"Discover Cooking, Discuss Life."

Go Back   Discuss Cooking - Cooking Forums > General Cooking Information > Menu Planning > Special Events Planning & Holiday Cooking
Click Here to Login
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 09-18-2006, 11:55 AM   #1
Assistant Cook
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 2
Pairing Main and Side Dishes

Hi All,

I'm becoming more and more enamored of preparing fine meals and, as my wife loves to entertain, have the opportunity to do so for guests.

I have recently picked up a book called "What to Drink with What You Eat", which has been a great book for picking a wine to go with dinner.

The next thing that I want to start to learn about is how to match apps, sides, salads and desserts with the main dish. Does anyone have any suggestions on books or other resources I can use?

I don't want a cookbook that tells me this particular side goes with this particular main, but something that will help me learn on a more basic level so that I can decide for myself.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated.

Thanks,

A Novice Cook

__________________

mattheux is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 12:13 PM   #2
Chef Extraordinaire
 
kitchenelf's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 19,725
Send a message via MSN to kitchenelf
Hi mattheux! (love the spelling of your name - I lived at the Canadian border in Vermont and am quite familiar with names ending in eux!!!!)

First, let me say that your other two posts were removed as this one fits the forum better. Well, actually - FIRST let me say welcome to the site!!!!!

Let me give it some thought about what sides go with what entrees. Someone may know if there is a cookbook that gives some sort of guidelines or suggestions. I, as probably do most people, just go by what I think goes well together. I'll do some searching to see if there is anything actually written to help.

Just be sure and check back here to see if someone can give you more support than I did!!
__________________

__________________
kitchenelf

"Count yourself...you ain't so many" - quote from Buck's Daddy
kitchenelf is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 12:24 PM   #3
Chef Extraordinaire
 
Katie H's Avatar
Site Moderator
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: I live in the Heartland of the United States - Western Kentucky
Posts: 15,899
I can't recommend any books, but I can offer a few suggestions. I've been cooking for nearly 50 years, so I have a bit of experience.

First, think visually. Eating satisfies the eyes as well as the palate and stomach. Presentation is a large part of a meal. Think color and balance and what things naturally pair with each other. For example, pork/ham (pinkish) look good with orange (sweet potatoes) and yellow (squash). When it comes to balance, watch out for overdoing carbs - and, no I don't mean for dietary reasons. There should be a nice balance of protein with carbohydrates. In other words, if you're serving baked ham with a sweet potato dish, it is best not to serve noodles or rice as another side. You see what I mean.

Poultry (chicken, duck, turkey, Cornish hens) are all great friends with fruit. One of my favorite ways to prepare Cornish hens is with a wild rice-pineapple stuffing. A nice side with this would be steamed whole green beans that are inserted into "rings" of steamed yellow squash. Again, lots of nice colors and a good balance.

As for appetizers, if you have a rather flavor intensive or heavy meal planned, go light on the appetizers. Remember that the purpose for an appetizer is to get your diner's taste buds eager for a meal.

Desserts should be a nice finish to your meal. And, as in the case of appetizers, try to make the magnitude of the dessert fit the meal. If your meal is a light one, you can go a bit more gangbusters with the dessert. You don't want your guests driving home feeling as if then couldn't believe they "ate the whole thing." It's that balance thing again.

I think instead of buying books to guide you, check your existing cookbooks for menus. Many cookbooks have a section in them with suggested menus. These will give you some idea of what goes with what. Use these as a springboard for your own menus.

One thing I've learned from preparing and serving "fine" meals is that, if you are still learning, start with something you prepare well. Experiment with side dishes. These are generally easier to prepare and less intimidating to a novice cook. Also, serving a meal like this to guests is more likely to be received well. This success will give you the confidence to become more adventuresome and more apt to try more complex dishes. Build a good foundation first.

I believe anyone can become a fine cook if they take the time and read, read, read. Always read a recipe completely through before thinking about preparing it. If there's anything unfamiliar in it, look it up or ask someone. The only stupid question is the one you DON'T ask. When you have spare time, pick up a cookbook and actually read it. This will enable you to become familiar with ingredients, cooking terms and techniques.

And lastly, have fun. If you have a boo-boo, laugh about it and order delivery pizza. Life in the kitchen goes on.

Best wishes.

Katie
Katie H is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 12:40 PM   #4
Master Chef
 
Constance's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Southern Illiniois
Posts: 8,175
When planning a meal, there are several aspects to consider.
For one thing, you don't want a lot of different strong flavors that compete with each other, ie. shrimp scampi with rosemary roasted potatoes
Nor do you want too much of a good thing, like having garlic/herb/parmesan bread with Italian spaghetti.
You should also consider textures. For instance, if you're serving a baked chicken and noodles, you don't want green bean casserole to go with.
Lastly, consider the esthetics of your meal...how it looks on the plate. Try to use several different colors of foods, and don't be afraid to garnish.

Here are some combos to use as an example:
Pan-seared or grilled salmon with baked potato, asparagus spears & dill sauce.
Scalloped chicken and noodles with braised broccoli florets & baby carrots.
Sliced baked ham with scalloped potatoes and pan-fried green beans.

I hope I helped!
__________________
We get by with a little help from our friends
Constance is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 12:41 PM   #5
Master Chef
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Metro New York
Posts: 8,763
Send a message via Yahoo to ChefJune
"Culinary Artistry," by Dornenburg and Page is a wonderful book that delves deep into what flavors work with what foods and what the outcomes will be as well as what goes with what. I think you will find it to be a fabulous reference. Many people on this site keep it right beside their most dogeared cookbooks in the kitchen! Pros and home cooks alike!!!
__________________
Wine is the food that completes the meal.
ChefJune is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 01:17 PM   #6
Assistant Cook
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 2
Thanks for the suggestions, they have been helpful.

As recommended, I have been doing some experimintation with mixed results. It never hurts to have some direction before starting out and will take all I can get.
mattheux is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 01:18 PM   #7
Chef Extraordinaire
 
kitchenelf's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 19,725
Send a message via MSN to kitchenelf
Now I'm curious - what pairings have you done that didn't work? I love to hear about people's experiences with food.
__________________
kitchenelf

"Count yourself...you ain't so many" - quote from Buck's Daddy
kitchenelf is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 01:20 PM   #8
Executive Chef
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 4,764
Send a message via MSN to urmaniac13 Send a message via Skype™ to urmaniac13
And don't underestimate your sheer instinct... you would be surprised it works more often than it doesn't!
urmaniac13 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 01:36 PM   #9
Sous Chef
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Straits of Juan de Fuca
Posts: 893
I was going to recommend Culinary Artistry also! When I want to get new ideas of flavors to go with something, that is the book I go for!
cjs is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-18-2006, 01:45 PM   #10
Assistant Cook
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 2
Kitchenelf,

The biggest mistakes that I have made is with the flavors. I can't list any one thing, its just that when I could read and follow a recipie and actually have it come out the way it is supposed to, I started picking dishes that appealed to me without thought of how they would taste together. So, albeit fewer times now with a little experience, I would pick dishes that competed with each other so that the tastes drowned out one another.

Hence the post to try to avoid this in the future.
mattheux is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-19-2006, 04:48 AM   #11
Executive Chef
 
ironchef's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: The SPAM eating capital of the world.
Posts: 3,557
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.

http://www.amazon.com/Culinary-Artis.../dp/0471287857
__________________
"Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
ironchef is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-19-2006, 07:15 AM   #12
Head Chef
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: USA,Florida
Posts: 2,417
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.
Welcome.

Lyndalou
__________________
I can resist anything, but temptation. Oscar Wilde
lyndalou is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-19-2006, 11:24 AM   #13
Sous Chef
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 665
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!
XeniA is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-19-2006, 12:41 PM   #14
Master Chef
 
Constance's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Southern Illiniois
Posts: 8,175
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.
__________________
We get by with a little help from our friends
Constance is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-19-2006, 12:56 PM   #15
Chef Extraordinaire
 
Katie H's Avatar
Site Moderator
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: I live in the Heartland of the United States - Western Kentucky
Posts: 15,899
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.

Katie
Katie H is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-19-2006, 01:17 PM   #16
Sous Chef
 
FryBoy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Hermosa Beach, California
Posts: 586
Send a message via Yahoo to FryBoy
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.
FryBoy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-19-2006, 02:12 PM   #17
Executive Chef
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: SE Pennsylvania
Posts: 4,655
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.
Robo410 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-19-2006, 03:23 PM   #18
Head Chef
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Bloomington, IN
Posts: 1,129
Send a message via AIM to college_cook
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.
college_cook is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-20-2006, 03:16 AM   #19
Sous Chef
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 665
Quote:
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!
XeniA is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-20-2006, 03:23 AM   #20
Sous Chef
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 665
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?
__________________

XeniA is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off





Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:38 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
×