Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Presentation Obsession - A Vegetable Garlic Cupcake

I am obsessed.

I am not complaining, I am thrilled to still be in the running for the Next Food Blog Star contest (Have you voted?)

But the structure of the contest is a challenge in itself.

Voting ends on Thursday.  We do not find out until Friday if we make the cut, but then we only have 2 days, three hours to accomplish and blog the results of the next Next Food Blog Star challenge.

Which is to plan a menu for a "Luxury Dinner Party".  So, my invitations are out, I have started a little prep work, and am shopping for the dinner.  For the most part, I have set my menu; open to change every time I surf around and see new options, but I have to stop doing that.  

Now I am pondering presentations.

For example... I am planning to serve boeuf bourguignon.  Julia Child's Boef Bourguignon.  It's a dish that can be made ahead of time, has an historical cache' that most people have now heard of (thank you Meryl Streep), and most importantly, is among the most flavorful main dishes possible.  But I am racking my brain trying to come up with a presentation that says luxury for the dish.  When you get down to it, it is just beef stew.  Any thoughts on how to make beef stew look luxurious?

I thought I had it.  I was going to do a criss cross, kind of elongated "X", with a couple TBS of Pea Puree, over a couple TBS of Sweet Potato Puree, with the stew above.  I even sketched it out to help visualize it.  Then my wife said it looked like a negative image of a pirate flag.  Still may happen, just with more swoops and panache to avoid the "shiver me timbers" subliminal image.

Like I said... Any ideas???

Another problem is taking successful dishes and making the individual servings.

Do you all remember this dish...

I was very pleased with the look, it even got selected to be included on TasteSpotting.  But part of the challenge is to do individual platings for all your guests (more luxurious).

For the recipe to the tomatoes and beans (and a little garlic), click HERE.

But today I want to share this individual serving presentation I came up with for the dish.  A little extra effort, an extra ingredient; but that is part of the definitions of a luxury dinner party.

So, here's my thought process to get the big dish down to a small size.

Option one would be to just make the same image, just smaller, less beans, less tomatoes (sadly, less garlic) and still a bed of beans with a cherry tomato topping.

But then my obsession kicked in... Cups.  Cupcakes!

If I add a base circle of prosciutto ham, arrange the beans on the outside and then add the tomatoes in the center, it is similar, but different.  A cup size makes a dramatic presentation, and I think I have a winner...

Assemble the veggie cupcakes in a cupcake liner, in a cupcake pan.  Makes it easy to transfer to a plate, then unfold the liner, slide out from the bottom and you are ready to serve...

But, much as I like the look, this dish didn't make the cut for my menu. First, it is a bit time consuming to make. While making the dish ahead of time is possible, the problem is keeping the dish hot, without continuing to cook. I am pretty proud of my beans. I have been able to master the art of cooking to a snap, completely hot, yet still have a snap to them. I always think that the measure of a restaurant is not their main courses (anyone can cook a steak); but the measure is their side dishes, and specifically their vegetables. It is just too easy for a restaurant to have a pot of beans going, a medley of summer vegetables in the warming oven. Sure, they are served hot, but also hot and limp.

The challenge is to be a part of the dinner, as well as the cook and server. Taking the 20 minutes or so that it would take to make fresh and serve hot from the skillet is just not an option (and still follow the concept of the challenge).

So, the obsession continues...


  1. The challenge is definitely heating up. I've voted and wish you the best.

  2. This is definitely a lot of work!!

  3. Presentation is something that always consumes my thoughts. I tend to search around on tastespotting and foodgawker for inspiration. This schedule for PFB is driving me crazy also! I need more time!

  4. Dave, I'm trying to come up with some ideas for presentation of the Beef Bourg. for you. I would definitely cook the Beef in the wine sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it. Once it is cold and the fat has risen to the top take it off. Remove the meat and heat the sauce (strain if necessary) and then thicken it. It gets glossy that way. Add the meat back in. Cook the mushrooms and onions separately and add them at serving time. Garnish with the cooked bacon and anything else you might want to add. Look at the picture I just posted of a pork presentation at a restaurant in Atlanta. There is a puddle of sauce around the food. Just a possibility. You could put the stew on a bed of mashed potatoes. I know you will come up with something spectacular. Good luck.