The Simple Meat Pairing Tip Aarón Sánchez Swears By

Aarón Sánchez, who's graced episodes of "Chopped," and "MasterChef," is no different than many cooks in the sense that he doesn't stop learning. Staying curious, he told Insider, is a crucial habit in life. And he certainly encourages that curiosity among his audience too — like when he posted an Instagram video guiding home cooks in making guacamole with grasshoppers, a crispy Mexican delicacy.

And while he's already risen to the ranks of James Beard Award nominee (per the Foundation), Sánchez looks to other chefs for advice — including the late Paul Prudhomme. The Louisiana-born chef is often credited with putting Cajun-style food on the map. Prudhomme's beloved dishes included charred redfish, andouille-studded gumbo, and fried oysters (via New York Times).

But Sánchez tells Insider that Prudhomme presented these meats and proteins thoughtfully. Prudhomme, who died in 2015, left Sánchez with a prized piece of cooking advice — to pair a protein with whatever food the animal ate while alive. When it comes to pairing food, we're likely thinking about what kind of white wine goes best with the shrimp scampi we're cooking, or what beer to pair with the burgers we're grilling at the next cookout. But talking about what kind of vegetable goes with a chicken — let alone what the chicken used to eat in its heyday at the farm — isn't nearly as common. Sánchez, however, lauded this practice, saying this form of pairing is "the best way to reintroduce the terrain in a natural way."

A different kind of pairing

It's not difficult to find examples of this pairing practice, even if it's not an outright trend. A chicken, for example, might enjoy a diet of buckwheat and dandelions, according to The Spruce. Why not try chicken thighs and dandelion greens, as Food52 suggests, with lemons, black pepper, and carrots? Pigs, on the other hand, often eat corn, sorghum, and soybeans, according to the Kansas Farm Food Connection. It wouldn't be tricky to pair some stir-fried pork with soy-based tofu, or roasted corn. Or, you can try cooking sancocho, a stew found in multiple Latin American countries, which often pairs pork with chunks of corn on the cob for a hearty broth (via Dominican Cooking).

It's not surprising that Prudhomme might have considered this pairing tactic when dealing with meat. He was born on a farm in rural Opelousas, Louisiana, according to NPR, and was later butchering his own animals to cook with (via Los Angeles Times). So is it really so far-fetched for someone like Prudhomme to also consider the animal's life and habitat in the cooking process? In an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Prudhomme even remembers bonding with fellow chef Alice Waters over their shared passion for raising their own chickens. Talk about farm-to-table.