various cuts of meat and how to make a dish even more memorable.
Throughout the MasterChef Legends season, each episode highlights another legendary chef. While Masaharu Morimoto, Curtis Stone and Sherry Yard might be fixtures in culinary competitions, Michael Mina might not be that instantly recognizable name to the foodie newbie. For those in the culinary know, Chef Mina is and continues to be a force in the restaurant world.
Founder of the Mina Group, the highly regarded restaurateur has been awarded Michelin Stars, a James Beard Award and numerous other honors. With restaurants across the globe, his passion is to exceed expectations for the guests in his restaurants. From an impeccable dish that leaves a memorable impact of flavors to the generous hospitality that lingers in a guest’s memory, dining at a Mina restaurant is an experience unlike any other.
While each MasterChef Legends chef has niche for their appearance, Chef Mina is introduced as the legend of surf and turf. As the home cooks take on their first Mystery Box Challenge of the season, Chef Mina shared a little insight on how to master that iconic duality dish.
What does Michael Mina advise for mastering a delicious surf and turf?
For Chef Mina, the concept is all about making “the flavors work together.” While “steak and lobster” might be that classic pairing, the reasoning comes down to the “richness of the two foods.” The key is to find the balance between the two proteins.
Chef Mina went on to explain why steak and shellfish are a common pairing. Choices like shrimp and crab play off the fattiness in the other component. He does not recommend “pairing a salmon with a ribeye” since the combination has “way too much fat” on the plate.
Although some food pairings are more common, Chef Mina encourages cooks to think beyond the traditional. For example, he suggested even using a delicate Dover sole or a light white fish with a piece of foie gras. The concept is to find the flavor counterpoint and highlight the balance between the two components.
Michael Mina suggests that home cooks are willing to step a cut beyond the norm.
In the past year, much has been said about home cooks looking to explore food and flavor. Although few people will have the opportunity to tackle this particular Mystery Box Challenge, the concept can apply to the home kitchen.
Chef Mina believes that home cooks reaching for the “traditional cuts” stems from time constraints. Some of the lesser used or “untraditional cuts” can be time consuming to cook. Since “they’re tougher cuts that require braising or tenderizing,” home cooks might be slightly more wary to make that purchase.
Still, Chef Mina encourages home cooks to “first and foremost to absolutely do it.” While those traditional cuts will always be waiting, the opportunity to push yourself deserves that moment. Whether it is watching a video or reading a cookbook, the resources to guide a home cook along the process are available.
Plus, the flavor from braising certain proteins needs to be experienced. When food is slowly cooked for hours at a time, the layers of flavors add that nuance to a dish. That infused flavor cannot otherwise be replicated.
How does Michael Mina start to compose a dish?
While the celebrated chef can take different approaches, the reality is that many home cooks start with the protein. Even though that component might be the initial though, Chef Mina suggests letting seasonality be the bigger guide.
Chef Mina described his approach to making a steak dish for the summer. He said, “the first thing that I would do is to think about what is in season and only really available this time of year. Right now, corn is absolutely delicious and in peak season. Thinking about the sweetness of the corn, the next idea is to layer flavor profiles. If the steak is rich, then maybe add a cream corn to balance it. Or, I might add a spicy component to contrast the sweetness and then add some acidity to balance the richness of a steak.” The idea is to hit all the flavors of the palate in one composed bite.
While that process might seem innate to Chef Mina, it is skill that many home cooks long to master. It is more than just a math equation; it is about being willing to experiment, compose and more importantly adapt.
That concept of adaption is something that Chef Mina applies in all of his dishes and his restaurants. While guests might long for that comforting bite of his iconic Lobster Pot Pie, it doesn’t mean that a few tweaks cannot make that experience better.
For him, the thought process and the concept must be in harmony. There is a “timelessness and longevity” to many of his dishes, but there is always something new on the horizon. Whether it is the farmer who brings the freshest seasonal ingredients or the ease of using an immersion circulator to get the perfect technique in mastering the food, the willingness to look forward without losing that sense of the past seems to unite all the concepts on that plate.
Chef Michael Mina joins MasterChef Legends on episode 6 for the first Mystery Box Challenge of the season.
The Mina Group has over 30 restaurants worldwide, has received over 47 professional awards and is a force in the culinary industry.