Good menu planning means paying attention to color texture and taste
NOW that you have made the basics decisions about your party and you know the meal and the type of service you will have; it's time to do some party menu planning.
As a personal chef and cooking enthusiast, menu planning has always been my favorite part of the whole gastronomic process, if you will. I love thinking about the possible flavor, texture and color combinations and sometimes I can actually “taste” a dish before it materializes. I think fellow foodies know what I mean.
START by looking at what you already have on hand. That pork shoulder (if it hasn't been in the freezer more than 2 months or so) would make an excellent main dish or could be sliced for fajitas, quesadillas or sandwiches. Pair this with the staples you have on hand and come up with as many dishes ideas as possible.
VISUALIZE your amazing menu by pouring over your hundreds of cookbooks and of course by searching Chef-Menus.com. I have been guilty of spending hours upon hours doing this. Now, I have to limit myself to 5 cookbooks and 1 website - that’s it!
Let the season guide your menu planning. You’ll be amazed how seasonal fruits and vegetables enhance both the flavor and texture of your dishes and are less expensive and more readily available.
In fact let the season shape your menu. It's how all the great chefs do it! Shop the local farmers market for seasonal favorites. In the supermarket, ask the produce manage if you are unsure about what's freshest.
When menu planning, design courses that interact and blend harmoniously with the subsequent courses. Thoroughly please the palate of your guests by paying attention to the tastes, colors, textures and temperature of your dishes.
For instance, the main course for your PTA luncheon’s will be Cheesy Baked Ziti and Italian Sausages with Mustard.
To achieve a balance of taste, color, texture and temperature; the courses before and after should be complimentary and light such as a cool simple salad and/or cold, colorful and juicy fruits. This will cool the stomach and prevent appetite overload.
Consider taste at every step of your cooking. Think what can be done to achieve the most intense and satisfying flavor in your dishes. The key to great flavor are high-quality ingredients (the best you can afford) and seasonings.
It is quick and easy to use oils, marinades, herbs, wines, vinegar and lemon juice to transform basic foods and simple ingredients into deeply satisfying dishes. Trust your senses and experiment.
Of course, each dish you prepare is delicious on its own, but think how it compliments or contrasts the rest of the menu. For instance, consider the richness and spiciness of each dish you want to serve and pair that with foods that are light and moist or fresh and mild.
You have color coordinated your balloons and napkins, now how about your meal? Think of appealing food colors such as dark greens, bright reds and sunny yellows. Imagine the color combinations while you are menu planning
A little diced red pepper on poached fish and a sprinkling of multicolored peppercorns or fresh herbs on boiled potatoes will not only add color--but flavor as well.
Contrasting textures add yet another dimension to the overall eating experience.
Roasted walnuts add a delightful crunch to a pear and lettuce salad or try garlic rubbed croutons in your creamy tomato soup.
Serve foods of varying temperatures, such as cold salad, warm bread and hot pasta. Some foods even taste better at room temperature. This also makes buffet service easier because it minimizes the number of dishes that must be kept hot or cold.
Just For Fun!
Taste and texture combinations to serve on a buffet:
1 spicy, 2 savory, 1 sweet, 2 crunchy, 1 soft, 1 hard chewy
1 tangy, 2 spicy, 1 soft and neutral, 1 crunchy, 1 sweet
1 savory, 1 soft, 2 crunchy, 2 spicy
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