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Nov 25, 2012 01:32 AM

Menu suggestions

I always seem to have trouble putting a full menu together for parties once 1 or 2 dishes are chosen (usually the DH's request). We have a couple coming for a special birthday weekend, and we're thinking about a duck gumbo (I'm a Louisiana transplant living in Denmark, so I love making foods from home that guests here haven't had) but not sure what to serve with it. I can do it as an appetizer portion or a main, as the first night they're here will be more informal, but I would want something else either way plus a dessert.

For the birthday dinner, the request so far are scallops with risotto (first course) and beef wellington. I would like 2-3 other small dishes, as we usually eat over several hours.

Would appreciate any suggestions!

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  1. I guess the gumbo is a hearty affair, and more peasant than tie and jacket? A collection of crostini would be a nice starter, maybe tomato, duck liver and olive paste. Or a salad of bitter greens with bacon like salade lyonnaise. As the gumbo follows, no sauce and no cooked vegetables.
    With the gumbo a rice dish would probably be a traditional side, but I can also imagine fried slices of polenta.
    I would suggest a light dessert, nothing chocolaty. Tarte Tatin is my favourite this time of the year.

    Between scallops with risotto and beef wellington I would fit a clear soup, fish/beef/venison. With the risotto and the pastry crust of the beef you cannot fit much more in between. Or maybe a small soufflé, but I guess your oven will be occupied with the beef... Something creamy for dessert: chocolate mousse is classic and variable (only if you don't do soufflé) or a crème brulée...

    10 Replies
    1. re: ZoeLouise

      You're right, gumbo is peasant fare and that was the intention for the first night after the guests arrive. I like the idea of the crostini. I will serve with white rice, a salad and french bread, just need to think of a dessert. Maybe a pecan pie to keep with the Louisiana theme. Tarte Tatin would also be lovely, I think.

      What kind of clear soup? I have to admit I've never served a clear soup, and the ones I've had in restaurants seemed kind of boring.

      1. re: Transplant_DK

        I wouldn't bother with any kind of soup to go along with gumbo, which is a stew. No need to bother. Stick with your white rice, salad, bread, & dessert.

        1. re: Bacardi1

          I am cooking 2 separate dinners--the gumbo, rice, salad, dessert (?) was for Friday night, the scallops w. risotto, soup (?), beef wellington, and maybe a flourless choc cake is for Saturday night.

          1. re: Transplant_DK

            I would ditch the soup since the scallops are the starter. I would focus on some accompaniments for the Wellington course. It seems that you are lacking in vegetable in this case. Something lighter would be preferable IMO.

            1. re: melpy

              I was just hoping to add another very small course or 2, so the idea of the soup intrigued me even tho clear broths have never interested me much. We like to stretch the dinner over several hours, with 4-6 courses. I just have trouble putting them together.

              1. re: Transplant_DK

                You could do a pre-scallops starter of soup - serve in a shot glass, maybe, to keep the serving size small. White grape gazpacho, served cool, would be nice and light and a good contrast to the rest of the menu.

                I agree with the others that your Wellington needs a vegetable - something green rather than starchy. Sauteed spinach or chard (or a mix), roasted asparagus, sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts, even a shaved fennel salad would work.

                If you want to add yet another course, I'd consider choosing a light-ish dessert (something citrusy, maybe) and having a cheese course as well.

                1. re: biondanonima

                  I honestly have never heard of white (or any other color) grape gazpacho! The only issue is that grapes are shipped from far away this time of year and I try to keep as local as possible, as much for taste and quality as anything else. We grow grapes but they are of course long gone by now. Fruit from warm climates tends to be pretty awful here in the winter.

                  I think we may add a cheese course, as the birthday boy adores it.

                  1. re: Transplant_DK

                    Here is a recipe, just in case (it's from a restaurant in Chicago, so it makes A LOT - even a quarter of the recipe would probably make four generous servings). You could substitute another fruit or two for the grapes - what is good where you are? Apple, pear or honeydew melon might work...

                    2 lb White seedless grapes removed from stems
                    1 English cucumber peeled and chopped
                    1/2 bunch scallions, greens only
                    2 oz Cream cheese
                    2 1/2 C. Half and Half
                    1 1/2 oz. white wine vinegar
                    1 1/4 C. plain yogurt
                    1 oz olive oil
                    1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
                    2 tbs. Sugar (may need adjusting depending on grapes)
                    Salt and white pepper to taste
                    1/2 bunch dill
                    3 tbs slivered almonds toasted
                    1 tbs chives, chopped

                    Puree all ingredients except dill, almonds and chives. Strain through a fine sieve. Adjust seasoning and garnish with remaining ingredients.

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      Thanks! I will definitely have to try it when our grapes start coming in next year. I can't even imagine the flavor, but I'm always up for experimenting.

                      Apples and pears are great now, and I have plenty of home grown. I may just try with one of them.

                      1. re: Transplant_DK

                        The flavor is sort of a cross of sweet and savory, very refreshing despite all the dairy. The yogurt, vinegar and grapes add a nice tang too. I'm thinking a very ripe pear (a non-grainy variety) would be a good sub for the grapes - you might consider adding just a touch more vinegar to balance it. If you try it, let me know how you like it - I was surprised and delighted by the flavor the first time I had it because I'd never had anything similar before - it's truly unique!

    2. Wow, a Louisiana transplant in Denmark. I feel ya. I'm a SE Texas cajun who lived in Norway for a year when I was a teenager. I visited Denmark as well. Their cuisine is very different that la.

      Are your guests Danish? If so I might serve the gumbo as a first course. Just a small bowl of it. But, if you want to go whole hog you could do it how we did at home. My mom, and other cajun moms, always had a side of potato salad, crackers, and tobasco sauce. But my instinct is to just serve a small portion so that if they don't like it - they don't have to eat a big bowl.

      Here in my home, I go untraditional and serve chopped tomatoes and green onion (which is traditional) on top of the gumbo with a side salad and crackers. That's just me. My mother would faint if she saw that. :-)

      I hope you let us know how it all turned out.

      3 Replies
      1. re: thymetobake

        I suppose I should say that when I refer to gumbo, I consider rice as part of the dish... not a side.

        1. re: thymetobake

          Yes, the guests are Danish, so there's a challenge there. Luckily they've known me and eaten in my home enough to know they will be getting something different. I've not had any complaints yet ;-) My husband assures me the gumbo can be the main.

          Funny about traditions. I've mostly only had gumbo made at home, and never really ordered it in a restaurant. We never had it with potato salad, so I was always surprised to see PS served together with gumbo in a restaurant. Seems odd to me, but I do know it's quite common. I think I will do a green salad and french bread, but yes--the rice will be part of the dish. I often put a bit of chopped green onion on top, haven't tried it with tomato but then my family has always been in the no tomato gumbo camp.

          1. re: Transplant_DK

            ****I often put a bit of chopped green onion on top, haven't tried it with tomato but then my family has always been in the no tomato gumbo camp.****

            So, you understand why my mother would faint! Along with the side salad instead of PS. I've never seen PS in a restaurant, only at home. But that's probably a regional difference.

            Never understood why the tomato thing was such a big deal. Wish I could go back 200 years to find out. :-)

      2. I can't really help you with the gumbo menu as I have not eaten gumbo except at a place NO where there really were no sides other than plain white rice, LOL.

        That said for help with menus I let me fingers do the walking. Once I know what I want as my "main" or even if I just have a particular cut of meat, etc in mind I search sites like Epicurious. Food and Wine and the Food Net work. Often times the recipes are built around an entire menu and you can get a lot of inspiration from which to plan your own.

        You can also google XYZ menu and get a number of hits. For instance when I googled "gumbo menu" I got tons of hits for mardi gras menus, southern menus etc.

        3 Replies
        1. re: foodieX2

          Thanks for the suggestions. I have done a bit of menu searching and will continue to do some more!

          1. re: foodieX2

            i've served mocha flan after gumbo as a main, with great success

            1. re: betsydiver

              wow, mocha flan. That sounds awesome! <off to search for recipes>

          2. I think once you have a major dish chosen the easiest way is to go with a theme, usually an ethnic or in your case, regional one. Denmark is closer to Italy and Beef Wellington (If you consider it English) than the USA so I'm a little confused as to how that is American...but then I could be misunderstanding.

            6 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              I'm not trying to do an American themed weekend. I'm from Louisiana and I have a duck carcass in my freezer and some good homemade smoked sausage, so I thought I'd do a Louisiana theme one night. Hence, looking for sides and dessert ideas for the La theme for this one night.

              The birthday boy chose the mains for the next night--the scallops/risotto and beef wellington. I am just looking for other dishes that would go with those.

              Denmark really isn't that close to Italy. Much closer to the UK, actually. But again, not really trying to do a theme for the 2nd night, except a bit fancy-smancy since I'll be using the good china and ironing the big tablecloth ;-)

              1. re: Transplant_DK

                I know Denmark isn't close to Italy, I meant closer than the US. For the birthday night, you've already got your starches taken care of. I would serve the risotto alone, followed by a lemony salad and then roasted root vegetables with the beef. Dessert could bring back the lemon from the salad in a lemon cake with raspberry between the layers.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Thanks, I was planning on serving the risotto as a dish by itself (with a scallop or 2). I like the idea of a lemony salad if I can find a decent lemon. Believe it or not, they aren't so easy to find here right now. I was thinking about a roasted pumpkin or squash type mash to go with the BW.

                    I'd love to make a lemon cake (if the lemons are good) and I have home grown raspberries in the freezer. My husband is talking flourless chocolake cake tho. We usually eat over 4-5 hours for special occasions, so I'm not worried about it being too heavy, just need to find a recipe (maybe Maida Heatter's queen mother cake, as I've had good luck with it in the past).

                    1. re: Transplant_DK

                      Lemon flavored olive oil might be the answer to your salad concerns.

                      1. re: Transplant_DK

                        I think your menu needs some crunch. How about some kind of bruschetta as an appetizer? Nothing with tomatoes, but maybe eggplant with an olive tapenade and a schmear of goat cheese.

                1. Smoked Duck & Andouille Gumbo is one of my all time favorite gumbos. This time of year with the addition of fresh oysters added at the very, very last minute....I'm drooling on my keyboard.

                  I've eaten gumbo with PT on the side and plopped right into the bowl...It's good in it's own right, but I''m not a big fan.

                  Rice? Yes! On the side so each guest can add as much or as little as they like. ~ I like a little rice in my gumbo. Not a bowl full of rice with a ladle of gumbo poured over it. ~ Sometimes a small scoop of rice placed in the center of the bowl with File sprinkled on top can make a nice well as taste good. Or serve the File on the side for each guest to try or not.

                  French bread and salad is fine. Personally just give me the bread.

                  Desserts are many. ~~ Pecan Pie, Doberge Cake, King Cake, Bread Pudding with bourbon, or praline sauce.etc.

                  Have Fun & Enjoy!