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Menu help for a bit of a fancyish meal

I want to have a dinner party and serve several courses (plated) and wines with each course. I haven't done a proper dinner party in a while and I'm wondering what the heck I used to make! There will be 10 people so I am going with pork tenderloin over beef because it's a little cheaper. I will double check but I think everyone is ok with seafood.

Hors D. - I want to keep it light. Olives and nuts. Slices of cucumber with dilled cream cheese and a slice of lox on top. Champagne. I'd like to do something a little fancier but I want it to be light and can't think of anything.

Appetizer - Seafood crepes with tomato coulis. White wine (still to choose the variety)

Salad - Avocado and grapefruit salad on a bed of greens. White wine (still to choose the variety)

Main - Pork Tenderloin with mustard sauce and caramelized apples
- I don't love potatoes but I think it matches best with the main so a potato flan with caramelized onion and gruyere (boring?)
- sauted zucchini and carrots sticks (sliced pencil sized) with snow peas
- I'd like to switch to red wine - maybe a cabernet

Dessert - cheese plate and fresh berries
- super rich flourless chocolate cake
- port
- the only thing I am really sure of on this menu is the dessert. I'm for sure not changing my mind on this.

I would love some suggestions if anyone has a knock-me-over fantastic signature dish they would like to share. Nothing too challenging please.

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  1. When should I be there? ;)

    I truly do love savory applications of sweet potatoes, so I personally would do mashed sweets with the pork -- mmm, mustard sauce, yum. But for regular potatoes... rosti with caramelized onion maybe? I'm just thinking lots of crispy, browned stuff to stand up to the red wine. And zucchini and carrots are a good side but snow peas are awful with wine, IMO.

    My only other thought is that the richness of the crepes (even though seafood-tomato combo is light, the crepes themselves are rich) followed by the richness of avocado might be too much... I would be out of room for the main after the salad!

    Good luck! :)

    1. I like smashed fingerlings with sweet shallots -
      maybe try roasted grape tomatoes - you can get different colors to up the presentation factor, and it's an easy and foolproof dish.
      i also like serving won tons or spring rolls over flavored rice - sesame ginger or something

      1. Who is serving? When I do something like this, I will ask my wife to serve. I cook and expedite and help serve, but I ask the guests not to be involved in any way except eat, or else they are all like come sit down and eat, no no we want you to enjoy it, etc.

        This is a VERY labor intensive meal. I would spare myself some pain and do braised short ribs instead of the pork. Pork loin can dry out really easily and is not very forgiving. I like the idea of the flan, but I'd do a potato gratin instead, you can do it in 1 pan and portion it at service. For a veg, I'd roast off root veg (carrots, pearl onions, parsnips, fennel stalks). Can be done ahead and heated up in a saute pan with a little butter and finished with a little garlic.

        I would also forego the crepes as you can cook them ahead of time, but they just don't do so well. Instead of crepes, I would do something with a duck confit. Maybe over some risotto. I know, you are saying "that's even more labor intensive." It's not, you can cook risotto ahead of time to about 2/3 done, spread it on a sheet tray and stick it in the fridge. We used to do this in one of the restaurants I worked at. Takes 5 minutes to finish, 1 addition of stock, butter, cheese and it's ready to go. The confit can be made ahead of time and shredded so it is ready to drop into the risotto.

        As for the passed apps, I'm not a huge fan of the cucumber, but that's me being picky. Personally, I would do a beef carpaccio.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jameshig

          Thanks for that. I thought it was a fairly easy meal but I am famous for underestimating.

          I think you are right on the veggies. Roasted root veggies is also a little more fall like and a better do ahead.

          So funny that you mentioned duck confit because my friend that I am planning this with said she has some duck confit in her freezer that I should help use up but I could not think of anything to do with it. I have never made risotto so I'd like a few tips on that please and I will practice it this weekend.

          If I do a risotto for the appetizer am I still doing some kind of potato with the pork? it seems heavy on starch to me now. What do you think

          Beef carpaccio!! Brilliant!!! I will definitely give that a go. Flavourful and not filling.

          1. re: julesincoq

            If you have easy access to duck confit, there are a lot of things you could do with it - you could simply serve it as duck rillettes, with toast points and such, or use it to fill ravioli or wontons. It's also good on salad, so you could combine your salad and appy courses if you wanted.

        2. All of the elements sound delicious separately, but I'm not feeling a real flow with the menu as written. The main course has a very "fall" feel, but the salad feels tropical and the appetizer summery. I would try to tie things together a bit more and make the most of what's in season now. I also agree that the menu as a whole is very labor intensive, especially the crepes - I think you'll be happier if you switch at least those out for something a little less finicky. Also, I'm not sure I would pair a pork tenderloin with cabernet - to me pork tenderloin acts more like chicken than pork when it comes to wine pairing, so I wouldn't go any heavier than a Beaujolais or something similarly light (that's just me though).

          I love the previous poster's idea of a risotto instead of crepes - if you want to stick with seafood, maybe a pumpkin risotto with shrimp or scallops? Even a classic wild mushroom risotto might be nice as a base for a single seared scallop. Keep the salad but swap the avocado for shaved fennel, perhaps (I love a fennel and citrus salad). Then your pork with a potato gratin and perhaps some shredded Brussels sprouts to add some green and lightness to the plate? Spaetzle would be nice with the pork as well, although that is adding more labor to your life for sure.

          1 Reply
          1. re: biondanonima

            You are right about the flow. The salad is from the spring section of my cookbook but I thought it would still work. I just did a salad with pomegranate last week so I didn't want to do it again. I want light and fresh but with still a bit of substance so it's not just a plate of lettuce and I don't want cheese in it because I am serving cheese with dessert. Fennel is a good idea.


          2. If you really want to do a pork tenderloin, then one thing that makes it very festive and "impressive" yet still easy is to punch a hole through the middle and stuff apricots and prunes in there. Looks very pretty when cut. Somewhere I've seen a recipe for that (and done it myself several times)

            1 Reply
            1. re: DGresh

              Good idea on the pork. I have seen that somewhere too. That would be pretty.

            2. This is just my ten cents... not that your menu doesn't seem great...

              hors d- you could also do some spiced roasted chickpeas. and some melon cubes wrapped in prosciutto. and some cherry tomato/mozzarella with basil bites

              appetizer - agree re the crepes... maybe salmon or crab croquettes with a roasted red pepper aioli

              salad - im just not an avocado fan, so i refrain from comment

              main - you could also do an herbed orzo. or a butternut squash gratin. that would pair nicely with the apples and mustard... i find it less sweet than sweet potatoes, so not competing with the apples as much. and if you did that, then i'd suggest something else instead of the carrots... perhaps just sweet grated onion and garlic with the zucchini. and some mushrooms.

              gosh i'm full just talking about it :)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Emme

                Oh so many good ideas!! I may need to have two dinner parties!!! Ok so I am now thinking of switching the crepe to a risotto and if I do that I don't want to do a potato with dinner so a butternut squash dish and green veggies would be perfect!

                Crab cakes would be a really nice appy too. I could do those earlier and reheat in the oven - you think?? If I do that then maybe orzo or potato with dinner.

                Hors d - I"m going with guacamole stuffed cherry tomatoes and beef carpaccio. Light and yummy.

                Spiced roasted chickpeas? Never done that before but my first thought is mmmmm my kids would love that. Can I make something like that and keep it in the fridge for them to snack on?

                1. re: julesincoq

                  No, crab cakes need to be done a la minute- they will not do well if cooked ahead of time and reheated for many reasons.

                  Tomatoes aren't really in season anymore, so I'd rethink the cherry tomatoes, and guacamole is great, but won't really hold all that well (just some thoughts on your new ideas).

                  As for the risotto, get some arborio rice and some good stock (use the french gourmet roasted chicken stock if you don't have your own). Saute garlic and shallots in butter and add the arborio rice once the garlic and shallots start to perfume. Stir until the rice is coated and has toasted a little. Add wine to cover and reduce, on low while stirring, until almost dry. Add warm stock just to cover and let reduce. Continue doing so until the rice is about 2/3 -34 cooked. Once there, spread out on a sheet tray and stick in the fridge until service. When you are ready to bring it back up, add it back into a pot and add stock to cover- you should have cooked it to the point where 1 more addition of stock is enough to finish the rice off. Add butter and cheese and whatever other fillings you want (the confit) and plate.

                  Not sure if you can get fresh english peas, but people go insane for wild mushrooms and english peas, and with some duck confit, you'll have a hit. Shell the peas and blanch for 30 seconds in boiling water. Saute the mushrooms in garlic/shallots and oil/butter mixture. Once cooked, add the peas and then add the mushroom mixture to the risotto. Then just top the risotto with the duck confit and you will be a star.

                  You won't be serving the risotto right before the main, and you won't be serving very much, think about 2 to 3 oz per person, so there really isn't any reason to not have a potato gratin as well. These portions will have to be small since you have so many courses.

              2. Your menu is so all over the place it's making me dizzy.

                I like the pork tenderloin, but I echo the poster who suggested poking it through the center and stuffing dried apricots and prunes (that have spent a couple of days marinating in Armagnac) through the hole. Make your sauce with the pan juices and a little more Armagnac. I'd do roast sweet potatoes for the starch and Broccoli Rabe sauteed with garlic for the side. Washington or Long Island Merlot for your wine with that course.

                I'd start with Prosecco (actually, I like Cava better) with some herb-scented olives and homemade cheese crackers.

                If you want appy-as-fish course, I'd do steamed Wild Gulf Shrimp with a Creole Remoulade sauce, served at the table. Continue with your sparkling wine.

                I never serve salad before the main. it always comes afterward, as a digestif. Here I'd go for mixed greens (make sure to include either arugula or watercress for the peppery bite they add) with a lemony vinaigrette. Something light to cleanse the palate.

                Continue with your cheese plate and your chocolate dessert. I suggest you limit your cheese selection to three and that they be distinctly different from each other.

                Keep things as easy for yourself as possible. And for pete's sake, hire someone to wash the dishes!

                3 Replies
                1. re: ChefJune

                  Chefjune- why would you suggest these? Julesincoq is already doing 4 courses for 10 people with apps and doesn't need anything to add to the complexity. Your suggestions can't be done ahead of time (shrimp and broccoloi rabe). Not a good idea to add more items that have to be done a la minute, unless you have someone else working in the kitchen with you.

                  1. re: jameshig

                    shrimp can most definitely be done ahead and served cold.

                    I suggested it because I thought the OP's menu sounded like way more work than would make the evening fun for her/him/

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      And shrimp cocktail sounds good to you? Ugh, OP, please don't serve shrimp cocktail at this party- it doesn't really fit with what you are trying to do. I'm not trying to be ugly here, but personally I would leave it in the 80s.