Chefs Stephanie Izard and Paul Kahan's key advice for upgrading your home cooking—including surprising twists on your favorite classic techniques.
Credit: Courtesy Austin Food & Wine Festival

One of the most exciting parts of events like this past weekend’s Austin Food & Wine Festival is the chance to interact with and learn from some of the country’s best winemakers and chefs. We always look forward to the opportunity to pick up a few tips to make us better home cooks. From inspired riffs on tacos at the Rock Your Taco competition (the 13 entries included everything from beef tongue with ramp salsa verde to Thai sausage with green curry) to new ways to shake up our dinner routine, this year’s event did not disappoint. Here are seven things we’ll be working into our rotation, courtesy of two of Chicago’s star chefs.

From chef Stephanie Izard of Girl & The Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat and author of the just released Gather & Graze:

1. Salted caramel gets a savory twist: To give this dessert classic an unexpected savory twist Izard adds fish sauce, sambal, Dijon mustard and malt vinegar and serves it with short ribs.

2. The surprise secret ingredient to upgrade your beer cocktail: Izard and her team make their own shrubs (drinking vinegars) at her restaurants. While they’re delicious on their own or mixed with seltzer for a fizzy kick, she also likes to top them with beer, sort of like a punched up shandy.

3. Quick pickles: To give cucumber slices a fast flavor boost, Izard smashes them with a spatula then covers them in seasoned rice vinegar for 45 minutes.

From chef Paul Kahan of Blackbird, avec and The Publican, among others (Look for a 6-room hotel, located above avec, from him this year):

1. Espelette pepper: Kahan loves this ground Basque chile pepper for its lightly smoky-spicy flavor. “If you get anything out of my demo here in Austin today, go buy Espelette. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

2. Lyonnaise salad: The first time Kahan had this classic salad of frisée and warm vinaigrette topped with crispy chunks of slab bacon and a poached egg is one of his favorite food memories. He loves to experiment with riffs on the classic formula like using smoked eel and seared scallops instead and crispy chunks of fried potatoes as croutons.

3. Crispy fish: “It’s really important for fish to be dry before you cook it so it can get a nice crispy sear on it,” says Kahan. He recommends letting it sit on paper towels before cooking.

4. Cooking oil: Kahan uses rice bran oil for deep frying and pan frying. “It’s miracle oil. It’s cheap, has a high smoke point, doesn’t have a lot of flavor and can help lower cholesterol,” he says.