Michael Symon shares the secret why great ingredients matter, interview

Michael Symon for Diplomatico Rum, photo provided by Diplomatico Rum
Michael Symon for Diplomatico Rum, photo provided by Diplomatico Rum /

When Michael Symon steps into the kitchen, everyone knows that delicious food served with a side of laughter will be enjoyed by all who gather. For anyone who has watched him on Food Network or have eaten at his restaurants, everyone appreciates Symon’s thoughtful approach to food. While each ingredient has a purpose, the story behind the plate impacts that flavorful bite.

Recently, Symon partnered with Diplomático Rum, and, as part of that partnership, he spoke to FoodSided about food, flavors and a few cocktails to enjoy going into the winter season. While some people might think of rum as a liquor enjoyed with summer beach breezes, the Diplomático Rum is not just a one season sipper.

Symon shared, “One of the things that I love about rum so much is that it is so versatile.” As more people explore the nuanced flavors of rum, it lends itself to a variety of cocktail choices.

For example, Symon explained, “In summertime it is mojito time as a fresh, celebratory drink. Once it starts to cool down, the dark rum has a lot of natural, spiced flavors in it, so it goes beautifully with cinnamon and cardamon, which makes it delicious in a warm cocktail or over ice. It works really great in both the warmer season and the fall/wintertime.”

While many people pair wine with the holiday meals, Symon encourages hosts to pivot in another direction. A rum holiday cocktail can make the season even more festive.

For this holiday, Symon is sharing up a cocktail. He said, “I love a Cuban mule, which is similar to the Moscow mule, but you use rum in the place of vodka. I do a 2 ounce pour of the Diplomático Mantuano then fill with some ginger beer. Splash in soda water and a squeeze of lime or orange (sometimes I think orange works a little better in the fall time just from a flavor profile perspective).”

Although many people enjoy a cocktail around the holidays, Symon does have some poignant advice when it comes to cocktail hour. Symon believes, “A Cuban mule is refreshing, and one of the drinks that you can enjoy a couple of without doing anything silly, which makes it a good, holiday, family drink. You want family to have courage, but not too much beyond courage.”

Michael Symon explains pairing flavors

While many people might be drawn to particular foods or flavors during the holiday season, the celebration doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to a finite group. Sometimes it is best to explore the hows and whys certain flavors go together. It might not be the initial thought, but the flavor combinations will bring people back time and again.

For example, Symon explained why the flavors in the Diplomático Rum work well with a variety of recipes. Specifically saying, “it is a spirit that really works well with cooking because it has those natural flavors of molasses, caramel, and spices like cardamon, which makes it really nice in both savory and sweet applications.”

Symon uses the Diplomático rum in various ways. “I will use it in a dessert, like a flan or a pumpkin pie, or to base a prime rib or other meat. It just pairs very nicely, especially when you opt towards a higher-quality brand, like Diplomático to ensure that delicious edge in your dishes.”

For Michael Symon, one food rule should not be forgotten.

While finding the connection between flavors is key to food enjoyment, Symon has poignant advice for anyone looking to make an impression at the table. For him, the best ingredients are paramount.

Simply stated, “You can’t cheap-out when picking your ingredients. The simpler the food is, the more you need to focus on having great products – it’s no different than a cocktail. If a cocktail has a few ingredients, or is served on the rocks, it has to be really great quality. One of the reasons that I partnered with Diplomático is because it is just such a great quality product; you can literally put it over an ice cube, and it is delicious. I am a big less-is-more type of chef.”

While Symon might be a “less-is-more type of chef,” that simple advice might need to be etched over the entrance to the home kitchen. Instead of a laundry list of ingredients, quality ingredients and impeccable flavors should not be hidden. Celebrate the simplicity and raise a toast to what great food and beverages can be.

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