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Four Course Dinner


Harry91
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I have been "auctioned" and will soon have to prepare a four course meal for eight people. There are no parameters to follow (no allergies, no vegetarians, all proteins are options--fish, poultry, meats, etc).

I don't want to say the goal of the meal is to impress the guests, but thats what it boils down too. I want to make them food they've either a) never seen, heard of, thought of, or known existed before, or b) think is better than sex, the superbowl, christmas, and a Heineken on a warm summer day.

I'm thinking Salad--Appetizer--Entree--Desert (the salad could be anything, maybe a ceviche or shooter of soup or a traditional salad).

I'd love any ideas you'd like to give.

I've got the TFK cookbook, as well as a couple new ones i got for Christmas i might look into.

Bring on the ideas!!!

Harry

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There is a beautiful appetizer course in In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs for Potato Lasagna of Chanterelle Mushrooms--it's a lovely presentation of layers of paperthin potatoes with mushrooms and a white butter sauce. It looks like there may be video of it on the PBS site (here) and I'll be happy to send you the recipe if you PM me. It makes a fabulous, impressive start to a meal.

Can't wait to hear what you (and others here on eGullet) come up with.

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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Harry, say more. Where are you located in the globe? What is in season there? Do you have good sources for meat? seafood? poultry? game?

We'll have better ideas if we have some sense of what you've got to work with.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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To build on Dave's suggestion, if you really want to show off (and I'm all in favor of that), do the traditional French thing and serve the salad with the cheese after the entree. And then start with a very swell amuse: a demi-tasse of savory soup, say, or this that I did once:

Go to an Asian store (assuming there are any near you) and pick up eight flat-bottomed soup spoons, the kind that will "stand up" when you set the bowl on a table. Then get eight quail eggs (ten, actually, in case you screw up a couple. Then make baby-sized Eggs Benedict, possibly substituting some rare and exotic ham for the canafian bacon, and punching rounds out of a toasted English muffin with a small cookie- or pastry-cutter. The guests are then seated, with their amuses-bouches already at their places which they then gulp down in one bite. Very impressive, very cool and -- I don't know about anyone else -- but I like a little tart citrus and salty ham to get the taste buds awake before dinner.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I live in south Florida (about 30min north of ft lauderdale). Meal will be in late march. I have a great Asian store nearby as well as Publix, Wholefoods, and fresh market. I can get duck, its prepackaged breasts. If anyone knows of any good purveyors in the area please let me know. I'd love to do a dish with octopus, or maybe a rare red meat bought online (ostrich, buffalo, etc)

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IIRC, you're a teenager. As such, I assume that you don't have a ton of experience cooking for dinner parties (unless you are BryanZ). Therefore, I recommend that you employ the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).

I would chooses tasty simple dishes that you know you can execute well. I would also look for a menu that can largely be prepared ahead with a minimum of a la minute stuff.

Think about the logistics of plating and silverware too.

Good luck.

Edited by mojoman (log)
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Chiming in here. I do this every week, in much the same vein as the type of food you're interested in. mojoman brings up good points.

To be frank, your age works to your advantage. People won't be expecting a lot. For them, having someone who is 17 or so cook for them is "cute." I'm not sure if you've ever done plated meals for that many people. If not, practice. Have everything planned out in terms of mise and what's done a la minute. Scope out the kitchen and space beforehand if you can. Know how you're going too plate, where you're going to plate, how you're going to replace silverware, keep water glasses filled. You could be a great cook, but if you're stuck in the weeds talking to guests, replacing flatware, washing plates, etc, your food will suffer. Keep in mind, however, that the social aspect is a big part of your role. People will ask questions and it's your role to to field them graciously.

Cook food that is simple to execute that looks impressive on the plate. If you have a water bath, use it for both sous vide cookery and to hold items warm. Don't cook the way many home cooks do with silly garnishes. Stay away delicate preparations and instead focus on items that look striking or pop on the plate. Color and textural contrast is important, but don't go overboard. Keep temperature in mind in that you should serve dishes that won't suffer if they're not piping hot.

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Serving a four course meal to eight (!) people in a home kitchen is no small task. To get that to work, almost everything you serve must be prepared in advance and you need to think tactically when planning the menu. Your guests shouldn't have to wait for the next course, everything should flow smoothly like in a good resturant.

Some ideas:

- Soup amuse in demi tasse cups (as Busboy suggested), perhaps with a nice garnish. Everything can be prepared in advance, just reheat.

- Cold starter. Everthing prepared in advance, just plate. Or perhaps cook the main item just before serving if you want a warm starter, plate with prepared garnishes.

- Main course. The protein for the main course can be cooked just before serving, but starch, sauce and garnishes prepared in advance.

- Dessert. Cold - just plate, warm - use the oven. Garnishes, sauce etc prepared in advance.

With that kind of setup you only have a maximum of one cooking element per course. Since you are plating and serving too, you will still have your hands full.

Can't you get someone to help you serve food and wine, remove plates etc? I think that would make things a lot easier.

Edit: When I say "garnish" I don't mean a carved cucumber. I use the term for everything extra that goes on the plate, besides the main item. The toasted brioche and the sauternes jelly to the foie gras, the sauteed chanterelles mushrooms for the beef etc.

Edited by TheSwede (log)
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A few notes:

Make sure to plan well.

Double check your grocery list, clean utensils, plates, etc.

It's nice to use a washing machine or oven if your aren't using it to heat your plates.

Do a check of what's in season and available. A good bakery is a god send.

Ideas: Breakfast for dinner. Breakfast dishes with different twists. maybe a savory french toast made with olive oil, cream, herbs and eggs with prosciutto as a starter etc...

Different cuisines. Portugese, korean, vietnamese, maybe regional dishes that aren't common in your area.

Ask the guest(s) what their favorite protein is. Sometimes it's a lot easier to have limits than not to.

Good luck!

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It's nice to use a washing machine or oven if your aren't using it to heat your plates. 

I need details! I'm having a very hard time picturing this... Or did you mean dishwasher? :cool:

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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Any good idea's for octopus? I found a place nearby (well, kinda) that sells whole octopus (in a wide variety of sizes). I've had calamari (squid, i know) and an octopus salad, but that's about it. Love to hear some suggestions.

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Yeah i tried the italian stew thing a couple months ago. You couldn't really taste the octopus. Texture was good, i didnt over cook it, but it didn't stand up to the tomato/basil/garlic. I might go with the grilled idea. I've been messing around with chilies lately, maybe do an interesting "salsa" or something.

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Any good idea's for octopus? I found a place nearby (well, kinda) that sells whole octopus (in a wide variety of sizes). I've had calamari (squid, i know) and an octopus salad, but that's about it. Love to hear some suggestions.

How about Galician Pulpo or Fairground Octopus. Best with large frozen tentacles as the freezing makes them tender. Thaw them out and gently poach for about an hour in salted water with an onion studded with clove and bay. Remove and let cool a little so that you can slice into discs and then pour over the hot dressing. Dressing is made by gently heating and dissolving an anchovy in good quality spanish evoo with some smoked sweet paprika, paper thin garlic and lemon juice. Warm it all through careful not to brown the garlic then pour it over the octopus and season. Can be prepared in advance and served at room temp, dress with parsley at the last minute.

Edited to add: you could of course add some dried or smoked chillies to the hot dressing for an extra dimension.

Edited by Prawncrackers (log)
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It's basically just poached sliced octopus with garlic and paprika dressing. There are a couple of technical points:

1) When poaching your tentacles, bring your poaching liquid to a rapid boil then dunk your tentacles in for 15 secs then pull them out. Let the liquid come to the boil again and repeat a couple more times. At the final time leave your tentacles in the liquid and simmer gently for an hour. This ensures that the pinky red skin on the tentacles doesn't split during cooking. So that when you slice you get a lovely contrast between it and the sweet white flesh.

2) I like to warm the anchovy, paprika and garlic in the oil so all the flavours infuse well before hand. Slice the garlic into cigarette-paper thin slices so that it almost melts. When it's time to dress heat the oil back up add the lemon, pour over the pulpo and season.

3) The few times i've had this dish in Barcelona, it's always served on a wooden platter in a single layer sprinkled with a lot of raw paprika. Personally i don't like the raw paprika so i've adapted this recipe slightly. Though i admit it does make the presentation of the final dish pop out at you.

It is a lovely way to eat octopus, a close second to the braised Japanese way...

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