When many people address budgeting, a designated food category is critical to avoiding overspending. Personal finance gurus announce again and again, "Stay in and save money." And it's true: by and large, making your meals at home instead of eating out at restaurants is likely to save you some serious dough, at the cost of having to knead out your own. But for many foodies who want nothing more than to chow down on their favorite specials from nearby establishments, this is an impossible task. Or is it?
You don't need fancy or elaborate kitchen gadgets or food equipment! With a little bit of groundwork and possibly some (elbow) grease, you too can be well on the road to whipping up your favorite meals from the comfort of your own home.
Search for a similar recipe online.
The most popular dishes from chains often have recipes located online, whether from the restaurant itself or from other diners who loved it enough to reverse-engineer it. If this is the case for you, fantastic! The legwork has already been done, and you can simply integrate the recipe into your culinary repertoire. Be sure to read the reviews, if there are any: sometimes a recipe can be slightly off and small updates from home chefs can make a big difference in the final product.
List the ingredients.
If you weren't so lucky, start with your protein—this will be the easiest element to identify, as it's usually right there in the title of the dish! From there, list as much as you notice about the way it was treated: was it breaded? Fried? Jot down a list of as much as you can remember, and then expand it to include any other elements, like starches and vegetables. Finally, try to remember the flavors. Garlic? Cheese? Make sure to record as much as you can remember.
Break it down
Now, separate those flavors out. Was there a sauce? Were the vegetables mixed, or separate? You're trying to get every one of those flavors into the correct element of your dish. Once it becomes more manageable, you should be able to assemble the full dish on the basis of smaller recipes. For example, you may realize that there was a bechamel sauce used over your chicken—and bechamel is a quick component to find a recipe for.
Taste, taste, taste!
Perhaps the most fun part of trying to decipher a meal: taste your components as much as possible! If you can sample the original meal again, do so; better yet, try it alongside your home attempts. This will help you fine-tune the exact spices used, or the amount of butter or salt needed. You can also compare textures and adjust your cooking style or temperature as necessary.
If you've got a favorite recipe, try reverse-engineering it! It can be extremely satisfying to cook just like the pros from the comfort of your own home.