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The Menu Planning Topic


marie-louise
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In the spirit of the new eGullet Society's mission of "a renewed sense of purpose: to increase awareness and knowledge of the arts of cooking, eating, and drinking..." I thought it might be fun to have an ongoing thread to post our planned menus, obtain suggestions for improvement, and last but not least, discuss the rationale behind them. This continues to be one of my weakest skills. I know the basics-and JAZ's excellent eGCI class helped me a lot-but I'd love to improve. Part of my problem is that I rarely cook multi-course meals, so I just don't have that much experience.

So, what do you think? Are you interested? :unsure:

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How many courses do you usually prepare?

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I guess it's only fair that I start, huh? The first thing you should know is that I am very fussy about eating "summer food" when it's hot and "winter food" when it's cold. The problem is that I live in the SF Bay Area, and the temperature can vary about 30 degrees in the course of several hours!

We've been having a major heat wave here lately. A few [sweltering] days ago, when discussing food likes and dislikes with the friend who's coming to dinner tonight, I asked if she and her husband liked rare ahi, because I'd been craving Salade Nicoise but couldn't bear to serve it when people asked for their tuna well-done. Her face lit up and said it was one of their favorite things, so I said, well, that's what I'll make! You guessed it-now it's cooled off. So, here's what I've planned:

As a nibble in the living room w/ a glass of wine TBD: Savory Shortbreads made w/ Cheddar, Thyme and Smoked Paprika

As a first course: Steamed Mussels in Boillabaisse Broth (I figured this would be good in case it was freezing by then). Acme Sourdough Batard will be on the table for this course and the next.

Salade Nicoise-besides the Ahi, it will have these wonderful dry-farmed tomatoes, assorted cherry tomatoes, a hard-cooked egg, green beans, potatoes, and olives. I'm using some of my Meyer lemons for the dressing.

Dessert is Chocolate Eclairs filled w/ Chocolate Pastry Cream, plus Lemon Mousse tartlets. I hadn't planned on the tarts, but the bakery had samples out and they were too good to resist. I figured this way I could offer people a choice-or some of each!

I haven't picked wines yet.

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How many courses do you usually prepare?

For the two of us, especially on weeknights-we think we're doing well if there's three things on the plate! :biggrin:

Most of my entertaining is very casual. I usually put out a large platter of assorted things like crostini, raw veggies, olives, or spiced nuts to drink with wine. We often carry things up a bunch of stairs to a level spot in our garden w/ a view, otherwise we hang out in the living room. I serve a single course in the dining room, then it's back to the living room for coffee and a little something sweet.

But it's Saturday night, these people have never been over to our house, and when we went went to their house they made us an incredible prime rib paired with incredible wines, so there you have it...

Jinmyo, I'd love your ongoing input!!! I am always in awe of what you cook in the Dinner thread.

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Jinmyo, I'd love your ongoing input!!! I am always in awe of what you cook in the Dinner thread.

Oh, pish. That's just professional cooking with a (very) small staff.

It sounds as if the format that you've worked out serves you well.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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IAs a first course: Steamed Mussels in Boillabaisse Broth (I figured this would be good in case it was freezing by then). Acme Sourdough Batard will be on the table for this course and the next.

Salade Nicoise-besides the Ahi, it will have these wonderful dry-farmed tomatoes, assorted cherry tomatoes, a hard-cooked egg, green beans, potatoes, and olives. I'm using some of my Meyer lemons for the dressing.

Dessert is Chocolate Eclairs filled w/ Chocolate Pastry Cream, plus Lemon Mousse tartlets. I hadn't planned on the tarts, but the bakery had samples out and they were too good to resist. I figured this way I could offer people a choice-or some of each!

I haven't picked wines yet.

How odd, we had almost the same meal last Friday night. Mussels with white wine, garlic, shallots and tarragon to start (with french bread to sop up the sauce), seared tuna steaks with black pepper, prosciutto fried in butter & finished with bianco vermouth as a sauce, steamed ozette fingerling potatoes, and blanched green beans w/ vinaigrette. For dessert we had raspberries in Grand Marnier with some whipped cream, since I am not much of a pastry person. We had even planned a duplicate of your menu's cheese component, but were completely full by then. I rarely make that much food for just the two of us, but it was a pretty relaxed meal and we had it over several hours.

We drank ice cold martini bianco while hanging around the kitchen waiting for the mussels, then a decidedly non-fancy white Rhone which I really like with the rest of the meal: 2002 Chateau Grande Cassagne Hippolyte Costieres de Nimes. I find that Rhone wines go really well with the type of food I tend to make, so I tend keep a lot of it on hand. I would guess Zinfandel is your favorite for the same sort of reason, so probably anything you like to make would go with it (certainly salad nicoise...).

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Zinfandel is HOT. That is, high-alcohol, as well as spicy. So it needs gutsy food. Lately we've drunk it with food that in the past we might have accompanied by cabernet sauvignon (Zin is not as heavy as cab, so we find it a good summer substitute.)

Does this help at all?

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Zinfandel is HOT.  That is, high-alcohol, as well as spicy. So it needs gutsy food. Lately we've drunk it with food that in the past we might have accompanied by cabernet sauvignon (Zin is not as heavy as cab, so we find it a good summer substitute.)

Does this help at all?

I should have been more specific: these are some very special, expensive (for me) Zins. In addition to an assortment of 15-20./ bottle Zins that I always keep around, we have about a case of A. Rafanelli. I'm okay with pairing those. What we purchased this weekend, and what we'll get from Rosenblum's wine club, are Zins in the 30-40. range. I think a couple of them were 50. (They are from Ravenswood and from Rosenblum.) I'm not too good at wine adjectives, but in general, these were fruitier, smoother, and less hot than most Zins-in sort of a Zin meets Merlot kind of style.

So, because of their price, I want to think about some special (multi-course) meals to make in the next few weeks so we can drink some of these wines. What would be a few ideal pairings for these? There is a great mushroom guy at the Farmer's Market that I go to-sometimes he even has fresh porcini-so dishes using mushrooms would be a logical choice. And something with chocolate for the last bit in the glass. What could I serve with a roast chicken to make it work? My figs are almost ripe-what could I make to use them? Etc...

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Next question...

Zinfandel, I have lots of Zinfandel in my cellar and we just bought more today. And signed up for Rosenblum's wine club, so more is on the way.

I drink Zinfandel with all sorts of things, but what would you make that really complements it?

BBQ, as in smoked or grilled meats w/ sauces, esp. ones that are spicy or high in acid (ie tomato/vinegar based sauces).

Or smoked duck tacos, panca pepper-onion salsa, mango puree with a second tomatillo-jalepeno salsa.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'd like your advice again...

I've been asked to bring an appetizer to a Saturday night dinner for 10 celebrating a friend's 50th birthday who's in town. The party is an hour from my house, and at friend's home/winery outside Napa. It may rain, otherwise it is going to be 75, so who knows whether this will be inside or outside. They make a great Pinot Noir, but I'm not sure if they will be serving that at this point. (their only white wine is a Chard; otherwise, they make only reds.)

Here's the only direction I have from the host:

"I am planning a big meal (pork roast, roasted potatoes & vegs, applesauce birthday girl's choice!)  so something just to sample with our wine before dinner would be great." [also, the only known allergy is to crab]

Something on bruscetta/ crostini seems logical. Mushrooms appeal for both the season and the menu. I want to keep it light because it IS a big heavy dinner (plus, Im sure there will be a cake, too.) But special, because it's a dear friend's birthday.

Ideas???

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I love menu planning, and I think of it as one of my strongest skills. We almost always have multicourse meals on weekends, for the two of us, and I would venture to say we always do when we have company.

However, I take quite a bit of time, to look through recipes, think it out, etc. I think that is part of the fun. So I'll take some time and give some thought to your questions! :smile: Cool.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Something I make often in the fall is bouchees (puff pastry shells) filled with filled with sauteed mushrooms with a touch of roasted garlic, topped with a bit of Brie and heated just to melt the cheese. I know they sound filling, but because I make them very small (about 1-1/4 inch), they actually don't amount to a lot of food. One nice thing about them is they go well with a variety of wines.

They're fussy, but you can do all the work ahead of time, so they're not bad from that standpoint. You can also use the filling in other ways -- on crostini, for example -- if you don't want to do the puff pastry.

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Hi Marie-Louise,

Here are some menu guidelines we used in culinary school. When we were in classical French cuisine we weren't allowed to stray at all. In International, we were encouraged to find ways to break the rules but still make the dinner work.

Guidelines to developing a menu

Wine:

champagne goes with everything

white before red

dry (white and red) before sweet (white)

excption: sauternes with foie gras as a second/third course

Food styles:

Light before dark

Cold before hot

Raw before cooked

Soft before chewy

Creamy before crispy/crunchy

Light before heavy

Mild before spicy

Savory before sweet

Soup styles:

Clear before creamy

Creamy before thick

Cold before hot

Food entrees:

Vegetable before protein (fish, shellfish, poultry, fowl, pork, beef/lamb)

Fish before shellfish

Shellfish before poultry

Poultry before fowl

Fowl before pork

Pork before beef/lamb

All the above before dessert

Tasting Threshold:

Salty before sour

Sour before savory

Savory before sweet

Basic (French) Menu Composition:

Three courses: Cold app or soup, Main course, Dessert

Four course: Cold app or soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Main course, Dessert

Five course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (always fish/shellfish), Main course, Dessert

Six course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Main course, Salad, Dessert

Seven course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Dessert

Items in bold represent the new progression in the next course.

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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Susan-I'll love it if you posted how you think through some of your menu plans. I was hoping that others would post their questions/ rationale in this thread.

JAZ-thanks. You gave me a great idea-I bought some little mushroom turnovers from The Pasta Shop. I'll bake those, but I'd still like to MAKE something, too. Maybe something w/ fresh figs?

Really Nice-WOW. Thank you so much. That is a very handy list! :biggrin:

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Marie-Louise, I was just propped up in bed reading my new Food and Wine which came in the mail today, and when I saw page 28, I thought of you. It's a recipe to go with Zinfandel, Seared Duck with Fig Sauce. Do you have the November magazine yet?

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Hi Marie-Louise,

Here are some menu guidelines we used in culinary school. When we were in classical French cuisine we weren't allowed to stray at all. In International, we were encouraged to find ways to break the rules but still make the dinner work.

Guidelines to developing a menu

Wine:

champagne goes with everything

white before red

dry (white and red) before sweet (white)

excption: sauternes with foie gras as a second/third course

Food styles:

Light before dark

Cold before hot

Raw before cooked

Soft before chewy

Creamy before crispy/crunchy

Light before heavy

Mild before spicy

Savory before sweet

Soup styles:

Clear before creamy

Creamy before thick

Cold before hot

Food entrees:

Vegetable before protein (fish, shellfish, poultry, fowl, pork, beef/lamb)

Fish before shellfish

Shellfish before poultry

Poultry before fowl

Fowl before pork

Pork before beef/lamb

All the above before dessert

Tasting Threshold:

Salty before sour

Sour before savory

Savory before sweet

Basic (French) Menu Composition:

Three courses: Cold app or soup, Main course, Dessert

Four course: Cold app or soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Main course, Dessert

Five course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (always fish/shellfish), Main course, Dessert

Six course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Main course, Salad, Dessert

Seven course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Dessert

Items in bold represent the new progression in the next course.

I second the applause for this carefully made list. You might add that the cheese course is going to fall between salad and dessert. :smile:

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What fun. Lets see how far we can take this:

Eight course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Dessert, Cheese

Nine course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Dessert, Cheese, Coffee and Petit Four

Ten course: Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Pudding, Cheese,Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Eleven course: Amuse, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Pudding, Cheese,Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Twelve course: Amuse, Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Pudding, Cheese, Dessert (Fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Thirteen course: Amuse, Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream, Cheese, Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Fourteen course: Amuse1 (palate cleanser), Amuse2 ,Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream, Cheese, Dessert (fruit),Coffee and Petit Four

Fifteen course: Amuse1(palate cleanser), , Amuse2 ,Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Game, Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream, Cheese,Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Sixteen course: Amuse1(palate cleanser), , Amuse2 ,Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Game,Artichoke or Wild Mushrooms, or other seasonal vegetable, Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream, Cheese,Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Seventeen course: Amuse1(palate cleanser), , Amuse2 ,Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Game,Artichoke or Wild Mushrooms, or other seasonal vegetable, Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream,Savoury Cheese, Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Eighteen course: Amuse1(palate cleanser), , Amuse2 ,Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Game,Artichoke or Wild Mushrooms, or other seasonal vegetable, Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream,Savoury, Cheese,Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Nineteen course: Amuse1(palate cleanser), , Amuse2 ,Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Pasta, Game,Artichoke or Wild Mushrooms, or other seasonal vegetable, Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream,Savoury, Cheese,Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Twenty course: Amuse1(palate cleanser), , Amuse2 ,Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Antipasta (salty), Pasta,Intermezzo (sorbet), Game,Artichoke or Wild Mushrooms, or other seasonal vegetable, Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream,Savoury, Cheese,Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

Twenty one course: Amuse1(palate cleanser), , Amuse2 ,Oyster or Caviar, Cold app, Thick Soup, Thin Soup, Hot app (fish/shellfish), Antipasta (salty), Pasta,Intermezzo (sorbet), Game,Artichoke or Wild Mushrooms, or other seasonal vegetable, Main course, Salad, Pudding, Ice cream,Savoury, Cheese,Dessert (fruit), Coffee and Petit Four

After that start doubling up and duplicating main courses, with suitable light courses between them.

I've kept the original order, but I'm not happy with the position of the salad. Ameicans tend to eat salad before the main course, and Europeans not at all. After the main course you need something light, but something to finish the heavy red wine with, and the salad dressing will fight the wine. I'd prefer to see something like cheese or a souffle there, and the salad earlier, say between the soup and the fish, where a light dish is needed

Of course each course must be served with correct cutlery and crockery, and NEVER have the cutlery for more than three courses on the table at once. The correct cutlery is brought in with the service (under) plate at each course, and cleared after.

Hmm...seems to me we ought to arrange the definitive eG dinner sometime...

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Really Nice!...just what i was looking for...thank you! i am currently recovering from the verbal slap on my face when one of our instructors said that 'he is not paid to do all that' when i asked him to help me with menu for a dinner i am planning....gah..must have been a long day...still, it stung.

jackal10: you must have WAYYY too much time on your hands..so..yes please..plan away!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I want to serve chicken soup tonight. Homemade stock, poached chicken breast, homemade noodles. For a weekday dinner, I'd just serve this, but it's Saturday night, the weather's turned cold, so tonight might be the first fire of the season in our dining room fireplace.

What's the perfect meal to follow chicken noodle soup?

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  • 10 months later...

Thought I'd bump this old topic back up as I could use some help with a dinner party I'm planning for Saturday night.

Will be small.... probably just 4 people but maybe 6.

I want to begin with Spice-Crusted Shrimp w/ Remoulade Sauce and then serve johnnyd's Mussels Parisiennes

I am wondering about the possibility of another appetizer as well as sides to go with the mussels... and wine pairing's if anyone is so inclined to make suggestions.

Thanks for your help!

sarah

Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was. --Unknown

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