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Menu for a master chef guest

My friend is a very accomplished chef/owner of a resto here. James Beard finalist, modernist farm to table techniques, blah, blah.... He, of course, says that he is NEVER invited to dinner. I am an enthusiastic and adventurous amateur cook, and I find that after multiple dinner parties, I am NEVER invited to dinner. (I hope this is because my friends are intimidated, and not because of my undesirable personality!)

Anyway.... What to cook for the man and his wife? I am not going to try to compete with him on a technique basis, but am tempted to do a great dish, served family style, something like my fave choucroute garnis with a tarte flambée app and then a homey Moroccan orange cake for dessert.

Any chefs out there please weigh in with what you like to experience when invited to dinner. I would appreciate any advice or comment!

Thanks!

Dan

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  1. First, where is 'here?' The term for restaurant 'resto' is not part of my vocabulary. Second, when is this restaurant chef free from cooking at a restaurant to dine at someone's home?

    I watch food shows on TV. Several professional chefs like just like a simple home cooked meal that has been prepared by someone else to get away from the fancy stuff. Do your own thing. Just prepare it well and don't try to impress him. After all your guest for company rather than showmanship.

    1. Just cook something you're good at and lets you be with your guests. It's no fun to get invited to dinner and watch someone do 36 last minute things. A great roast chicken, some of your favorite sides, and a nice dessert and done!

      10 Replies
      1. re: Hobbert

        My thought too, thanks! I always try to make ahead so I can enjoy a cocktail with my guests. Good advice!

        1. re: Hobbert

          I echo what Hobbert said. He will be so happy that someone else is cooking for him. Keep it simple and stress-free. A great roast chicken is always appreciated and I imagine so would a great choucroute garnis. I might keep the app preceding it lighter than tarte flambee but that is personal preference.

          1. re: GretchenS

            Hmmm. You may be right, although a tarte flambée can be light if the crust is very thin, and one accentuates the caramelized onion rather than the fromage and the lardon.

            The choucroute is definitely a winter dish tho. Any suggestions for a light app?

            Dan

            1. re: Danioro

              We had this meal recently; we started with a cream of celeriac soup, not terribly creamed, but it was a great start.

              We finished with an Alsatian apple cake. It was a simple but tasty meal.

              1. re: magiesmom

                Soup is an idea in this cold weather. I tend to like finger food with cocktails before dinner. But that's definitely an idea.

                Dan

                1. re: Danioro

                  We don't do cocktails, so often use soup for a starter in winter.

              2. re: Danioro

                How about making a pissaladiere to start? It is similar to tarte flambée but usually(French way) does not include cheese so it is lighter. You could use any pizza dough and top it with caramelized onions, olives and anchovies(you could hide these in the oil you brush on the dough). I am french and I say resto all the time.

                1. re: DowntownJosie

                  Sounds good! I love Anchovies although most Americans run screaming when you mention them. I agree, resto is an approved abbreviation!

            2. re: Hobbert

              Ditto on doing a bird. If you want to impress him. Buy a quality bird and don't over cook it.

              1. re: mike0989

                I got bird down pat! I like Zuni too, but french country style with tarragon is my wife's favorite dish.

            3. Like you I am home cook who gets excited about cooking at home - people I know who do it for a living seem keep it simple at home and seek a break from the restaurant . I would say do something you are comfortable with and enjoy cooking and eating - keep it fun and relaxed - if you are having fun your guests will too - don't stress it.

              Moroccan Orange Cake sounds delish do you have a recipe?

              6 Replies
                1. re: JTPhilly

                  http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/4...

                  This cake is soooo good. Several variations out there, but I have found the almond flour makes it. I just finely grind raw almonds in a robocoup if no flour at hand.

                  IMHO the very best way to serve is with a real plain Greek yoghurt, like Fajè. Yummers!

                  Dan

                    1. re: Danioro

                      Thanks - That looks great, saved.

                      1. re: Danioro

                        Oh yum. Love almonds and Michel Roux anything (well, except seafood). I'll even do the measurement conversions (and I'm lazy), so that's how much I want to taste this! Thanks.

                        1. re: pine time

                          I guarantee you will love this cake! It is so exotic, from both a flavor and texture standpoint.
                          Some Classic Moroccan recipes involve boiling a couple of oranges for an hour or two (to remove bitterness from the peel) , and then chopping, processing the whole orange as a basis for the cake. I have done it this way, but the addition of zest and juice is about as good and much less work

                    2. I would stick to something you know and love so you know it will turn out good.

                      1 Reply
                      1. not a chef, but worked as a sommelier in fine-dining almost 20 years and am a very accomplished home cook and entertainer.

                        do you really flambe at home? it's showy for sure, but yields negligible flavor benefits.

                        cook a menu you feel confident with and will enjoy. make your guests feel welcome, so don't have a millionity little fiddly things that need attention after they arrive. he is tasting rich food all week, so don't bother with any kind of gut busters.

                        i'd do a braise, like beef cheeks or lamb shanks. (am also in my 3rd blizzard in 5 days, so forgive me for wanting comfort food!)

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Braise is definitely the right idea - because you want to be free to enjoy your company -
                          You mentioned a Moroccan orange cake - what about a chicken or lamb tagine? With cows cows (I'm so sick of auto correct!) it's totally make ahead!

                          1. re: harryharry

                            Now there is a thought. I have a nice leg of Katahdin lamb in the freezer. That might be a goody.

                            Dan

                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                            Plus 1 for a braise. Intense flavor, not a lot of last minute work, and any cuisine will have something. I sometimes make a mole sauce, then braise a brisket in it. You get a very meaty mole, and so much liquid you can save and freeze half the sauce (even after reducing) - a great base for another meal.

                              1. re: Danioro

                                Not much I can point right to. I used the mole in Bocaditos (Reed Hearon cookbook) as a starting point, cull together Saveur and online recipes, and tweak.

                              2. re: sbp

                                I made the Bayless recipe in Saveur a month or so ago and it was fantastic. Took several hours of hands-on prep, though. Next time I'll start the day before.

                                http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                1. re: bear

                                  This looks good but wow! Complicated? I need to try it to see if it is worth the effort!

                                  Thanks

                              3. re: hotoynoodle

                                A tarte flambee, aka flammekueche, is in the flatbread/pizza family, not a set the booze in the pan alight display. The flambee part refers to the baking hearth.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  i figured that out after, thanks. yeah, i am more used to seeing the alsatian word for it. :)

                              4. Not a chef, but an enthusiastic home cook. Good for you for not being intimidated and wanting to nurture your friend. (I'd probably be a little intimidated, though.)

                                Your menu sounds terrific to me, and it sounds like food you love, and much of it can be prepped ahead of time so you'll have time to enjoy your guests. Both the tart flambée and the choucroute are great comfort food and yet elegant at the same time. Enjoy!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bear

                                  Thanks for the encouragement!

                                2. Even the best chefs like simple, rustic, comfort food.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    I think you are right. I will just do a good recipe that I know well. Thanks!

                                    Dan

                                    1. re: Danioro

                                      I'm pretty sure it was in the last year where I saw a food show that featured Daniel Boulud....he said his favorite Sunday dinner at home with the family was Roast Chicken.

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        This might work well. We have a number of producers who raise good pastured organic chicken and it is fantastic roasted or as a ballottine.

                                        1. re: Danioro

                                          I'd suggest a succulent roasted chicken over ballottine

                                        2. re: fourunder

                                          I think because so many roast chickens don't turn out so great, it's got some wow factor when it does. Mine sucked til I went with the Zuni one. Need to branch out to Keller.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            For maximum crispy skin.....vertical roasting, and much easier for most to tie off without having to truss the bird. Simple Seasoning or your favorite rub.

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              We did vertical roasting for many years but I'm much happier with the Zuni. Try it sometime. No trussing and super easy.

                                    2. I interviewed a chef once who told me that, on the rare instances when she is invited out to dinner, people tend to try to impress her by doing complicated dishes. Often dishes they're not technically able to pull off. She said the best meals she has at someone's home is something simple....like grilled meat or fish. Whatever the cook is comfortable making. She said it's a treat being invited, and simple is best.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: perk

                                        Yep, I think my instincts here are correct! Besides, I want to enjoy the evening and the meal too!

                                        Dan

                                      2. I've cooked for professional chefs and cooks quite a few times - sometimes in cooking competitions and sometimes just socially.

                                        - Don't use your menu to show off cooking technique in general. Professionals tend to judge you not by how many tricks you know but in how well you execute the techniques you use. In other words, your skills will be evident in whatever you make; so choose something you know you can make well.

                                        - If there is some local ingredient that is especially great and you use often, or some specific dish you've been working on for years - this is a great time to use it. Chefs dig novelty just like anyone else - but again, it only works if you can execute it.

                                        I've impressed professionals before just preparing local lamb very simply (the lamb was phenomenal quality, and the professional didn't live in my area). I've also impressed using a home oven to mimic an extremely hot professional setup and make Neapolitan style pizza at home (but the catch is that I've been working on this for years).

                                        The point is to showcase what YOU specifically can do well, not just good cooking in general. Make tarte flambe (et al) if you do an especially great job with it - not because it seems like an impressive dish.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          You are so right. I do not wish to compete in that way, but merely to provide a good meal in congenial surroundings.

                                          We are blessed in Peoria Il to have several fantastic farms and producers in the area. Great local produce, veges, meat (including Katahdin sheep), but I thought the choucroute might provide a nice change from the usual.

                                          Good advice, thank you!

                                          Dan

                                        2. A friend of mine is a line cook at a well regarded establishment in Portland says the same thing. Nobody ever invites him to dinner. I went out to his house for a potluck and brought a couple of serviceable quiches and other brought similar serviceable items and he was thrilled.

                                          I have another friend who cooked his way up a series of well regarded restaurants and now manages a local restaurant that you will likely have heard of. I was out at some friends' for Thanksgiving and this guy made gloppy green bean casserole and drank a truly impressive amount of bargain basement beer. He's OK with that as long as he doesn't have to hang out with pretentious foodies.

                                          I'd echo what everyone else says. Cook something good and casual and have a good time. Your menu sounds great.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                            Thanks
                                            I am really not intimidated to cook for the guy. He is really down-to-earth and will appreciate whatever I do. I just would like to do something that he will enjoy.

                                            Hey, here's a thought. Maybe I'll just ask him!

                                            Portland Or or Me?

                                            Dan

                                              1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                                My daughter does pop up dinners and catering there; hopes to open a brick-and-mortar in Portland soon

                                            1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                              There are a lot of amazing home *chefs* out there who can cook their butts off too. We all recognize that respect and love of great food/ingredients in each other.

                                            2. As someone who cooks for a living, I'm more than happy to just sit back and enjoy whatever it is that the host/hostess wishes to cook for me. Simple is better. It's just as much about good company as it is about good food.(and it's such a treat to have someone else do all the cooking)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: petek

                                                Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement!

                                              2. Just an interesting bit of information. Jacques Pepin is one of the top ten chefs on the globe. His personal dining preference is simple rustic peasant food as he termed it. It would be uncouth for your friend to judge your meal based on his own professional expertise. Prepare foods he loves using the best ingredients you can afford. I am sure he is coming to dinner as your friend to socialize, enjoy your company and *break bread* not to critique your cooking.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                  You are right on all counts! I know my friend would never judge. I think the simple rustic idea is a good one

                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                    I love serving "snobby" guests a table set with the best china and crystal, and then bringing out ribs! If you have a professional chef in attendance, he/she is likely to appreciate the company and lack of expectation as much as the food. Do what you know best.

                                                  2. My ex was a professional cook at very high end nyc restaurants
                                                    We went to dinner at our friends' on evening and their puerto rican mom was in town and she just made very homey comforting puerto rican food- grab a plate and serve yourself from the kitchen. We talked about that meal for weeks! When going out to eat it would be for divey ethnic food or homey grandma made it foods.

                                                    Make your family recipe for.....whatever it is. Something you can't and won't ever order off the menu from a restaurant. Maybe grandma's pierogies, or your chicken and dumplings.
                                                    Homey casual comfort food, an excellent bottle of wine, a seasonal fruity dessert with an interesting digestif cocktail.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                      Maybe I should just hire grandma!

                                                      1. re: Danioro

                                                        If you've got one around (or can get a loaner!!) you can always taste the love in their food......the cute little old lady factor also helps ;)

                                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                          Woohoo! I'm a 67 y.o. grandmother so I have cred?!?!? Fist bump :)

                                                      2. re: Ttrockwood

                                                        Agree with this approach. Someone in the family married a chef from a high end place and I had to get over it because he is often at family dinners. I just don't do anything he does. I've tried to develope the relationship with the mutual enjoyment of food and cooking.

                                                      3. As a Chef I would say just do what you do best.The more familiar and relaxed you are about what you are doing the better the evening will be. You do not need to try to wow dinner guests. Good company and Food are plenty.

                                                        1. The only time - so far - I've cooked for a professional we did burgers (from our home ground pork) and he loved them. I'm sure he loves anything that someone else cooks for him.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            That seems to be the operative thing. If someone else is doing the cooking it is like a vacation,

                                                          2. Lots o' good stuff there wifey! I look so forward to our future life together.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. Family Home Style Cooking.. ask Chefs what was the best food they had, and in many occasions was 'My mom' or my 'Aunt' made this & that.. etc.. etc..

                                                              if you from two different cultures, serve him food from your culture, something that he hasn't tasted before, A true Chef would love to experience new foods, flavors, ingredients spices etc..

                                                              If Gordan Ramsay comes into my house, I'd serve him instant noodle with a sesame peanut chili sauce (on a clean plate), and I'd bet he would be thinking of another dish incorporating that sauce.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Wilks

                                                                There's an idea! I come from Southern Africa originally, so maybe a nice Bobotie with some cool Cabernet from the Cape..... The plot thickens!

                                                                1. re: Danioro

                                                                  Avoid cooking the type of cuisine the chef specializes in. A) he's better at it than you are, and B) he can eat it anytime he wants to, if he's not completely sick of it already.

                                                                  Make what you are comfortable with and if it's something you think he's not had before, so much the better.

                                                                  1. re: Danioro

                                                                    PERFECT!!!
                                                                    There must be some wonderful south african dishes that you are familiar with, and of course some wonderful wines from the area

                                                                2. My colleagues and I are happy and grateful for whatever someone else cooks. Some of us own culinary businesses, restaurants; some teach. When we cook for each other, at home, we usually just avoid whatever is the guests' specialty dish :)
                                                                  And when invited to a non-pro-cook friend's place, I especially appreciate any meal that allows us to enjoy each others' company.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: KarenDW

                                                                    Thanks Karen, come over for dinner sometime!

                                                                  2. Fried chicken. Gets 'em every time. Particularly when it includes rice & gravy, pole beans with ham hock & squash casserole. I serve this every year to a friend who is one of the most highly regarded (by other chefs, that is, not TV idiots) chefs in the country. We have a ball & he loves it.

                                                                     
                                                                    1. Its been said but I will do it again. Keep it simple and savory. Do not go loco and try something wild.

                                                                      Make a pot of zesty bison chili and serve with corn bread. For a sweet treat after dinner, prepare a chocolate tort.

                                                                      All relatively easy plan ahead stuff.