THE DISH ON DAZZLING DINNERS

Staging Fun-Filled, Impressive, Themed Dinners From Invitations to Favors

With Guidelines for Recipes and Suggestions for Simplification 

 

Whether you wish to mark a special occasion or please cherished guests, or when you need to impress or just for personal pleasure, THE DISH ON DAZZLING DINNERS is your guide.

 

There are 24 dinner plans that dazzle, two for each month, each with an intriguing theme carried throughout all elements of the dinner. Specific instructions cover the major features of a dinner party: clever invitations, informative Host’s Introduction, beguiling ways to greet guests, a visually striking souvenir menu, room and table décor, mood music, and charming take-home favors. Instead of recipes, THE DISH makes theme related suggestions for each dish so that you can use the Internet or your own expertise to tailor the tastes to your liking. In short, here is your guide to superlative dinner entertainment.

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APPETIZER

Pumpernickel Crostini with Goat Cheese and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

"Ice Cream Dinner"

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ENTREE

It's About Pigs and Big Bucks

a Culinary Charade

"Back to School Dinner"

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DESSERT

Sunflower Tart

"Flower Power Dinner"

March

A LACE CURTAIN AFFAIR

Inspiration: St. Patrick’s Day, March

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The Irish labeled those who made it in the new world “Lace Curtain Irish.”  This dinner is thoroughly “Lace Curtain” with upscale treatments of traditional Irish food.

 

HOST’S INTRODUCTION

Mid-March means the melancholy of late winter. The holiday season is long gone and we are worn out by icy weather, weary of wind, and tired of trees bare of leaves. It’s time to dispel the dreariness with a dazzling dinner. What could be more appropriate than a celebration of St. Patrick’s Day? The date, March 17, means that the official start of spring is just days away. The day’s special symbols, shamrocks and the color green, shout spring. Green symbolizes new growth, renewal, and life. Shamrocks, from the Celtic word meaning little clover, are the first green sprouts of spring. Their symbolic importance to the Irish led St. Patrick to use the three-leafed plant as a symbol of the Holy Trinity.  

 

People expect traditional dishes on St. Patrick’s Day: corned beef and cabbage or lamb stew with boiled potatoes, soda bread and so on, all washed down with Irish whiskey and stout. Unfortunately, such food is not very gastronomically gratifying; some would say ghastly. So, make it a “lace curtain” affair. The Irish labeled those who made it in the new world “lace curtain Irish,” meaning they had moved up and were able to have fancy things like lace curtains. 

 

A “lace curtain” dinner, then, employs traditional foods in fanciful versions with additional ingredients for intriguing, non-traditional flavors. From an appetizer of bite-sized rolls of corned beef (braised in stout, spiced with caramelized onions and honey mustard) wrapped in blanched cabbage leaves to an incredibly decadent, bread-pudding dessert, each dish surprises and delights. Don’t forget the Irish coffee. 

 

The Irish are famous for wit, so, in your best brogue, introduce each course with a witty Irish saying (given below for each course). Start and end the celebration with a toast that means “Ireland Forever!”

Erin go Bragh!

 

Appropriate for: Any day in March or any time you are celebrating something Irish or an Irish friend.

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MENU

A LACE CURTAIN AFFAIR

The Irish labeled those who made it in the New World “Lace Curtain Irish.” This dinner is thoroughly “Lace Curtain” with upscale versions of traditional Irish food.

 

COCKTAIL

Black Velvet

(Champagne and Irish Stout)

 

APPETIZERS

Cockles and Mussels in Phyllo Cups

(with tomato/tarragon/cream sauce)

 

Corned Beef and Cabbage Rolls

(brisket braised in stout, combined with onions caramelized with honey-mustard)

 

Irish Cheese

 

SOUP

Leek and Potato

(celery root, apple, sage and marrow bones)

 

ENTREE

Rack of Lamb 

(with red wine sauce)

 

Baby Green Peas 

(with chives)

 

Baked-in-Butter Potato Slivers

(potatoes Anna)

 

SALAD

Carrots, Onion and Fennel

(dressed with mayonnaise/carrot juice reduction, topped with mint)

 

DESSERTS

Bread Pudding with Bailey’s Whipped Cream

(with chocolate chunks, dried cherries and pecans) 

 

Strawberries

(for dipping in the Bailey’s whipped cream sauce)

 

Irish Coffee

(the original served at Shannon airport)

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

 

Invitation. Buy cards for St. Patrick’s Day. Print the text on green paper and glue to the inside of the card. It will look especially inviting if the paper is cut in the shape of a shamrock.

Text for invitation. Let’s celebrate the coming of Spring with a salute to the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day. Join us for a dinner that successful Irish immigrants, “Lace Curtain” folk, might have served a century ago, especially if they were trying to impress.

 

Entrance décor. A decorative swag with shamrocks placed on your front door would be perfect. Or tape several large paper or cardboard shamrocks on the door.

 

Greeting guests. The Irish can be extravagantly exuberant, so set the mood with music that’s upfront, not background. Play rollicking tunes with humorous Irish lyrics such as those by the Clancy Brothers. Wear green and welcome them with an Irish accent. Lead them into the living room and hand them the opening cocktail with this Irish adage: Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love thy enemy. 

 

Souvenir menu. Print the menu on green card stock. Cut white, lace-paper doilies to form a curtain-like effect across the top and partway down the sides of the menu. Add white paper or plastic flowers to the corners.

 

Room décor. A mix of elegance and whimsy becomes the theme. Leprechaun figurines or cutouts placed strategically with lace and shamrocks will do the trick. Decorate the cocktail table with green shamrock confetti and small white doilies as coasters. In a tall vase, place long stems of green Bells of Ireland, available at most florists this time of year.

 

Table décor. Make the table look as elegant as possible, with white linens, lace, crystal and china. For glamour and distinctiveness, scatter small green shamrocks and/or white flowers (plastic or real ones such as wax flowers). For a centerpiece, use flowers with greenery. Or buy three pots of clover, add sprigs of baby’s breath and cover the pots with green foil; arrange in a triangle or space down the center of the table.

 

Mood music. You started the evening with boisterous Irish music as the guests sipped cocktails. When you serve the appetizers, because one is made with cockles and mussels, play “Molly Malone.” As the evening progresses, you might switch to Irish folk songs and, toward the end, to beautiful and haunting melodies played on an Irish harp. 

 

Favor. Give your guests a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Put gold-wrapped chocolates in a small box covered in rainbow-design paper or use gold paper with ribbons of rainbow colors.

Note for favor. May you have all the happiness and luck that life can hold and at the end of all your rainbows may you find a pot of gold!

RECIPE  GUIDELINES

 

COCKTAIL

Irish adage. Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love thy enemy.

 

Your guests might expect Irish stout. Why not fancy it up with champagne? It’s called a Black Velvet when the proportions are 1:1 and the two are mixed. However, if you slowly pour the stout into a champagne glass, then slowly add the champagne, you will have two layers, a visually interesting result. Of course, guests could have either stout or champagne alone.

APPETIZERS

COCKLES AND MUSSELS IN PHYLLO CUPS

A duo that appears in the famous Irish song, “Molly Malone,” but not in typical shellfish recipes, a dish of cockles and mussels provides a witty way to start your party. It’s a pretty dish, too. White shellfish snuggle in a pink sauce topped with specks of green.

Preparation. Make a cream sauce with tomato and tarragon. Steam the shellfish, remove from shells, mix with sauce and spoon into bite-size phyllo cups. Sprinkle with chopped tarragon and serve warm.

 

CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE ROLLS

Corned beef and cabbage are linked in the American mind to the Irish. In Ireland, the traditional Easter dish was bacon and cabbage. However, in the new world, bacon was expensive and Irish immigrants learned from their Jewish neighbors to cook corned beef instead for their Easter table. For a witty take on the traditional dish and to scale it up, make mini versions of the Northern European classic, cabbage rolls, yours stuffed with spicy corned beef. 

Preparation. Braise a corned brisket of beef in Guinness’s stout and combine with caramelized onions mixed with honey mustard. Make bite-size rolls of blanched cabbage leaves wrapped around the corned beef mixture. 

 

IRISH CHEESES

The Irish are not known for their cheeses and cheese stores do not always carry them.  However, in recent years, a number of interesting Irish cheeses have appeared. You may be lucky enough to find one in your local cheese store. If not, they are available over the Internet. Alternatively, choose a soft or semi-soft cheese and mold it into a shamrock shape. Cover it with chopped parsley. Serve with a good French baguette. You may serve the bread with butter or already buttered, as many Irish would have done. Use an Irish butter such as yummy Kerrigold. The company also makes Irish cheese.

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Plating the appetizers 

Form the outline of a three-leaf clover with chopped parsley on individual dishes. Place one of the appetizers inside each “leaf.” Serve additional helpings separately.

SOUP

LEEK AND POTATO 

Irish adage. May good luck be with you wherever you go and your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.

 

Vichyssoise is an upscale version of the common potato soup. It adds leeks and uses heavy cream rather than stock or water and is served cold. To boost this elegant soup up a notch for double “lace curtain” status, serve a hot version with additional ingredients that add depth and complexity.

Preparation. Follow a recipe for vichyssoise but sauté leeks with celery root, apple, sage and marrow bones. A hearty chicken stock and white wine (3:1) will perfect the dish.

Plating the soup. To be quite fancy, whip heavy cream until it just begins to stiffen. Fold in some salt and a generous amount of parsley so that the mixture looks green. Form a shamrock on top of each soup bowl. Or, more simply, garnish with fried sage leaves for color and crunch.

Complementary beverage. The wine must hold up to the body and full flavor of the soup. A dry white such as a sauvignon blanc from the Loire valley (pouilly fume` or pouilly fuisse`) or New Zealand will suit this soup.

ENTREE 

Irish adage. Here's to the wine we love to drink, and the food we like to eat.

Here's to our spouses and sweethearts, let's pray they never meet. And when this life is over, may all of us find peace.

 

RACK OF LAMB WITH RED WINE SAUCE

Lamb stew is a common association to “Irish food” and it was an everyday dish, not for special occasions. But rack of lamb is always special and especially so served with a red-wine sauce to accent the sweetness of lamb. 

Preparation. Have your butcher French the chops, for elegance and plating design. Marinating the rack in an herb paste (garlic, parsley, thyme, rosemary and for an extra-special touch, edible lavender buds) is the way to go for “lace curtain” panache. Serve with a red-wine reduction.

 

BAKED-IN-BUTTER POTATO SLIVERS

Potatoes were the staple of the Irish diet, often the only ingredient. It is estimated that the average Irish worker in the late 19tth century ate as much as 23 pounds of potatoes a day! On special occasions, my (L.P.) Irish mother prepared potatoes in the way given here. She referred to “slivers” rather than “slices” and considered the preparation quite special since, she said, it was the French way. French, indeed, known as Pommes Anna in that country. These potatoes are still special, indeed, superb. Their crispy edges and buttery richness perfectly complement the tenderness of the lamb and the acidic tone of the wine sauce. 

Preparation. Follow a recipe for Pommes Anna. You may wish to prepare a modern version with less butter than in the original. 

 

GREEN PEAS WITH CHIVES

Peas suit the cool weather of Ireland and were a favored vegetable of the Irish. The green of the crunchy peas with the zing of the chives will round out the colors, flavors and textures of the dishes in the main course.

Preparation. Prepare fresh or frozen peas. Butter them generously and stir in a generous amount of chopped chives.

Plating the entrée

Suggest a shamrock. Arrange three chops in a shamrock-like formation at the top of the plate. Spoon some red-wine sauce over them. Place a mound of potatoes at lower left and a mound of peas at lower right. Pass the remaining sauce separately.

Complementary beverage

A red wine with high acidity will perfectly complement the lamb and buttery potatoes.  Use a cabernet sauvignon or pinot  noir. 

SALAD

Carrot Salad

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Irish adage. May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty.

 

Colorful and striking, with a delightfully different and highly flavorful dressing, this salad embodies Irish wit.

Preparation. Steam carrots until barely tender. Cut them, fresh fennel and sweet onion in julienne. For the dressing, reduce 2 cups of carrot juice to ¼ cup and cool. Stir in ½ cup each of mayonnaise and sour cream. Mix dressing and vegetables and place in a cup of the greenest cabbage leaves you can find.

Plating the salad. Place the filled cabbage cup on a plate and sprinkle the top with chopped mint.

DESSERTS

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Irish Adage. There are good ships and there are wood ships. But the best ships are friendships and may we always be.

 

BREAD PUDDING WITH BAILEY’S IRISH CREAM

Bread pudding was a humble dish, a way to use up stale bread. A dessert staple on the Irish immigrant’s table, it was, when possible, served with the addition of raisins. 

Preparation. For bread pudding that is certainly “lace curtain” and definitely delicious, filled with flavor and texture contrasts, make one with heavy cream, dried sweet cherries, vanilla bean, chunks of bittersweet chocolate and pieces of pecan. It’s better if made a day in advance. Serve with a thick sauce of whipped heavy cream flavored with Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur.

 

STRAWBERRIES

The bread pudding is very rich, as are most of the other dishes in this menu. A second dessert must be light. Serve a bowl of very ripe, very flavorful strawberries. They will complement the flavors in the pudding and, if guests wish, they may dip their red berries into the luscious Bailey’s whipped cream sauce.

Plating the desserts

Place a small amount of the bread pudding on a dessert plate. Top with a tablespoon or so of the Bailey’s cream sauce and place more sauce to the side. Pass a bowl of strawberries and suggest that guests dip them in the sauce. 

Complementary Beverage

Would an Irish dinner be complete without Irish coffee? Before serving, quote this adage: Work is the curse of the drinking class. And perhaps this one: Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.

EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

Cocktail. What could be more “lace curtain” than Guinness with champagne? It’s simple enough.

 

Appetizers. Go cheesy, it’s easy, and a bit different if you serve the Irish cheese with Irish butter. Kerrygold butter and cheese is widely available and quite delicious. The corned beef in cabbage roll would be our pick from the other two just because, here in America, an Irish dinner seems incomplete without corned beef and cabbage. You can make the filling as much as three days in advance or freeze it.

 

Soup or Salad. Go for the salad. It’s unusual in conception, intriguingly tasty with great crunch, very pretty and refreshing.

 

Entrée. Choose the green peas for color and simplicity. It’s the healthy choice, too.

 

Dessert. The bread pudding will take some time but is worth it for its outstanding taste. Note that it is better when made a day before.

 

Favor. You can get it ready days ahead.

A FAT TUESDAY CELEBRATION
The Feast Before the Fast

Inspiration:  Mardi Gras, March

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With festive surroundings and platters of Cajun and Creole delights, each guest will feel like Mardi Gras’s “King for the Day.”

HOST’S INTRODUCTION

“Mardi Gras” means Fat Tuesday, implying indulgence and extravagance for this last day

before the long weeks of Lenten abstention. Nowhere is that spirit stronger than in New Orleans.  The atmosphere is charged. Celebrations go on for days with grand parades where performers and spectators alike dress in outlandish and colorful costumes highlighted with strings of beads and masks. Vivid purples, greens and golds are everywhere. Everywhere there is music, dancing in the street and partying. And everywhere there is feasting on glorious Cajun and Creole cooking. The food alone is cause for celebration.

 

Mardi Gras is a perfect theme for a dazzling dinner. Pull out all the stops in décor and delight your guests with a menu of dishes rich in taste, colorful and sumptuous in appearance. For example, your guests will talk for months about the platter of balloons made from purple potatoes sprinkled with edible gold flakes. Absolutely gorgeous and totally Mardi Gras! Course after course, your dinner guests will definitely be dazzled, not least by the dinner’s witty and whimsical dessert, an edible mask of tasty pastry.

 

Ready, get set…

INDULGE!

 

Appropriate for: Pre-Lenten celebrations, any occasion related to New Orleans, any time you wish to evoke the spirit of New Orleans.​

MENU

 
A FAT TUESDAY CELEBRATION

The Feast Before the Fast
Featuring Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole Cuisines

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COCKTAIL

Champagne

 

APPETIZERS

Cajun Kabobs with Shrimp and Kiwi

Monkfish with Bourbon Cream in Pastry Shell

Olives Stuffed with Andouille Sausage

 

SOUP

Salmon and Potato Chowder

 

ENTREE

Steak au Noir

Mardi Gras Potatoes

Sweet Carrots with Fresh Herbs

 

SALAD

Mesclun with Tangerines and Cointreau Vinaigrette

 

DESSERTS

King Cake

Berries Harlequin

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

 

Invitation. Use the colors of Mardi Gras, green, gold and purple, in the paper and ink. Place on the top a Mardi Gras symbol or a photo such as a feathered mask or strings of Mardi Gras beads.

Text for invitation. It’s time to feast before the fast. Join us, please, for a New Orleans dinner of indulgence to celebrate Mardi Gras. 

 

Entrance décor. On the pathway leading to your front door or in the entrance hallway, strew gold coins and beads. Place them on the perimeter where people will not walk on them. Complete the stunning first impression your guests will receive with a large feathered mask or colorful harlequin on your door.

 

Greeting guests. Be extravagant in decorating yourself and be generous in giving guests beads, feathers, masks and noisemakers. Lead them into the living room and hand each a glass of champagne and the souvenir menu. Your guests will love it when they hear New Orleans’s signature song, When the Saints Go Marching In. Download a version by its most famous performer, Louis Armstrong.

 

Souvenir menu. As with the invitation, print the menu with Mardi Gras colors for paper (or card stock) and ink. Fold it in half like a tent, printed side in. Purchase a feathered mask and glue to front of tent. Alternatively, draw a mask on the front of the “tent” or copy one from the Internet. 

 

Room décor. Create the exuberance of Mardi Gras with lavish use of glittering purple, green and gold. Decorate your cocktail table with confetti, gold coins and beads. Arrange balloons around living and dining areas.  

 

Table décor. For a fabulous and festive look, pair a purple tablecloth or purple place mats with gold napkins. Use green beads as a napkin ring. For a centerpiece, use an arrangement bursting with feathers or flowers or both - in purple, green and gold, of course. Scatter gold coins, colorful confetti, feathers and beads on the table.

 

Mood music. The selections are countless. Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Cajun, Zydeco and Ragtime.

 

Favor. Pralines are the iconic New Orleans sweet. Purchase or bake them yourself. Wrap in gold foil and tie with purple and green ribbon.

Note for favor. A last indulgence – pralines, the iconic sweet treat of New Orleans.  

RECIPE GUIDELINES

For full recipes see the Dazzling Dinners page

With Suggestions for Plating and Complementary Beverages

 

COCKTAIL

What’s more festive than Champagne? 

Preparation. Fill a Champagne glass and then float on top a purple pansy with gold center and green stem. Pansies are edible and available this time of year. Pick the pansies within an hour of use.

APPETIZERS

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CAJUN KABOBS WITH SHRIMP AND KIWI

Use toothpicks with gold frills to skewer cool, green slices of kiwi and spicy, sizzling shrimp.  Stick the toothpicks in a shiny, purple eggplant and voila! Perfect Mardi Gras color and taste!

Preparation. Marinate shrimp in a spicy New Orleans-style marinade for a few hours and then grill. Peel and then cut kiwi crosswise into ¼-inch slices. Lay eggplant on its side. If it is not stable, cut a small slice from the underside. Skewer a slice of kiwi and one shrimp with a frilly gold toothpick. Insert toothpick into eggplant. Continue placing shrimp/kiwi kabobs into eggplant until the top and sides are covered.  

 

MONKFISH WITH BOURBON CREAM IN PASTRY SHELL

Often compared to lobster, monkfish is sweet in taste and firm in texture. With a rich sauce and nestled in a crisp pastry shell, opulent is the word for this dish. 

Preparation. Sweat onion, garlic, celery and green bell pepper in butter. Briefly sauté small chunks of monkfish. Add a touch of Louisiana hot sauce, a bit of bourbon and heavy cream that has been reduced by half and cook on low heat for a minute. Spoon into small pastry shells and warm as directed on package. Garnish with a bit of finely chopped chives.

 

OLIVES STUFFED WITH ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE

These little treats are salty and spicy with a center surprise.

Preparation. Buy pitted, large green olives. Sauté finely chopped Andouille sausage (casing removed) in olive oil. Add some bread crumbs and hot pepper flakes. Stuff each olive with this mixture.

Plating the appetizers

Show off each appetizer separately. (1) For the shrimp and kiwi, cover a platter with curly parsley. Set eggplant on top. (2) For the monkfish, use a purple, gold or white serving platter. Scatter chopped chives around the border and arrange the pastry shells in a radial pattern. (3) For the olives, skewer each with a frilly gold toothpick and place in an olive tray or other platter. You may have to trim the bottom so each can stand upright. 

SOUP

SALMON AND POTATO CHOWDER

Serve a hearty multi-colored soup full of rich flavors appropriate for a festive occasion. 

Preparation. New Orleans chowders and gumbos are typically made with a dark roux and sautéed onion, garlic, celery, green bell pepper, thyme and hot pepper. Most Cajun/Creole chowder recipes on the Internet use shrimp. Follow a recipe but substitute chunks of salmon for the shrimp and add small pieces of potato or corn.

Plating the soup. Green soup bowls would be perfect, but white or cream is fine. Beforehand, cut purple foil or wrapping paper into circles the size of the liners for the soup bowls. Place the paper on the liner and then the soup bowl.

Complementary beverage. A California chardonnay makes a nice match.

ENTREE

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STEAK AU NOIR

Each bite delivers an explosion of gustatory joy, thanks to the crisp, spicy crust and tender, juicy interior.

Preparation. Make a dry rub of equal parts paprika, cayenne and garlic powder with salt to taste. Rub shell steaks with the mixture and pan fry with butter or grill.

MARDI GRAS POTATOES

Gorgeous to see and wonderful to taste, this dish is a brilliant take on the Mardi Gras theme. Potatoes are mashed, shaped like balloons with a green chive string and sprinkled with edible gold flakes (or minced gold bell pepper). Purple potatoes are officially called “blue potatoes.”  They vary in color from deep purple to bluish purple and in size from fingerlings to large varieties such as “Purple Majesty.” They are richer in taste than an ordinary potato, but also, like other blue foods (e.g., blueberries), their high anti-oxidant content makes them a very healthy choice. Putting shallots into the steaming water will infuse a harmonizing, subtle note of oniony goodness to the potatoes.

Preparation. Boil shallots in a pot shallowly filled with water. Steam purple fingerlings cut lengthwise in half or small cubes of large purple potatoes until tender. Put through a food mill or mash. Stir in a generous amount of butter. Form into circles of serving size. These are the “balloons” that will get their strings at plating. Sprinkle with edible gold flakes or lightly sautéed minced gold peppers.

 

CARROT COINS WITH FRESH HERBS

If possible, use golden (yellow) carrots to reinforce the Mardi Gras theme. When sliced, golden carrots will resemble the “gold” coins tossed to the crowds. Fresh green herbs add color to yellow or orange carrots. Honey contributes sweetness, fragrance and a touch of gloss.

Preparation. Peel and cut yellow carrots into ¼-inch circles. Sauté in a generous amount of butter until almost tender. Add a bit of water and some honey to the pan. Simmer until carrots are tender and nicely glazed. Toss with chopped parsley.

Plating the entrée

With a spatula, carefully lift one potato “balloon” and place at the top center of the dinner plate. Stick a long chive “string” into the bottom of the “balloon” so that it extends down the center of the plate. Place 1 steak to the side and a mound of carrots to the other side. Sprinkle some chopped green herb around the periphery of the plate.

Complementary beverage

A spicy, chewy Zinfandel suits the spirit of Mardi Gras and the bold flavors of the entrée.

SALAD

MESCLUN WITH FENNEL AND TANGERINES, COINTREAU VINAIGRETTE

Zesty, refreshing, and colorful describes this light and easy-to-make salad. 

Preparation. Top mesclun with tangerine sections and finely chopped fennel. Dress with olive oil, white wine vinegar and Cointreau.

Plating the salad. Put salad into martini or other stemmed glasses with wide diameter.

DESSERTS

KING CAKE

Folklore states that the person whose slice of this traditional Mardi Gras cake contains the buried doll will be rewarded with good luck and will be responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party.

Preparation. Buy a small doll. Make or buy a King Cake. If making, wrap a small (1 inch) doll in foil and insert before baking. If you bought the cake, use a knife to make a slit in the bottom of the cake and insert the doll.

 

BERRY HARLEQUIN

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End your party as you started it, with perfect Mardi Gras color and taste. A simple mask is used as the pattern to make a mask of pastry dough. Add green kiwis, purplish blackberries and golden mango for the stunning and refreshing finish to your Mardi Gras evening.

Preparation. (1) Trace the shape of a mask onto parchment paper - one for each guest. (2) Prepare a simple pastry batter. Reserve two tablespoons of batter and add some cocoa to make the batter a dark shade - set aside. (3) Spread a thin layer of the pastry batter onto the mask outline. Do not fill in the eyes. (4) Using the cocoa batter, make eyebrows and draw a line where the nose is located. You can also add the cocoa batter at the top ends of the mask and feather down the sides.  To feather, run the tip of a toothpick through the batter to make a feather design. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F. (5) For each guest, place a saucer upside down on a flat surface. Immediately after masks come out of oven, peel off parchment and place each mask face up over a saucer. Once cooled, it will give the mask a slight oval shape. Cool and store in airtight container. (6) Cut mango and green kiwi into small balls. Toss them and blackberries with Sambuca or other licorice-flavored liqueur.

Plating the desserts

Sift confectioner’s sugar over large dinner plates. Place one mask to one side of each plate, then scatter fruit around the mask. A slice of King Cake fits on the other side. Be sure to alert your guests to finding the “good luck” doll inserted into the cake.

EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

Cocktail. So simple. Pop a pansy into a glass of Champagne.

 

Appetizers. The shrimp and kiwi kebob on a whole eggplant is a real crowd pleaser so if you have the time, make it. To simplify the sausage-stuffed olives, skewer lightly sautéed andouille sausage chunks and a green pitted olive with a frilly gold toothpick.

 

Soup or Salad. The salad is certainly simpler than the soup, quite colorful and refreshing.

 

Entrée. The purple potato balloons are stunning and unique, guaranteed to elicit “ooohs” and “aaahs” from your guests. They will take some time but it will be worth it. The steak and carrots will not take much time. 

 

Dessert. Purchase the King cake. Skip the mask and serve a pretty bowl of green kiwis, purplish blackberries and golden mango

 

Favor. Purchase praline candy and, days ahead, wrap as described.