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crab cake plating help

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Hi, I'm currently a Culinary student. I have a crab cake I'm serving as an app. and I have tried different ways to plate, but It doesn't seem good. its about a 4oz portion. please help me with some ideas. Thanks
post #2 of 27
Nothing personal, snmr2t, but as a restaurant goer, I am sick to death of "plating.for entrees" No matter how you plate two scallops or one undersized crab cake, it' still a **** poor-sized serving.
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post #3 of 27
Hope you feel better getting that out of your system, CapeCodder. But you might note that SNMR2t specifically said it was an appetizer.

A four-ounce crab cake is a pretty good sized app in my opinion.

SNMR2T: I like plating them by first drawing a pattern on the plate with a squeeze bottle and remoulade. Then I put the crabcake on top of a slice of fried green tomato. The whole think is knapped with additional remoulade.

If you have them, and it's a more fancy need, you can use crab claws as an edible garnish as well.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 27
KY's sounds like a nice presentation. Mine is similar, but opposite!

First, I'd use a plate at least one size too large -- That is a 9" dinner plate.

Second, I'd nap the bottom of the plate with a pink tinted sauce made to nappe consistency -- probably a sweet-chili, hand-whisked aioli.

Third, I'd very slightly off-center the crab cake on the plate to the bottom left, so that when the garniture is added the visual center of gravity is slightly above and to one side of the center of the plate.

Fourth, I'd zig zag the top of the cake with a white sauce such as a Japanese style mayonnaise.

Fifth, I'd garnish the top of the cake with a few pieces of split chive -- assuming you can split a chive

Sixth, I'd arrange a small pile of a vinaigrette dressed greens garniture to the top right (knife side) of the cake -- not touching it (I usually dislike piling one food on top of another -- but vertical mounding is very popular and something you should consider. Whether you do it or don't, it should be a decision and it should be made according to your own preferences other than what I, a guy on the intertubes, think).

Seventh and last, I'd sprinkle a bit of micro-brunois of whatever color bell pepper was used in the cake -- orange, yellow, red or green.
The very finest cubes you can cut -- no half-azzed rock-chop mincing. I mean brew-honest-to-goodness-NWHAZZ. Remember, "presentation" is another name for "show me some mad skilz." It's also another name for "have your mise en place en place before you start heating up the pan.

Don't forget to wipe down your board, before carrying the plate to the instructor. That's presentation of a different sort. Good technique is timeless.

BDL
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post #5 of 27
Well, BDL, I didn't want to do his entire homework assignment. ;)

>I'd very slightly off-center the crab cake <

Sometimes we just take things so much for granted we forget that beginners don't automatically do certain things. Anything plated dead center will be boring, no matter what it is. Build it a foot high, and all you'll have is a boring tower.

I often think people who have trouble with plating should take a beginning graphic arts class, rather than a culinary class. Or even a photo composition class.

The lessons learned there regarding visual movement, and the weights and psychological values of things like color and texture and numbers, would serve any cook in good stead.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 27
>First, I'd use a plate at least one size too large -- That is a 9" dinner plate.<

The important lesson here is that the ground is just as important part of the overall design as the component parts. Crowding a plate detracts from the presentation.

It's always a balancing act. A slightly oversized plate often makes sense. But you can go overboard. Imagine, for instance, the same presentation on a charger.

Oh, wait. We finally got through that nonsense. Let's not give anyone any ideas for renewing it. :talk:
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #7 of 27
In response to Capecodder: while 4 oz may be a small entree or main course, it is more than generous for an appetizer.

To plate your exquisitly prepared crab cake (I would make it oval instead of round, and serve it on a rectangular or square plate... if square, then angle the cake diagonally on the plate), consider a bed of colorful, tangy greens, then take one scallion and slice it lengthwise. 'Lean' those strips in an X pattern at one side, Is there a sauce? (Dijon, perhaps?) Drizzle that across the crabcake. Also put 3 to 5 dots of the sauce of decreasing sizes around the plate and draw a toothpick through to connect them.

But hey...don't they teach you this stuff in school? If there is a prize, do I get to share it? :)
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post #8 of 27
Something to consider, Grace.

When using square plates I often turn them 90 degrees, so a corner points towards the diner. From the diner's point of view, the plate is a diamond.

Plating design is done with that presentation in mind.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 27
Quite right. And an oval crabcake would still be oriented with its ends pointing toward opposite corniers. :lips:
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post #10 of 27
Or slightly less so, just to break the symmetry a lttle bit. But, yeah, I'd go with a diagonalish layout of an oval crabcake. I'd lay it out offcenter towards the bottom, with garnish above it.

That way, the visual weight would draw the dish towards the diner.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 27
About the square plate thing... if you're doing it in a Chinese restaurant don't do it... having pointy ends (whether table, plates or cutlery) face the diner is a bad omen :). Fortunately I don't think we're serving traditional Chinese guests here so it doesn't really matter.

I have to agree that having aptitude for visual arts or photography really helps one become a better plater, not being a particularly great photographer myself my advice should be taken with a grain of salt.

Stacking is silly if you don't want the things to be eaten together in one big bite.

Good point made above: Use a plate that is large enough so your dish doesn't look crowded... at the same time don't go crazy and use the largest charger there is.

I don't like using garnishes or items that can't be eaten and have nothing to do with the dish but add visual appeal (I'm such a stodgy person). I find the best acid test for this is to put the two items together and put it in your mouth, does it make you enjoy the dish more or less?

Although I ranked at it in the beginning I'm find the whole "object/item centered on the plate with a ring of crap around it" plating concept to be more palatable these days... it all depends on how you do it. Your ring of crap shouldn't be too sparse but nor should it take focus from the main event.

Wow... if these aren't vague and somewhat contradictory instructions then I don't know what is
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #12 of 27
See, I can't stand the too-large-plate thing. Give me dainty on a dainty plate, not dainty on a plate meant for a football player.
post #13 of 27
I was only mildly interested in this thread, my plating skills are basically limited to making sure that the layering is table lowermost, then the plate, and the food on the top of the plate. Food between the plate and the table is not good, even *I* know that.

But then I remembered what I did with dinner tonight. I made a simple sauce with browned sun-dried tomato chicken sausage, yellow sweet peppers and fresh red tomatoes to go over some sea shell pasta. I dumped the pasta on my wife's plate, a sprinkle or two of grated parm here and there, then spooned several blobs of sauce over it all.

And then the odd thing - I looked at her dinner and thought that the color balance was all wrong. So I spent a moment or two with a fork and spoon shuffling around the white chicken bits, the red tomatoes and the golden yellow pepper bits, chastising myself for not having any fresh, vibrant green parsley on hand.

The eyes always take the first bite.

mjb.
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post #14 of 27
This is amazingly, wonderfully, gloriously right. Wish I'd said it.

BDL
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post #15 of 27
You work with "negative space" as much as the item. A 4 oz crab cake is a big cake, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-1/2" in diamter. A plate with an 8" ring would only leave 1-3/4" from the edge of the cake to the end of the ring -- not a lot of room either for garniture or for a sauce base to make a color statement. A 9" ring on the other hand would be generous, but smaller than a standard (restaurant) 10" dinner plate. Since my composition involved two items, I suggested something in between the salad and dinner plate -- size lends importance as long as it doesn't become a distraction in itself. Further with the sauce beneath, the greens to the side, and a little bit of greenery from the chives, the presentation suggest two islands in the sea. Too tight, and it's two kinds of food in a puddle of sauce.

An app, especially, is something you want to stand out. If it was a garniture or an amuse, I'd have plated it closer.

Finally, I don't expect the OP to actually follow my suggestion. What I'd like him to take from my post is the importance (a) having a plan; and (b) the mise en place done so (s)he can execute the plan; (c) incorporate some other techniques like good garde manger and prep knife work.

BDL
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post #16 of 27
What about going with the square plate, and making a square crabcake (with sharp corners). Line the points of the crabcake up to be referenced to the flat sides of the plate. I know that this will require a center of the plate presentation, but it will be more unique than most center presentations. You now have 4 triangle shaped "spaces" to play with. Alternate between micro greens stacked with a small ring, and dressed with a vinagrette, and a sweet chili sauce swirled on in a spiral to contradict the square features of the rest of the presentation. It may be too much to try and use all of the triangle spaces, so 2 of them might be all that are needed.
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post #17 of 27
Nothing wrong with the plating you describe, Geese4u.

The danger with central placement of the main item, especially for beginners, is the tendency to then symetrically fill-in all the equal spaces with the same garniture, rather than playing with different items and negative space as you suggest.

The result might make a pretty tile for the sink backsplash. But it's kind of boring for somebody who has to eat it.

Personally, I would have a problem with a square crabcake, only because it looks machine made. If I'm going to the trouble of presenting a socko appetizer I sure don't want the diners thinking, "yeah, it's pretty. But I'd druther he'd have made the cake by hand."

But that's just me.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #18 of 27
>A 4 oz crab cake is a big cake<

To say the least!

I had alluded to this earlier, but, perhaps, it needs further discussion. Four ounces makes a very large appetizer.

For home use, most crabcake and similar recipes I've seen start with a pound of meat. Let's say you go heavy on the filling, and add a cup of breadcrumbs. And a few tablespoons of garden truck.

The finished recipe will usually specify "serves four to six." Let's call it four. We're then talking about a quarter pound crabcake as an entree serving (more often, you'd make that as two cakes about 2 1/2 ounces each---but that's a different topic).

Basically, this falls into the modern concept where appetizers, rather than being small tastes that prepare the palette for the meal to come, are merely a la carte offerings under a different name.

Be that as it may, there is nothing dainty about a portion this size. And it needs enough room around it to show it off properly. Forcing it onto a small plate might be something you'd do at a picnic (in which case, I'd serve it as a sandwich and be done). But as the prelude to a fine meal, you want it to look as good as you can make it. And that means a larger plate.

As I mentioned, this is not novelle cuisine, where very small portions were served on very large plates (you've seen the Wendy's commercial? Where they put a quail leg in the middle of a charger?). What we're talking about is the balance between what goes on the plate, and the visual impact of the food and plate combined.

Because appetizers are the first thing served it's especially important that culinary rule #3 (you first eat with your eyes) be followed. And that means careful attention to plating.

Something else that might be confusing to the home cook is plate size. I'm sure, for instance, that at least one poster on this thread envisions a 9" plate as being about the size of Delaware.

What every home cook should do, just as an exercise, is measure their plates. Start witht the saucers and work up from there. I think you'll be surprised at how large they actually are.

Just to make the point, I just went and measured one of my day-to-day sets. The saucers are 6 1/2 inches in diameter. Dessert plates an inch larger. And dinner plates are 10 1/2 inches.

Because I'm very big on the small plates thing, even here at home, I've got a fairly large collection of 2-up serving pieces. I randomly grabbed a few of them. Here are some sizes:

1. Real scallop shells: 5 1/2"
2. Rectangular wooden trencher: 14 x 6 inches
3. Square ceramic: 6 x 6 inches
4. Round glass: 8 inches
5. Square plate: 11"

These are all used only for first courses and appetizers. And not necessarily directly. For instance, the 8" round plate is sometimes used to hold the food item. But more often it's the support for an arrangement of Chinese spoons.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #19 of 27
Ick. That's exactly what I'm talking about. You get to the edge of the ring and then you've still got the rim of the plate. Too much "negative space". Just leaving negative space is not art and does not add to the artistic quality of the plating.

Btw, my other hobby is photography and I come from a family of artists.
post #20 of 27
In that case I defer to your highly trained aesthetic sensibilities and super-charged DNA. How would you plate the crab cake?

BDL
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post #21 of 27
>Just leaving negative space is not art and does not add to the artistic quality of the plating.<

True. But nobody suggested that, either.

BDL's example wasn't mean to say, "leave a 1 3/4" ring around a centered crabcake. It was, I believe, merely a demonstration of how little negative space was available given a plate and crabcake of those sizes.

If the goal is to make an artistic statement then one of two things has to happen. You go either with a smaller crabcake or a larger plate.

Being as we are locked in, by the original poster, to the crabcake size, that only leaves a larger plate. Going up to 9", in this case, provides the room needed without blanking up the page with too much negative space.

If I were actually plating this, 9" (BDL's actual suggestion) is the smallest plate I would consider. In reality, I wouldn't go that large only because I would never occur to me to serve a crabcake that big as an appetizer. But, again, that's the criterium we were given.

There are ways, too, to affect the apparent size of things. For instance, if, instead of a single large crabcake, the same quantity were divided into several small, pyramidical croquettes, they would occupy less plate surface. In that case, a smaller plate might work, and still be aesthetically pleasing.

Indeed, if this were part of a small plates presentation, that's one way I would consider, because it makes them easier to share.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #22 of 27
Now I like that idea. I'm just sick of having to deal with a giant plate with tons of empty space around it. While that may be good for the food on the plate, you have to remember that the plate must also look good on the table.
post #23 of 27
Perhaps I should add... give the table some negative space and give up those big plates! ;)
post #24 of 27
Jump in. The water's fine. Tell us how you'd plate the dreaded crab cake.

BDL
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post #25 of 27
I think a lump of crab cake is going to look ugly no matter how you dress it up. Giving it a large plate would make it worse. I'd put it on a small plate with a sprig of some green on top and leave it at that. That's why I think Heirloomer's idea is better. Break up the lump and give it some character.

Happy now, lawyer, or are you going to try and interrogate me some more? I gave my opinion about your giant plate idea and you have to go on and on and on because you just can't stand that someone disagreed with you.
post #26 of 27
All great Ideas, Nobody mentioned making the cake a different shape, and all expected the cake to be round. What about a crab shaped ring mold on a cider board or plank, With the greens and sauce? Or what about the cake stuffed inside a crab shell and served on a net? LOL!:crazy: In California alot of chefs use square and rectangle plates, Even me. But the wide rim dishes are slowly fading away thank goodness. Good Luck and hope you get a good grade!
post #27 of 27
I'd always been partial ro and had success with serving it or them arranged atop a bed of mache or other mixed lettuces tossed in a vinaigrette that resembled or complimented the sauce that accompanied the crab cake(s).
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