For me it’s pasta (unless it’s a place like Bucato, RIP) steak, and roast chicken.
Except for some expensive Italian, French, and Japanese places, few restaurants in the USA use the best ingredients available (at least in California), so that can give a home cook a big advantage. I don’t know anywhere to get South Indian food as good as what I make with vegetables from the farmers market.
Many simple, rustic dishes that come out of a home-cook tradition take too much time and labor to be cost-effective in restaurants. Risotto and paella are a couple of good examples.
Vice-versa for restaurant dishes that assume you have stocks, mother sauces, and so on, or that have four components each of which requires a mise en place of 10-20 ingredients.
This may be true from an ingredients standpoint but for me personally I am not familiar enough with the spices, blends, and cooking techniques used in Indian cooking (or Thai and Mexican) to recreate an authentic flavor profile.
It’s different from many Italian dishes where the goal is to let 3-5 ingredients shine. I’m sure spaghetti carbonara from a well traveled good home cook is closer to what you’ll get in Rome than at least 98% of restaurants out there.
I just follow the recipes in Madhur Jaffrey’s “Indian Cookery,” which was based on a BBC cooking show. Seems like the recipes were more thoroughly tested than those in the average cookbook.
In no particular order:
The quality of the ingredients is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition to making a quality dish.
The quality of the ingredients can be useful in making a particular dish, but many times it can also be irrelevant (think fried rice) if not an outright impediment (like budae jjigae).
Ingredients, both the type and quality, is but one fraction of what makes a dish sparkle. The major differentiating factor between an A+ dish and a C- dish is the skill of the person making the dish, nuances and idiosyncrasies that can neither be sourced nor purchased.
Well, my comp crashed, so working with what is on my phone, especially after opening my big mouth
Love a good cheese souffle.
And the freshest salad ingredients from my pig trough garden. Live at the beach in Laguna, so space is at a premium.
The combination of skills, superior ingredient quality and modern technique can enable you to often make better dishes than in restaurant, e.g. a Thai dish with much better quality for the protein and vegetable part and the protein perhaps cooked sous vide.
And plenty of Champers/sparkling, so even if you aren’t cooking at Michelin quality you believe you are
If I don’t have to cook to order for a whole restaurant full of people, and if I have control over sourcing of the best ingredients, with proper mise en place, equipment, and TIME, I could and would put a whole lotta L-O-V-E into whatever I’d be preparing at home.
While it’s (painfully) true that I lack the technical expertise and professional chef training to make more complex dishes, the above philosophy applies to my simple home cooking.
And conversely, a part of the reason I dine out so much is precisely because I lack the technical expertise and chef training to make those great restaurant dishes. That, and not having time. And not having to wash dishes. And feeling pampered by good service.
… and with that, I return back to the restaurant portion of FTC.
For the food you make it may not matter, but, for Japanese food, quality ingredients drastically improve the final product. You can’t make A quality Japanese food using C quality ingredients.
And, even for something like barbecue, better ingredients make it a LOT easier to make better food. A skilled barbecuer can make good brisket from Select grade meat where a less experienced barbecuer could not, but a less experienced barbecuer could make good barbecue with Wagyu.
Depends on the dish. A lot of Italian dishes are first and foremost about shopping. Skill can’t make up for lack of flavor in the ingredients. You can’t make a proper caprese with Polly-O mozzarella and Safeway tomatoes.
THINGS I CAN DO BETTER AT HOME
Indian. It doesn’t take much skill to make better Indian food than LA restaurants, though it tends to be time consuming. In my mind, I’ve cooked the best Indian food I’ve had in LA.
Lebanese. A breeze. It takes little effort to match or surpass restaurant quality.
Pasta (especially dried, bronze-extruded). This is ingredient intensive, not skill intensive.
Most Mexican. Not much skill involved.
Much of Chinese. For example, I’ve cooked food on par with Pine and Crane on dozens of occasions. Most dishes don’t require a high level of execution. Although I’ve cooked Sichuan successfully, it is not on par with a place like Szechuan Impression, though it is generally on par with a place like Yun Chuan Garden.
THINGS I CAN’T DO BETTER AT HOME
Michelin-starred high-end stuff. Unlike another poster, there’s no way I could match anything from The French Laundry.
Japanese. I think Japanese requires the most skill and is the most detail-oriented of any cuisine.
French. Also very skill-intensive.
Raw / vegan. I obviously have more respect for this cuisine than most posters on the board, but it requires a high level of skill.
Pizza. No way.
Baked goods. Skill-intensive.
What dishes are we talking about? Tamales? Mole? Posole? Chile verde? Birria? These dishes require a bit of skill in my mind.
I hope we’re not talking tacos and burritos
Have you seen Eat Drink Man Woman? Those dishes are as labor and skill intensive as any French dish.
I would say most dim sum items require a high level of skill and I doubt any home chef could readily recreate those rice wrappers to that level of thinness and al dente texture while having the tensile strength to hold the ingredients together.
For Mexican, I had in mind a dish like enchiladas in a black or red mole sauce. It may be time consuming and complicated, but it isn’t difficult to execute. Chile verde is easy. I have not made tamales, posole, or barrier. I’m not going to be talked down from Mexican very easily. I’ve found it easy to cook successfully on a restaurant level.
Regarding Chinese: Yes, you are absolutely right about dim sum. High level of skill required, and I can’t do it at home. (I can’t even make spring rolls from pre-packaged rice papers, in multiple attempts!) I have not seen Eat Drink Man Woman, but I have a high level of respect for Chinese cuisine. Much of it I can’t do at home. It is a very sophisticated cuisine (or class of cuisines).
Obviously, it’s your world.
We just eat in it.
A lot of wok-cooked dishes are best with a restaurant-style high-BTU burner. You can’t get the same wok hay without it.
Hmmm. You should open a restaurant.
I use a very heavy Lodge cast-iron wok and give it time to get very hot. The upside is that it maintains very high heat when you put food in. It will get as hot as I can use for cooking and maintain that heat. The downside is that you can’t toss or flip food in it.