If all of my readers don't think I am totally crazy when it comes to food, you definitely will in this post. Geez, I tend to start out a lot of posts like that, don't I?
Anyway, my husband and I are hosting dinner for four friends on Thursday evening. And while I certainly love grilling some burgers and throwing some chips in a bowl or having a chili dog/nacho bar (big hit with friends), often times I decide that I just need to do something more. I really haven't had too much time lately to do some of the cooking that I used too when I was a full time chef. I really miss garnishing, plate presentation and just putting things together. So for Thursday I decided to do the "theme" of tapas.
Quick definition of tapas....little plates meant to share. Very closely resembling appetizers, but originated in Spain as little dishes to nibble on between drinks. However, the modern day tapas don't really follow Spanish cuisine...it is more just a little dish or appetizer that is meant to be shared. Fun concept right? It seems to fit perfect since we are having a group over that will definitely be drinking and can now nibble on little bites between those drinks.
Plus, I totally have another motive. I have been itching to try out some new ideas/recipes and doing little samplings for my friends and getting feedback is a great way to expand my personal chef menu for the summer.
So the first step in the whole planning was the actual menu. For a couple weeks I would randomly put ideas into my pda. I think when I looked at it last I had about 25 options, which is about 3 times more than I needed, so I had to start eliminating. Big first step is to think about a good mix of hot and cold. Normally doing a lot of cold food is much easier to do because most of it can be together and ready, while hot food is more of a timing issue. You get into drying out, overcooking, etc. In addition, I had to keep in mind a good variety and foods that work well together even though they are very different. Plus, identifying the people I would be serving. One is a vegetarian, but at least one other is very meat and potatoes.
Next big decision was the actual number of dishes to prepare. Since tapas aren't a traditional meal with one protein, starch, veg, etc. it is hard to determine how many dishes to serve. Nathan tried to convince me to pick 6. He thought we have 6 people, 6 different dishes should be plenty! The number 6 really scared me though. It really doesn't leave me with any room for error or not serving something that doesn't come out right. I ended up choosing 11, which doesn't include the dessert or this palate cleanser I decided to throw in.
If all goes well and I don't change my mind the tapas menu is as follows:
Turkey Burger with Grilled Pineapple topper on Sweet Roll
Brown Sugar Bacon
Thai Chicken Satay
Spicy Boiled Shrimp
Jambalaya Corn Bread cups
Crositini two ways: Red Pepper Ricotta Brushetta and French Onion Gouda
Black Bean Corn topper
Roasted Garlic and Bean Spread with Crusty Bread
Crudites display of asparagus and carrots
Pomegranate palate cleanser
Homemade cinnamon roll ice cream
Quite the spread right?
Most of these I have no recipe for, so I had to write down all my ingredients and from there I was able to make my shopping list. Which was actually the easy part. Next I broke down each recipe/idea into a prep list so I could stay organized and work on the dinner on evenings prior to Thursday. Things like chopping, marinating, baking the bread, etc.
Next step was to consider the staging of the food. I recommend this to anyone planning a dinner regardless of home many guests you have. I set the table and figured out what platters and serving items I would be using and marked them with a post it note to stay organized. It's a good thing I did this beforehand, because no way would have all my larger platters fit on the table with everything else. I also try to think about using height while doing this. For instance, instead of laying my shrimp on a plate, they are going to be served in a couple margarita glasses. I actually pulled Nathan in on my decisions because I was running out of room and he help me make some decisions.
So besides the actual cooking that is pretty much it. Not too bad, right? I seriously have the best time planning these meals!