Make the Entree Pretty, Garnish the Inside of the Plate

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I have been looking at my statistics for this site and find that the most popular searches are those which seek information on garnishes.  I have known for a long time that we eat with our eyes.  Just stand behind a buffet line for a while and observe as people go through the line and watch how they avoid an item with even the slightest blemish.  Or when adding a new batch of whatever to a platter they will stop in mid swing, tongs in hand, and take the “new” item you just placed on the tray, even though the food was all prepared together. So making food look beautiful and eye appealing is the name of the game.

Later, when I figure out how to make HTML talk to PHP I am going to put up a most burning question page and ask for your input on the questions you may have about how to garnish a plate or platter.   I plan to start compiling a series of video demonstrations on how to work with vegetables and use them as edible garnishes.  Each week I will cover a new topic which will be posted here, I invite you to participate with your questions and if I use your question I will send you the full DVD for free when I complete the series.  In the mean time I encourage you to leave a comment below.   I will respond accordingly.

Some years ago I participated in a food show.  Just about every major city in the US will have one, usually sponsored by the National Restaurant Association.  The show is mostly an opportunity for the local food and equipment vendors to show off their latest wares to the area restaurateurs and others.  The part of the show I participated in was a judged contest among the  local Chefs in a category known as hot foods shown cold.  This means that you prepare 6 entrees and two platters as though you would be serving them and then you take the entire thing and refrigerate it.

In order to preserve the foods for a long time of public viewing you need to coat the plates and platters with several coats of clear aspic.  That will also explain the glare you see in the pictures below. In previous articles I have shown some of the ways to decorate the outside of a plate or platter.  The entree itself should be the most compelling thing on the plate.  Sometimes that is not easy to do, and you have to think about it for a while.  Recently for a multi course dinner we had to come up with a way to set off a serving of sea bass.  The answer the chef came up with was to place the basic “white/grey” fish on a cake of dual colored beets.  I did not see the finished product as I went elsewhere that night but here is the cake.

Red and Yellow Beetcakes as a base for the Entree

The entree the should become the focal point of your plate and if it is pretty enough you will not need to add much if any peripheral garnish. In the shots below I tried to accomplish that.  The shot of the acorn squash flower is not mine.  I took it because I really admired the amount of work involved in carving an acorn squash by hand and not slipping out of the cut to form such beautiful work.

Hand carved Acorn Squash

In this leg of lamb I used forcemeat and mint wrapped pears to add a stark white/green contrast to the  yellow of the forcemeat and the red/pink of the lamb itself.  The potatoes were fun to do but I was graded down for making the platter too hard for the average chef to spend time doing, whatever that meant.  Yes, they did take some time and years later I found a homemade toy out of a copper pipe to make a quick mushroom in about 15 seconds.  You won’t find that odd kitchen gadget in any kitchen store. Michael Brown Leg of Lamb with Mint/Pear stuffing
Below we have a boned quail which I stuffed with a checkerboard of white and wild rice.  The vegetables are baby zucchini stuffed with brunoise vegetables (carrot, red bell, and purple cabbage). The garnish is a grilled pear round with blackberries.

White and Wild Rice Stuffed Quail
In this long shot you see a salmon decorated with tarragon leaf scales, with cucumber boats of salmon roe in front and baked potatoes stuffed with asparagus spears behind. The stuffed trout has been opened up to reveal his dill filling served with baby carrots. The duck breast medallions are actually roulade spirals with and apple cornbread stuffing. Note the fourth plate has asparagus inside some yellow squash bands.  Most of these decorating ideas are simple to put together, you just have to take or plan a little time.

Leave a comment, I value your input.

Michael Brown

Hot Foods Shown Cold

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Technorati Tags: Fancy Entrees, Food garnishing, Food Shows, odd kitchen gadgets

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