Project Food Blog: A “Small Plate” Tasting Menu at Home

Thank you to all of you who voted to advance me in this competition. Shall we do it again? I’ll keep going if you keep voting!

In this next Foodbuzz challenge we were asked to prepare a luxurious and exotic dinner party at home and test the patience of our guests with endless photo shoots between courses. Needless to say, the guests had to be bribed and subdued with ample amounts of alcohol. How fun!

The advantage of a small plate theme dinner is that you create your own tasting menu just like in a fancy restaurant. Something that is sure to impress your guests. The inconvenient is that you’re stuck washing plates into the wee hours, but i’ve got some advice on that too…

Rule #1: Stomach roars can get in the way of the background music. When inviting people over for dinner it’s always a nice touch to have a plate of canapes that can be enjoyed with a glass of wine or champagne while the rest of the guests arrive. Plus, they will all be tipsy by the time the meal begins which dramatically increases people’s perception of your talent as a chef.

Rule #2: Pick dishes where most of the preparation can be done ahead with just warming up and finishing touches left to do after the guests arrive – or you will regret having a dinner party! Don’t hesitate to put your guests to work and let them help you for the exciting part of the job, like grilling the octopus, plating the crudo or ironing your shirts.

Rule #3: Lock the doors and don’t let anyone escape until the kitchen is spotless clean. Meanwhile, sit on the sofa and watch David Hasselhoff make a fool of himself on “Dancing with the Stars”. That is of course optional. To each their own sets of rules.

Let’s take each component of this meal as an example and see how, with some planning ahead, we can pull it off together without breaking a sweat.

For the first course, buy the freshest scallops money can buy. The slices of scallops can be set on the plates ahead of time, covered with plastic wrap, and kept in the refrigerator. About 10 minutes before serving you can have one of your guests finish the plates with yuzu juice, olive oil, shiso oil, enoki mushrooms, pink peppercorns and some fleur de sel.

For the grilled octopus salad, all the components like the panisse (chickpea fries), oven dried tomatoes and glazed cippoline onions can be made ahead. When it’s time to serve, have someone grill the octopus, someone else toss the salad and a third person mix you a drink. It’s tough to be the executive chef.

Tuna Tataki is a fancy name for a chunk of tuna that has been quickly seared over high heat so the center remains rare. I crusted the outside with a mix of crushed peppercorns and served it with a soy/sesame pan sauce. This is so quick and there are so few ingredients that you can wait for the last moment to prepare and serve.

The veal ravioli, as any kind of ravioli, is the one that requires some advance planning. What i suggest is every time you make ravioli, make some extra ones and freeze them so you can have an appetizer ready in a pinch. Ingredients like porcini mushrooms and bone marrow turns this into something truly luxurious.

The Colorado lamb started as a rack of lamb in which i separated “the eye” from the bones. The eye was seasoned and roasted to medium rare about an hour before the party and left to rest. The bones were used to make a reduction sauce with red wine. The carrot-ginger puree can be made a day earlier if you wish. At the last minute, finish the lamb in a hot oven for a few minutes, reheat the puree and the sauce, slice and serve. Easy!

And finally a cheesecake for dessert, it’s easy, it can be made well ahead and it’s always a crowd pleaser. If you own dome silpat molds, by all means, use them! You can dig a hole in the center and fill it with a coulis or a caramel sauce.

I hope you found some inspiration in this “small plate” tasting menu at home. If you did, don’t forget to vote for me between 6AM Pacific Time October 4th through 6PM Pacific Time October 7th.

Thank you!

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  • http://www.bes.co.uk plumbing

     The food really looks delicious. I am so happy to see those plating that you make it so beautiful and interesting.  I like the cheese cake for dessert. Great work !

  • Anonymous

    I dont know what to say. This blog is fantastic. Thats not really a really huge statement, but its all I could come up with after reading this. You know so much about this subject. So much so that you made me want to learn more about it. Your blog is my stepping stone, my friend. Thanks for the heads up on this subject.
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  • Kimberly Powell

    Amazing! Is it possible to get the Veal and Bone Marrow Ravioli Filling recipe from you? I am looking for exceptional ravioli filling recipes and yours sounds fantastic. Thank you so much, Kimberly

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Kimberly. I’ll look for it and try to do a post on it. 

  • Plumbing

    That is a yummy ‘small plate’ menu. Very helpful. Thanks so much for sharing this.