Presentation is Everything!

Whether you are cooking for a roomful of guests for a special occasion … or just preparing something delicious for your family, the final “presentation” of your dish can make all the difference. Try to imaging how your guests will react when presented with a wonderful work of art rather than just a simple meal. The idea is that they should say “ooooooohhhh…look at that!”. It should be something fresh and surprising…something that will add satisfaction and enjoyment to the dining experience as a whole.

Let’s take a look at how you might serve a traditional “meat & potatoes” meal with a bit of added flair. For our example, let’s prepare filet mignon, homemade garlic and basil mashed potatoes, and asparagus. Now, remember, you can use these same ideas for a lot of dishes…the meat could be pork chops, sausage, a rack of lamb, pot roast, or even a simple hamburger. The potato could be baked or mashed or stuffed. And, any vegetable would work equally well. Prepare homemade garlic and basil mashed potatoes in advance. Blanch the asparagus, being mindful not to overcook…it should be firm with just a hint of crunch. Cover and set aside. Prepare a simple white sauce. It could be Alfredo, which is simply heavy cream, parmesan cheese, and butter. Or, just use fresh parmesan (or any kind of cheese). Cover the filet mignon generously with fresh ground pepper and sear on both sides over high heat. Reduce the heat and slow cook the steak until it is cooked through to your liking. Use oversized plates if you have them. Place the steak on one third of the plate. Place a scoop of our homemade mashed potatoes on the second third, being careful to keep the potatoes in one small area of the surface of the dish. Stack up the asparagus to the final third, so that they look like a pile of logs stacked on each other with the heads all facing the same direction. Spoon a couple tablespoons of the white sauce over the center of the asparagus, creating a small pool of sauce. Stick one or two fresh basil leaves into the top of the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle some dry seasonings of your choice around the rim of the plate and as the final touch. Serve immediately!

When presenting to the table, try to bring all of the dishes at the same time. If serving a larger group, ask someone to help. And, whaaaaaala!…just a few extra touches, and your presentation has transformed your “meal” into a unique dining experience!

*** Hint: The ingredients used to add these extra dashes of presentation need not be expensive! Use whatever you have on-hand in your home.

*** Hint: Serving something steaming hot, whether steak or pasta, helps the presentation a great deal. Use warm dishware. It simply becomes a matter of heating up your oven to 200 degrees and placing a stack of plates in there a few minutes before serving. As long as the heat is fairly low, the dishes should not be in any danger of cracking/breaking…even those dishes that are not dishwasher safe. You can also turn off the oven after it has been used, and then let the dishes sit inside as it slowly cools. The other key here is the food will stay warm…this is hard to accomplish sometimes, even during the short time it takes to server the food from the pans to the dishware to the table. Food cools off very quickly, and it can be especially advantageous to use warm plates when serving larger groups. Be sure to warn your guests that the plates are hot! And as one additional note for dishes, while fancy dishware can be a nice touch, it need not be the key factor for your dining experience. Use the best dishes that you have, and add those little touches that will spice up your final presentation.

If serving wine, choose your best glassware to compliment. Use this as a general rule…larger wine glasses make magnificent presentation! For red wine, choose a glass that has a capacity of at least 20 oz. For red, a 22 oz. glass would be outstanding. The rim (or top) of the glass should be turned slightly inward. The idea here is that glass need only be filled 1/3 to 1/2 full. This gives the wine plenty of air and allows the guest to swirl the liquid, look at it’s color, and inhale it’s fragrance. A lot of wine connoisseurs will recommend a different glass for each variety of wine. For most, however, I would recommend buying one or two nice sets of wine glasses…one for red…one for white.

My own personal preference would be to buy a really nice set of red wine glasses and use those for both red and white. Perhaps, think about buying two or three sets of the same glass, so they will match for serving larger groups of guests. The presentation of serving white wine in a large glass will be just as amazing as using it with red! Remember, a good glass makes all the difference when serving wine!

As the final touch to your evening artistry in the kitchen, it’s time for dessert! Try using full sized plates or dishes. Is this size too large for a single slice of cake or single serving of your delicacy? Yes! And, that’s the idea. The oversized plate dramatically enhances to the presentation. And, it gives us a bit of room to throw on some pizzazz!

Try these ideas, for example. Sprinkle powdered sugar all over the plate, including the rim. Or, apply chocolate syrup in long lines both directions across the plates, forming a grid. Then, carefully place your desert in the exact center, being careful not to touch any other portion of the dish. Add couple small mountains of homemade whipped cream from a dispenser to the front left and front right of the desert. Finally, place a sprinkle of nuts, M&M’s or maybe a couple of chocolate covered espresso beans on top of the whipped cream.

It’s these simple “extras” that make all the difference. And, it’s easy!

Bon App├ętit!

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