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Need help coming up with a pretty good menu...

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Not necessarily looking for recipes, or "specific" dishes....or maybe I am, I don't know. Mainly, just looking for "feedback".

Here is the deal:
NRatched has had a personal training client for a long time, an older (well retired) retired couple (she does more PT training) who are foodies like us. We go out with them from time to time...they love and appreciate and KNOW good food and wine....they've travelled the world, eaten at many a 3-stars...and our favorite restaruants around here, are thiers as well. We can talk for hours about menus and different restaurants. They don't cook however. Anyway, we are going out with them to a very nice restaruant on Tuesday, and I know there will be an argument when I offer my side of the bill (which will be hefty), so in preparation, we want to invite them over for dinner. I'd like to put together a really kick-*** multi-course menu, with even some wine pairings. He, is a wine guy...and a cheese guy. Really knows his stuff. I kind of want to blow them out of the water.

I know they would both like the simple seared duck breast I make...and i was going to make some duck confit next weekend to have on hand....and maybe the potato gnocci and sugar snap peas (i'm trying to borrow some ideas from our favorite restaurants). They LOVE Foie Gras and he loves cheeses so I was definitly thinking cheese plate. The pork belly I made yesterday was an idea, but I don't think that recipe came out so hot.

On the other hand, I have the same issue everyone else has having people over...I don't want to be slave to the stove and not eat myself. So, dessert I'd like to premake, the cheese, well...I know poop about cheese.

feedback? I can tackle following a recipe and having it to come out the way its supposed to, what I'm not so good at is putting together a menu, or even a dish. I've seen those "menu's" in the back of food & wine , or gourmet (i forget which one) so that's always an option. I have a few weeks for this, do I'm in no rush.

Thanks!
post #2 of 9
MURPH THIS IS EASY.
How about sweet potato gnocci, same prep only dash brown sugar in mix then sauteed lightly in clar. butter nutmeg and dash cinnomin. Your duck sounds good, I might serve it over slices of braised or grilled orange slices (no rind) topped with drizzled pommagranite puree
Sauteed snow peas julianne red pepper and mushroom.
Pate for appi. served over grilled granny smith apple and with frizee and radichio garnish under it cornishon fans
Dessert ..Something you can sit down with them and enjoy Creme Hazelnut Brulee with berries
A platter of assorted gourmand cheese with frosted champagne grapes garnish
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post #3 of 9
Do what you do well.

Have an appetizer ready......pate (possibly foie, you wouldn't necessarily have to make it) quick pickled onions or shallots, crackers, coarse mustard....
Chicken liver mousse is great and can be made well in advance.
Keep it small.....


Wine guys can fill in, I like a bubbly to begin with.....


soup. the weather is changing here so I'll assume that NJ is turning to fall....
I'd go vegetable....winter squash puree with sauteed wild shrooms is a nice choice. premake, keep warm and top with shrooms. Personal favorite is butternut squash (onions, water, squash.....it's Daniel Boulod's recipe via someone who worked for him at Daniels.....) easy, clean flavor and can be made days in advance.

Fancy dinners I serve aged gouda biscuits, have made ready to pop in the oven when aps are served.


Entree. I'd do a braise that does not take you away from the table long.....
Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook has Duck braised with Red Wine and prunes or Oxtails (&/or beef cheeks) braised in red wine......

Make or buy a really great loaf of bread, euro butter.....


Salad. dressing can be made and have in the bottom of the salad bowl. Learned this recently from a french woman.

Cheese Coarse. There is a great cheese thread fairly active on Cheftalk right now. Farmstead artisan cheeses are key words. Comb honey, roasted nuts (no salt), dried and fresh fruit, great really great crackers. A blue, a soft chevre, aged gouda type or cheddar or parmesan reggiano....... a wine paste or interesting conserve. I got ooos and aaaahs with prunes macerated in Makers Mark. Have at room temp, can be made in advance.


Dessert. Fruit.......poached pear or apple with caramel .....or a crustade.....
premade served room temp. garnish with a leaf and amaretti cookie.


Chocolates.....Candied Zest, dark chocolate bites, some fun little treats.....jellees....all can be bought.


Nothing is a joy kill more than the host not participating in the dinner. That is more important than "fancier food". You might also consider hiring a staff person just to help out. Multicourse means a massive sink of dishes at the end of the night. Someone to plate, serve and clean up would be worth the $100 or so.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
thanks ed! the sweet potato sounds a little Fall...but i guess.well...it IS fall now.

I like the duck dish idea over the oranges.
still thinking about making a dish with the pork belly (i have 2 more big pieces in the freezer)

call me crazy, but I was thinking about smoking it....stove-top (or, would oven be even better for temp control?), in my dutch oven.

using a recipe like this
http://www.foodtv.ca/recipes/reciped...px?dishid=7683

and a method of smoking, like emerils gadget, but with my le crueset. I can easily setup my le creuset to do what emerils does.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
thanks shroom, a soup is a good idea. I'm pretty good at soups and they can be made well ahead of time.

I guess it's not as hard as I'm making it out to be.
post #6 of 9
Nothing is crazy if you enjoy making it and then they enjoy eating it. Smoke away
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post #7 of 9
I'll toss in a suggestion or two. One of my favorite 'Oh Wow' dinners is beef Oscar. Basically you take a nice hunk of beef tenderloin, maybe a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick filet and grill to your taste. Plop it onto a plate, one option is to place a slice of toasted sourdough bread as the first layer, acting as a sponge for the meat juices and sauce.

Top the filet with a few short spears of asparagus ( white is more traditional than green ) then lay a few chunks of crab leg meat on top of that. Smother it all with bearnaise sauce to taste, sprinkle with finely chopped tarragon leaves, perhaps a quick shake of paprika and black pepper as desired to finish. Not exactly the low cal diet plate.

Coupled with a classic caesar and a robust red wine - good stuff. If the weather is nice, you can warm the asparagus and crab, make the sauce and salad inside earlier, and serve grillside, plating the beef as it comes off the grill. Take your time layering on the stuff to give the beef a few minutes to rest before the diners attack it.

Regarding a cheese plate, my advice is to not go overboard. Keep it fairly simple, with cheeses related in some fashion. You might want to go smoky, with a smoked gouda, some Rogue Creamery smoked blue and some smoked oysters on the side. Or two or three soft, creamy ripe cheeses, or a selection of sharp cheddars. Or forget the 'related' all together and offer, say, a Shropshire blue, thin slices of firm, salty pecorino romano and a chevre. A handful of grapes and apple slices on the side with the crackers and bread slices is nice.

The idea of smoking the pork belly does sound good, though, especially since I've been thinking of braising and then grilling some to crisp it up as I mentioned in the recipe forum. Cured but unsmoked belly has a name [ well, several, depending on country of origin, left as an exercise for the reader ] but I don't know about smoked and uncured - I'm sure it has been done, but not sure of the name at the moment.

Oh well, it's rough getting old.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #8 of 9
Although delicious this dish is sure to keep him at the stove for a good long while and away from his guests.

For dinner parties I would love to showcase these kinds of skills but in the end I always opt for roasts and braises - that way I can focus on my guests. Slow roasted pork belly sounds divine, this looks very good.
How to make pork belly with ****'s Kitchen Gordon Ramsay | Wonder How To

Nothing beats a slow roasted leg or shoulder of lamb with potatoes. I have a Greek recipe if you like.

For the cheese platter don't forget the fig jam!! I have a simple recipe if you need. It's kind of fig season too so if you can incorporate figs in your menu in another way too (duck salad? - that way you can feature your duck in a way that doesn't have you standing over the stove during your party).

The key to a successful dinner party for a foodie is not fancy - it's keeping it simple, well thought out, and in season produce!

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #9 of 9
Well, it may be a bit labor intensive, but there are only two guests. I certainly don't know the layout of RPM's kitchen, but there might be room in there for them to hang out and chat while the meal is being prepared. I'm under the impression this is a relaxed, casual affair.

But I do like the idea of lamb. I did a slow braise of a lamb leg in white wine, with a few heads of garlic tossed in that turned out great. I need to do it again soon. You cook the lamb for hours, then do a pan reduction sauce. Start the meal with some goat cheeses, pita wedges, olives. A lettuce, green onion and cucumber salad with a tangy lemon and yogurt dressing, a pilaf to go alongside the lamb. A flan, or just fruit and more cheese and wine to finish off the meal.

What's the address? What time do I need to be there?

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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