Last weekend, we celebrated my Mom’s birthday with a 5-course dinner. I have cooked many meals for guests with various dishes, but have always served the dishes family-style. To make the birthday dinner a special event, I wanted to serve plated courses. Intimidating at first, I’ll tell you! I have never hosted a more formal dinner, not with more than dinner + dessert. When I first decided to do this, I wondered…how will I pull this off? I would need to serve certain courses that would require minimal “last-minute” cooking, so that I could play both “chef” and sit down at dinner and enjoy eating with my family.
After a few days of planning, I had the menu. I will admit, I was still a bit nervous, but planning was key. I scheduled out what to make ahead and when. Several dishes were make-ahead, and most were not dishes that would be ruined if they stayed on the burner for an additional minute or two. Here was the menu:
Amuse Bouche – Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan (the origins of this recipe are uncertain. I know I based it off of a recipe I found while searching around for appetizers/amuse bouches, but I cannot for the life of me find its origin.)
First Course – Rosemary Salt-Roasted Shrimp with Garlic Butter Sauce (recipe based on an Emeril LaGasse recipe)
Second Course – Masala Ginger Carrot Soup (I will post this recipe soon…stay tuned!)
Main Course – Braised Beef Short Ribs with Creamed Potatoes (recipe based on a recipe from Simply Recipes http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/004085braised_beef_short_ribs.php and a recipe from Tom Colicchio)
Dessert – Brownie Sundae (made with Black Bean Brownies – recipe based on a recipe from Ania Catalano)
The following recipe is for the Amuse Bouche. What is an Amuse Bouche? An Amuse Bouche, roughly translated from French as “mouth amuser”, is a one or two-bite hors d’oeurve served to the guests before the start of a meal. This dish was simple, and easy to prepare in advance. Of course, by increasing the quantity of ingredients, you could always turn it from an Amuse Bouche into a spring-y side dish. Oh, and how did the birthday dinner go? All in all, I was happy with the results of my planning. Mom was happy, and that’s ultimately what matters, right?
Thin asparagus spears (one per person)
Red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 t lemon zest
At least 2-3 ounce wedge of parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet and lay asparagus and bell pepper on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss gently to coat.
Roast for 5-6 minutes, and turn over and roast 5-6 minutes more, or until fork tender. Remove from oven and let come to room temperature. Sprinkle with lemon zest.
At this point, you can refrigerate until needed.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave large curls of parmesan cheese. Set aside.
When ready to assemble, cut the top 2 inches of each asparagus spear (including the tip). Reserve the rest of the stalks for another use. Gently insert each asparagus tip into a Parmesan curl. Garnish each curl with a strip of roasted red pepper. If desired, drizzle additional olive oil and serve.