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Old 09-19-2006, 03:48 AM   #11
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Get the book "Culinary Artistry". It's not a cookbook per se although it does have some recipes. However, it's a great guide for what you're looking for: pairing flavors and complimentary flavors.


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Old 09-19-2006, 06:15 AM   #12
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You may want to try having a theme for your parties; i.e. Greek, Italian, etc. then you have some great options for apps., entrees, sides and desserts.

I also like the other advice given to you. You can't go wrong on this site. People are great and eager to help.


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Old 09-19-2006, 10:24 AM   #13
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KatieE and Constance, thanks to both of you in particular. I tend to make some very nice individual dishes (IMHO) but get so busy managing individual details, timing, etc. that I always manage somehow to miss on the pairing (I do one large party a year -- New Year's eve -- after which I critique myself and usually come up short on something that in hindsight seems glaringly obvious).

I've printed out both of your posts to study for this year's party which I've just now started to think about. Would be very happy to have more tips!
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Old 09-19-2006, 11:41 AM   #14
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I'm glad to be of help, Ayrton. I have always loved entertaining, and used to do a lot of it. Even now, with my physical limitations, I still do a fair amount, though the parties have become smaller, and I've had to change the way I do things.
One thing I have learned over the years, is that instead of making a lot of unrelated dishes, choose one "star" of the show, and then choose dishes that compliment it. If it's a very large party, you may also want to make one of your hors d'ouevres something really impressive, like a carved melon or an hors d'ouevre tree.
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Old 09-19-2006, 11:56 AM   #15
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Thanks for the response, Ayrton. Glad to be of help.

My husband and I raised 5 children and by the time they reached high school age and just beyond, we established a tradition called "Dinner Sunday." On the first Sunday of the month I prepared at least a five course meal, set the table with our best china, glassware and silver and served a true formal meal. I served a variety of cuisines from all over the world, which exposed them to many different types and styles of food. We aready ate a variety of different foods, so they were open to the idea of trying something new. There's not much they won't eat.

Part of the reason for this special meal was to instill in all of them the value of behaving properly at the table, learning the correct way to serve and eat a meal. Which fork us used for what food, etc.

They were allowed to bring one guest each, so it wasn't unusual to serve 12 diners. They learned well and have taken that knowledge with them in their adult years.

We lived in Washington, DC at the time and they were occasionally in a situatiion where this knowledge held them in good stead. Our daughter dated a guy who was from some embassy, so she particularly found the information helpful when she was invited to dinners at her friends' homes.

Have fun with your meals. There's nothing more enjoyable than food and friends.

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Old 09-19-2006, 12:17 PM   #16
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Go for balance, always. Your mama was right -- you should have a mix of protein, carbs, and veggies.

Beyond that, the dishes should complement each other: if the main course is simple, such as grilled steak or roast chicken, pick a more complex side dish, such as mushroom risotto or potatoes au gratin, and perhaps a fancy veggie dish. But remember that too many rich dishes can be overpowering and even sickening.

Conversely, roast chicken with boiled potatoes and steamed cauliflower is just boring (known as a "white meal" in my house).

Which brings up another point -- consider color combinations as a nice presentation, including appetizing colors, can enhance the enjoyment of the meal.

Finally, as to wine: I'm a died-in-the-wool wino and have been for 30 years. I have a cellar of about 500 bottles, some of which are pretty good. For me, the question isn't which wine goes with the meal, but what to eat with the wine. If you have a nice bottle, keep the meal relatively simple. Heavy sauces, particularly those with a lot of herbs or spices, can hinder your ability to taste the wine and may even make it seem off. I avoid salads, for the most part, because the dressings don't go well with wine. My best bottles are usually paired with simple grilled meats, roast chicken, or dishes with mild sauces, or with things like lamb shanks, boeuf Bourguignon, carbonade flamande, chicken with mushrooms, etc.
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Old 09-19-2006, 01:12 PM   #17
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I like to pair complimentary items. A "gamey" item like roast duck might go well with "sweet" caramelized onion, or of course orange or both...squeeze the juice and pulp of the orange into your caramelizing onions. So good! (excellent on catfish too, but that's another story) SMokey flavor also goes well with game so bacon wraped fingerling potatoes roasted with the duck.. No with all that flavor going on, keep the green simple...say sauteed chard, earthy but it will go with both the smokey and the sweet. What a great plate!

So I start with my main be it protein or veg, and work out from their, but I also want my sides to work with each other. It's a fun creative puzzle.

THe above meal works great with either fish or foul.
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Old 09-19-2006, 02:23 PM   #18
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If your biggest problem when pairing courses is conflicing flavors, then I would definitely start out by doing meals that have a theme, as someone suggested. Theme dinners are great because the dishes generally pair well, and you dont have to put much though into everything. Part of this is because similar cooking methods are used in regional dishes, but also because regional dishes tend to make use of ingredients that are easily accessible. There's a good rule of thumb to follow when considering fruits or vegetables; if it grows together, it goes together. Obviously you can grow any variety of produce in your home garden, but think of where an ingredient is famous from coming from when considering this. Consider coffee and chocolate, both very large exports of South America. Thats really the only thing I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure you see what I'm getting at.

The other thing I recommend is simply to practice. Try to build up a good repertoire of well-paired meals, and then serve those meals when entertaining.

As for desserts, I have a certain opinion on how they should be handled. A dessert is the very last thing your guest will be eating, and the very first thing they will remember about the meal. Also, because dessert comes at the end of a meal, it should always look spectacular. If I make a multi-course meal I always go above and beyond in preparing for my desserts. This is not to say that your dessert must be spectacularly complicated, but presentation is important, b/c your guests are likely to be full, and you need to convince them to eat with their eyes. Lately, I've taken to making my own creme' anglaise and berry sauces of various colors, and I keep them around because they are awesome for plate designs. Color plays such a huge role in plating, and I consider it to be more like "plate art" than cooking.
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Old 09-20-2006, 02:16 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Robo410
... with "sweet" caramelized onion, or of course orange or both...squeeze the juice and pulp of the orange into your caramelizing onions. So good! ... Smokey flavor also goes well with game so bacon wraped fingerling potatoes roasted with the duck.. No with all that flavor going on, keep the green simple...say sauteed chard, earthy but it will go with both the smokey and the sweet. What a great plate!
Oh that's just brilliant, adding in the orange juice! I absolutely adore caramelized onions and make them fairly frequently, but that never dawned on me!

The potatoes/bacon/duck combo equally gets my saliva running, and the simple handling of the chard seems, indeed, just right.

I'm impressed! Straightforward and not gimmicky ... just spot on. You're good, Robo!
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Old 09-20-2006, 02:23 AM   #20
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KatieE and Constance, again thank you. I bow to your experience and clear enjoyment of the whole process.

My current needs are a twist on the theme of this post in that I need to plan for the annual New Year's buffet we do which I mentioned above. As it's a buffet, it means the pairing of multiple main and side dishes (we tend to be a bit OTT on this buffet which is a long tradition sometimes I'd like to break ... but it's pretty entrenched). I find that particularly challenging, somehow, and often get it wrong -- realizing later that the buffet was too heavy overall, or, as was the case with last year's buffet, had too many dishes involving crusts. For some reason these flaws aren't clear until later, perhaps because I only do this once a year?

Could you clever folk on this site help me get it right? Would anyone be willing to critique a menu?

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