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Mar 19, 2008 10:15 AM

Your Most Elegant First Course

As the title suggests I'm looking for a first course that reliably and consistently wows guests with taste, presentation and creativity. No or otherwise. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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  1. As a dessert my MIL once made a gorgeous berry souffle in small ramikins. I would be impressed to see a savory souffle as a first course.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lhb78

      If you like the idea of a dessert as an appetizer-at the Vista Grill in Puerto Vallarta I recently had a Fois Gras Creme Brulee. Since I jumped at the Fois Gras and missed the Creme Brulee on the menu (it was very dark) it was a bit of a shock.

      I also remember a pasta appetizer in Westwood that was a single ravioli with an runny yolk egg inside.

    2. In Tom Colicchio's "Think Like a Chef" there is a recipe for a "Caramelized Tomato Tart" that never fails to impress. It's built like a flan with a caramel in the bottom of a ramekin, then a clove of garlic, roasted tomato and some caramelized onions, topped with puff pastry and baked, then turned out for service. The caramel turns into a sauce, the pastry adds great texture and the garlic, onions and tomato work wonderfully well together. The whole thing seems like it should be too sweet, but with good salt and pepper (and I always like to add cayenne) it's well balanced.

      A brilliant thing about the dish is that though it does take some time to prep (caramelizing the onions, roasting the tomato, knocking out the caramel, etc) you can do it ahead of time, assemble the tart sans pastry and hold it at room temperature for several hours then add the pastry and bake it right before you serve.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ccbweb

        I've made that - I love that book - and that dish is amazing, as is the similar one using mushrooms.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I'd forgotten about the mushroom dish like it....I always make a version of the roasted mushrooms and scallops. I, too, love that book.

          1. re: ccbweb

            That sounds amazing. I've been meaning to get that book for awhile. It's now on my must-have list.

            1. re: jamesm

              And - while the dish is labor intensive, a lot can be done ahead of time. Just noticed that it is available in paperback, as well, which I didn't realize.

      2. J. Child's lobster souffle. A GREAT starter.

        1. agree with the savory souffle (fennel is delish...or carrot). so beautiful and really not labor intensive.

          cauliflower panna cotta (from French Laundry cookbook)

          1. A lovely shrimp in puff pastry with cream curry sauce.
            Soups, or bisques from vegetarian to fish.
            Scallops done different ways
            A stuffed portebello mushroom stuffed with sweet sausage in a marinara sauce
            Carpaccio with lemon/mustard oil

            For a few.

            7 Replies
            1. re: chef chicklet

              Oh - that reminds me of a glorious dish that Rubee posted about - Lobster à l'Américaine. I'll try and find the link - it looked out of this world.


              Photos - and the recipe further down.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Thanks guys, great ideas. They've got me thinking.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  You know I don't know why but I always lean towards seafood. I myself really go for good ice cold oysters, or quickly run under a flame. Love - love oysters!

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Thanks for reminding me about that one MMRuth. I especially like that the sauce can be made ahead and frozen.

                    I'll have to try that tomato tart in Colicchio's book - it's about time I try some of the recipes in that.

                    Also, here's another favorite of mine (I've used both Maine and lump crabmeat - all good):

                    Maine Crab Tart with Avocado, Tomato and Cucumber

                    1. re: Rubee

                      I'll have to go back and look at Colicchio's book again - I cooked up a storm from it for awhile ... the boulangerie potatoes are fabulous.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        The gravlax is also a standout recipe/technique from that book.

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          I'll have to try it - I've been making the Cafe des Artistes recipe from The New Basics for years now - thanks for the suggestion.