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Old 03-31-2007, 06:39 PM   #1
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Opinions on menu idea for small dinner party

Hi everyone

I'm new to the forum, but it looks a fantastic place with lots of enthusiastic helpful people so I thought I'd make the most of it! I'm a relatively new cooking enthusiast so am very much on a steep learning curve but I feel like I'm slowly getting somewhere! As part of my gifts for my girlfriend's 21st next week I will be cooking her and 3 of her friends a 3 course (posh - hopefully!) meal - as it's for such an occasion I want it to be perfect!

Anyway so I've spent a long time trawling through different recipe books and thinking hard about what she does and doesn't like and have tried to come up with a menu that she will enjoy but that is reasonably balanced and will hopefully work well. Not having much experience coming up with whole menus though I've found it pretty difficult but I think I've finally got somewhere. So here is my idea - perhaps you would be kind enough to offer any helpful suggestions on alternative ways of doing the dishes, good garnishes, better flavour matchings etc.. or even just advice on how to devise a good menu! Clearly you won't know exactly what she does and doesn't like but as a brief idea she is a fan of fish, seafood, chicken, chocolate, icecream etc but not such a fan of red meats, potatoes.

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Tiger prawn risotto

(small serving as a starter, with prawn meat in and one or two large whole tiger prawns on top)

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Seared trout fillet on a cucumber/tomato (dressed) salad, wilted baby gem lettuce leaves and a vine ripened tomato and basil butter sauce

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Hot chocolate fudge brownies with homemade vanilla icecream and strawberry coulis

(with a fresh strawberry on the brownie plus a bit of a fancy decoration on the plate made from piped chocolate with gaps filled with either strawberry or passionfruit coulis to get some bright colour contrast - but I also absolutely adore passionfruit coulis!)

(any suggestions of peoples favourite brownie recipies would be useful as well - the ones I've made before are the ones from Jamie Oliver's book... which were very good - so I'll be doing those unless anyone has any better ones?!)

------

I look forward to hearing your comments. I've made most of the dishes (or at least parts of the dishes in different situations) before - so I'm reasonably confident I should be able to pull it off with a tail wind and a bit of luck :)

Thanks!

Mark

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Old 03-31-2007, 09:56 PM   #2
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sounds very nice. couple questions: risotto is an attention needing dish, is your kitchen open and can you be with your guests as you stir the pot? If not, perhaps a vietnamese lettuce wrap with the prawns might be a better idea as so much can be made ahead. THen you'd need to change the main from a salad base. But unless you want to be the busy chef rather than the host, reconsider.
(I often do risotto, crepes, etc, but my kitchen is fully open to dining and great room.) The other rule of thumb is make dishes you are comfortable with and have done before or are at least comfortable with the methodologies.
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Old 03-31-2007, 10:01 PM   #3
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Well, Mark ... if it were me, I might reverse your first and second courses, so you'd have the trout salad as a first course (are you sure all the guests like trout? Less than half the people I know like it), and the prawn/risotto dish as the entree, with a vegetable. Say, asparagus with Hollandaise? Or stuffed mushrooms?

Who doesn't like WARM brownies and ice cream? My favorite brownie recipe is made from 2 boxes of mix and 3 large candy bars.

Lee

Symphony Brownies

Recipe Yield:24

Ingredients:
  • · 2 boxes of brownie mix ( I like Ghiradelli brand)
  • · 3 7-oz. extra large Symphony Candy Bars (with Almonds & Toffee Chips)
Directions:
1: Mix brownie mixes separately according to package directions.
2: Spray 13 x 9 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
3: Spread one brownie mixture in bottom of prepared pan. Lay the Symphony bars on top.
4: The three bars should cover the pan from side to side and end to end.
5: Pour the second batch of brownie mixture over the the top of the candy bars.
6: Bake as indicated on the box. Watch edges closely so they don't burn.
7: Let cool before slicing. Enjoy!
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Old 03-31-2007, 10:04 PM   #4
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just a few other less labor intensive ideas than rissoto (which I'm pretty sure you will make because you seem to have thought this all through pretty well) some spicy couscous with the shrimp, or a polenta ... in the southern USA we love Shrimp and Grits (which is dang close to shrimp and polenta). Anyway, have a great occasion and much success!
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Old 04-01-2007, 05:10 AM   #5
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Thanks for all your thoughts! The kitchen isn't open - but I'm happy to be cooking while the guests are eating, as they aren't really going to be my guests anyway - I'm more just cooking for my girlfriend and her guests, so the risotto shouldn't be too much of an issue. In any case I plan to start it off then stop it and store the rice when its 80% cooked so that I can just cook it from that point for a few minutes when I'm ready and then add in the other ingrediants.

The shrimp and polenta does sound good though - I'll have to try that some time!

I'll consider your idea, QSis, about changing the first and second courses round. Though I find risottos quite creamy and slightly heavy with all that rice - my thought was that a small amount of it would be better as a starter, with the trout salad as a pretty light main meal before the (very!) heavy desert of sticky chocolate and ice cream! I like the idea of serving the risotto with asparagus, though Im not sure she likes it.

Thanks for the ideas! It's good to hear other peoples thoughts.
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Old 04-01-2007, 08:17 AM   #6
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If you have the time, ask your fish vendor if he has any of the shrimp peels and heads ahead of time, or call in the morning and ask them to save you some from the day's prep. They boil down into a nice seafood stock that would really add flavor to your risotto. It may taste fine, but something always bugs me about tv chefs making a seafood risotto and using chicken stock for flavor. Also, I don't know if it's available in the UK, but I've found Kitchen Basics stocks and broths here, including a seafood stock that works very well.
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Old 04-01-2007, 03:15 PM   #7
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Dave Lieberman has a recipe for risotto (wild mushroom) that is to die for and is not labor intensive. It is always a hit with my guests.
Go to the food network site and type in wild mushroom risotto.
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Old 04-01-2007, 03:30 PM   #8
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Waitrose on Marylebone high street; not sure about the other locations, sells seafood stock already made if your interested. Homemade is always the best, but this would definitely be easier and save some time.
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Old 04-02-2007, 01:39 PM   #9
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Thanks for the suggestion, I will try the Waitrose near me - although if I can get the shells to make the stock for myself I'm happy to do that. Do fishmongers usually do the de-shelling etc themselves (so they'd be able to give me some for the stock)? I'm under the impression that my local fishmonger probably buys the shrimps in prepared?
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Old 04-02-2007, 02:04 PM   #10
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I'm not sure about the shrimp, but it is worth asking. You can use any extra fish trimmins for that matter. The fishworks up here will give you trimmings that they have on hand. You can make the fish stock just like a basic chicken stock with carrot, celery, and onion just using fish pieces instead of chicken. Do a quick search online, you should be able to find some recipes if you need them.
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