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Old 12-18-2007, 01:37 PM   #1
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How to decide on a menu?

So I can cook, ok, I can cook few things, ok, let's say I've learned to cook couple of things.


But how do you learn to make/create a menu? I have the worst time planning. Even family diner is hard for me. Tell me what you want and I'll do it, but don't ask me to offer menu. I havenít got a clue how to create a menu. Right now I need to start thinking of menu for a large party. Not sure how big, but that is irelevant at this point. 50 people or 100, the only difference is in quantities of foods. How does one decide on what to make? How do you learn the skill of menu creating that is beyond me? Anybody out there have an idea?

But how do you learn to make/create a menu? I have the worst time planning. Even family diner is hard for me. Tell me what you want and I'll do it, but don't ask me to offer menu. I havenít got a clue how to create a menu. Right now I need to start thinking of menu for a large party. Not sure how big, but that is irelevant at this point. 50 people or 100, the only difference is in quantities of foods. How does one decide on what to make? How do you learn the skill of menu creating that is beyond me? Anybody out there have an idea?

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Old 12-18-2007, 01:40 PM   #2
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Charlie, I always start by thinking of food groups. My entree usually incorporates the meat part of things, then I make sure I have two veggie dishes, one cooked and one salad usually. I then add in the appropriate starch (rice, potatoes, pasta) and I'm done. Most of the time one of those things will have dairy in it, if not, we always serve milk with dinner.

I also have a couple of cookbooks that are helpful in menu planning. If you Google Cooking for the Rushed and take a peek, I think you will be pleased with what you see.
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Old 12-18-2007, 01:48 PM   #3
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But I don't think I'm "rushed" I have time. As of late I mostly cook on Sundays. And have whole day to prepare whatever I want. The problem is I maight spend half of the day trying to come up with what to make.
And the event I'm planing is not till march altogeher.
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Old 12-18-2007, 01:54 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlieD View Post
So I can cook, ok, I can cook few things, ok, let's say I've learned to cook couple of things.


But how do you learn to make/create a menu? I have the worst time planning. Even family diner is hard for me. Tell me what you want and I'll do it, but don't ask me to offer menu. I havenít got a clue how to create a menu. Right now I need to start thinking of menu for a large party. Not sure how big, but that is irelevant at this point. 50 people or 100, the only difference is in quantities of foods. How does one decide on what to make? How do you learn the skill of menu creating that is beyond me? Anybody out there have an idea?

But how do you learn to make/create a menu? I have the worst time planning. Even family diner is hard for me. Tell me what you want and I'll do it, but don't ask me to offer menu. I havenít got a clue how to create a menu. Right now I need to start thinking of menu for a large party. Not sure how big, but that is irelevant at this point. 50 people or 100, the only difference is in quantities of foods. How does one decide on what to make? How do you learn the skill of menu creating that is beyond me? Anybody out there have an idea?
usually i will start with a theme or a meat and focus around that.... for instance, i knew i wanted to make beef wellington... so with that as the main dish i then looked for other english/irish/brittish inspired items to go with it... potato and leek soup, mushrooms with barley and wild rice, a baileys irish creme moose torte... and bamn there you go...

going with a theme really makes it easy as it narrows down your choices. once you've got a theme or an ethnicity you are all set. say you want to go italian... search through an itialian cook book starting with an entree and just go with the first thing that catches your eye.

i usually go with 4 courses... an appetizer, then a salad, soup or pasta dish, then a meat course, and a dessert. i try not to use any of the main ingredients in more then one course... so if i make pasta with meatballs or meat sauce, im not going to follow that up with beef in the main dish. i think its best to get a nice mix of flavors from one course to the next.

if you are just serving appetizers or tapas for more of a party type deal, id go along the same lines of not repeating ingredients. i try and get a few hot and a few cold appetizers. some dips, some crostini, some skewers, and some finger foods. not everyone has the same palet so variety can be a good thing for parties.

another thing to keep in mind is to not reach to high when making a menu. never go with all dishes that have ahigh level of difficulty or that you havent made before... or you may end up with 4 not-so-well done courses or appetizers...

i usually assign a difficulty level to each recipe i have from 1 through 5. and when i make my 4 course meals i allow my self no higher then a total rating of 12 for all 4 courses. this way i know i will be able to make everything on time and have it come out well without worrying... and its always good to have at least 1 course you know you can make without a hitch each time that people will enjoy.

hope that helps/makes any sense

i recently had an appetizer spread and made a menu for my bday:

http://www.discusscooking.com/forums...day-41111.html

basically i wanted a few hot items and a few cold ones. and i wanted at least 1 meat appetizer. once i got my criteria down i just went through my recipies and tried to get a nice variety of dips, fingerfoods, and crostini's
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Old 12-18-2007, 01:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlieD View Post
But I don't think I'm "rushed" I have time. As of late I mostly cook on Sundays. And have whole day to prepare whatever I want. The problem is I maight spend half of the day trying to come up with what to make.
And the event I'm planing is not till march altogeher.
you may want to check out the clearance section at your local borders bookstore. they ALWAYS have tons of recipe cook books on clearance for like $3.99 to 8.99. i always pick a few up. and alot of them are specific to different ethnicities, quisines, or courses. once you have a decent library of these it can really make it easy to choose just flipping through and looking at whatever catches your eye or what recipe sounds good
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Old 12-18-2007, 02:49 PM   #6
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Charlie;
For me, menu planning comes down to 2 issues. Flavor compatibility and seasonality. Regardless of the entree I serve, I like to pair them with the freshest, best quality vegetables available. By buying whatever is in season, I help ensure that this is the case. Additionally, I try to match things by flavor similarities (earthy to earthy, peppery to peppery, etc) or by what I think are intriguing contrasts (earthy with creamy, peppery with herbal, spicy with sweet). Some things are just too good to improve on, however, and when I think of March... I think asparagus. Trimmed and steamed, a little lemon juice, a little pepper and just the tiniest smidgen of fresh butter. IMHO that is good with just about anything!
The other thing I keep in mind when creating a menu is NOT to try to give my guest what I call "Flavor overload". For example, say I decide to make a nice Jerk Chicken. BIG FAT flavor, right? So, while one of my sides might be something of big and bold enough flavor to stand up beside the chicken (example: Carribean Fried rice with pineapples, garlic, maybe a little shrimp and some hot pepper) the other might be a simple roast corn OR if I decide to switch around and serve my corn as a big, bold Macque Choux then I may decide that a simple rice pilaf will serve as the side.
Basically, planning a menu is a simple question of enjoyment. I want my guests to enjoy eating it but I want ME to enjoy cooking it.
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Old 12-18-2007, 02:52 PM   #7
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I always try to think about variety and color on the plate. For example, I wouldn't make pasta and potatoes or rice and potatoes unless I was cooking for a huge group and I was offering several starches and several colorful veggies. Also, I try to think about how long each thing takes to cook and how it's cooked. I don't want 2 things that both require cooking in the oven at different temps unless one can be made ahead and then held. Of course, this is easier for me than you because I have a very limited number of dishes I can cook properly!
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Old 12-18-2007, 03:32 PM   #8
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When I am planning a dinner for a large group you need to consider three things.
One--What do I want to cook.
Two-- what would the group enjoy eating
Three--is it in the price range.

You might have an idea of what you want, but does it fit the pallet of those you are feeding?? Can you modify it somewhat to make it fit??
How do you pick a main course--Pick something you want to cook!!! Be it Beef, Pork, Pasta, Fish, etc.. it doesn't matter as long as it fits the group you are cooking for. I would hate to be the cook that serves chicken to the Beef producers group...

Pick your proteins first and decide how you will cook it/them. That will help determine what you are serving with it. i.e. Say you are cooking a roast duck, you wouldn't serve onion soup as an appetizer with it.. Make the menu work as a whole.


I find cooking for events to be an easier choice than picking menus for home. For cooking at home. I go to the store, when I see something I want to cook... bingo...
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Old 01-16-2008, 05:14 AM   #9
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I tend to chose the main dish based on something I can make in advance when I'm cooking for a group. Stews and thick soups this time of year, maybe a barbecue in the summer. Then I call all my friends and tell them the theme. For the most part they show up with something that goes with my main dish. Voila! Seriously, if you are doing it all yourself, choose your main dish first, then work out from there. A veg side, a starch (if that isn't a part of the main dish), an appetizer, a salad, a desert. I like to stick to one ethnic catagory but that is just personal preferance. In other words, if the main dish is a stir fry, then a rice or noodle. A salad with an Asian dressing. You don't need a side veg since there will be enough in the stir fry. Maybe some won tons for appetizer. My friends and I are not big on desert, but maybe some sherbert or fruit-flavored ice of some kind. This weekend I made coq au vin. A simple tossed green salad (aren't those bags of greens a wonderful invention) or slaw. As I said, my friends aren't big desert eaters, so I skipped that. The appetizer was a steamed artichoke with a mayo/mustard/lemon/honey dipping sauce. The great thing about the latter is that it is so social. You have to talk over an artichoke. You are getting upset about the word menu. All it is is a list of foods you're preparing, not a rule. One time a friend brought a pumpking pie for desert and it didn't set up. I grabbed wine goblets and we layered the scoops of pie and a little liquer and whipped cream. It was a hit. So remember that you start with a dish you're comfortable with, then work out from there. Hey, you're cooking for them, remember that. If your friends and family are good people, that is all that they will remember.
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Old 01-16-2008, 05:21 AM   #10
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Another fun thing that hubby and I do is what I call "three courses of soup". Hubby makes his wonderful French onion soup. I do something thick and main course (split pea or bean soup, something very hearty). Then we do something Asian. A salad on the side. It is always a big hit. The menu would say just that, "Three Courses of Soup". It is great this time of year. You're in MN, which means your weather has been worse than ours, and that's pretty bad. THe great thing is that you can make the heartiest soup way in advance, also the stock for the other soups. The menu reads an appetizer, then three soups, then desert.
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