December 11, 2002

Menu Planning 2002

Here's the menu planning that went into the 2002 party. The links are to pictures of the dishes. We missed getting pictures of two of the dishes -- ah well.

I like to have four "courses" in my meals. These are: appetizer/soup, fish course, main course, dessert. I try to have 3 or 4 dishes in each course. At least one of the appetizers is vegetarian. Half of the fish and main courses are as well. The desserts usually don't have meat in them either.

I don't cook vegan, and I don't cook low-fat. My cooking style is fairly French and my bow to healthy eating is that not everything contains meat. It's my birthday, after all, so I don't really aim to make things that I won't enjoy.

1 Charcuterie Platter

A charcuterie platter is a bunch of sausages and pate like items, served cold. I wanted to do this because I hadn't made a pate in a few years, and I had some neat recipes for home make pickles. Also, most of this is make ahead. It does involve some elaborate plating, but that goes fairly quickly.

2 Butternut Squash Soup

I usually have a soup, and this year kept it vegetarian because of all of the other meat being served. Again, this is mostly make ahead, with re-heating and adding of the cream being a last minute step.

3 Terrine of Foie Gras

I love Foie Gras, so I make this every year. The foie is made a week in advance, and the pain de mie that it is served with the day before -- toasted the day of the party.

4 Sea Bass, Celery Root, Red Wine Reduction

I wanted a "thick tasting" fish dish here. Sea Bass can really stand up to meat-y flavors, so it was a good choice. This is also an easy dish to prepare. The fish is a quick saute in butter, the celery root is boiled with some potatoes and mashed to form the base, and a red wine and oxtail reduction stock poured around the result.

5 Zebra Potatoes

A Charlie Trotter recipe. Small potatoes are boiled, slice, reassembled with mushroom slices between them, buttered with a flavored butter, wrapped in spinach leaves, re-wrapped in brioche dough, and finally baked for service. Sliced perpendicular to the original direction, the "zebra" stripes reveal themselves. A red wine and dark mushroom sauce completes this dish.

Of course, this is all very labor intensive. This is where several hands make the work go quickly. But, it's mostly all done well in advance.

6 Shrimp, Winter Vegetable, Blood Orange Sauce

With all of the heavy sauces, I knew I wanted a lighter dish as well. The base of vegetables was julienne of mixed bell peppers, fennel, and red onion. This was sauteed quickly, and the shrimp were broiled for 1 and a half minutes on skewers.

The sauce was a blood orange beurre blanc, made ahead of time and kept hot in a thermos. A drizzle of the sauce and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds completed the dish.

7 Ravioli de Saint Loius, Sauce Tomate

My parents now live in Saint Louis, and this is a traditional starter course there -- Deep Fried Ravioli. I made them ahead of time, breaded and froze them. The tomato sauce was a chunky homemade marinara, and the ravioli was topped with curls of parmasagn and basil.

In spite of being deep fried, this is actually a nice bright dish to go with the others.

8 Osso Bucco, Saffron Rice

Osso Bucco is braised in the oven, covered in a large hotel pan. It stays hot for a very long time once done, so it can rest outside of the oven, still covered.

The Rissoto requires 20 minutes on the stove, so it a bit of work during service. Plating is rissoto around the edge, with the osso bucco in the middle.

9 Wild Mushroom Ragout

William made the ragout the night before, so all that was needed was a re-heat. Buttered toasts with herbs, and roasted garlic custards to go under the ragout were done ahead of time. There was plenty of heat from the ragout itself to re-warm the custards.

10 Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Desert Style

Guided by mid-eastern cooking styles, the stuffing was of diced red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and some hot sausage. The outside was rubbed in a spicy, salty, cinnamon rub. All of the prep was done ahead of time, and cooking consisted of 5 minutes of browning on top of the stove and 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

The pork was sliced and plated on top of cous cous (prepared in a rice steamer to free up a burner on the stove), and surrounded with a yogurt cilantro cucumber sauce.

11 Warm Lentil Salad

Very small diced carrots, parsnips, and rutabega was sauteed quickly. Tossed with boiled French lentils, and a mustard vinegarette.

12 Mocha Puzzle Cake

This is a classic Bo Frieburg cake that consists of alternating layers of chocolate and plain cake with buttercream frosting. Halfway through the assembly, a cone is cut from the center and the cake inverted. The final result is a cake with both diagonal and horizontal layers. Thus, the puzzle. Carol asked for a coffee and chocolate dessert, thus the Mocha in the buttercream. Also, one of my friends who came to the party is a puzzle maker, so I thought this was a fun idea.

13 Apricot Pithivier

A pastry of almond cream and apricots surrounded by puff pastry. Very impressive looking, but easy to make ahead of time.

14 Lemon Tart

The lemon curd makes this a simple dessert, but did not set up enough to my liking. I combined it with pastry cream to stiffen, and froze the resulting tart. The end result was maybe better than my original concept as a result.

Posted by dowdy at December 11, 2002 09:08 AM