Need help with fancying up my food
September 7, 2014 11:20 PM   Subscribe

I've been given the opportunity to work out of a kitchen at a restaurant in Tokyo. The chef is letting me use the restaurant to have a tasting event in a couple weeks time, and I'd like some ideas for what to make. I've been doing hamburgers and hotdogs in a pretty low-scale bar, and this new place is a pretty nice restaurant in an upscale area in Tokyo, so I need to step up quite a bit, but still focusing on my hand-made sausages/cured meats, and so on.

First off the stuff I make:

Sausage (German style bratwurst, Kielbasa, Andouille, rosemary garlic sausage, chipotle garlic sausage, herb lamb sausage, merguez), bacon, tasso ham, pulled pork, pate de campagne, rillettes, smoked almonds, smoked cheeses.

I'm pretty comfortable with a wide range of cooking styles, what I'm mostly looking for are ideas for dishes that can be set out on the counter and sampled by the guests. It'll be a mostly standing party, so nothing requiring the guests to cut. So far, I'm thinking two kinds of pasta (mushrooms and bacon in an oil and garlic sauce, and rosemary garlic sausage with broccoli in a light cream sauce), pulled pork sliders (not so classy, I know), and maybe a jambalaya using the tasso ham and andouille, as well as a salad, possibly with sliced smoked chicken. There would be dishes of smoked nuts and cheese, as well as some thin sliced ham, pate, and rillettes.

I'm trying to think of good vegetable dishes to serve, as well as any other ideas people might have. The event will be about four hours long, and I'd like to be able to serve dishes every fifteen minutes or so. Using, or even highlighting the meat I'm hoping to create demand for, what other dishes would you recommend?
posted by Ghidorah to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Bacon wrapped dates. Caprese skewers. Sausage sautéed with mushrooms, onion, and spinach.
posted by ms_rasclark at 11:45 PM on September 7, 2014

What's your audience? Will they be predominantly Japanese? Are they likely to be culinarily adventurous? Even if they are, it seems likely they would appreciate having at least a couple of dishes that are either more traditionally Japanese or echo traditional Japanese dishes. If you have been living and cooking there, you probably know more about that than I do.

That said, what about pizza? You could do little mini-pizzas to make them easier to eat. You could have smoked cheese on one/some of them and do combinations like smoked cheese, roast pumpkin and caramelised onion; broccolini and sausage; good old ham and pineapple; bacon and smoked chicken.

And Nigel Slater does a sausagey lentil thing which is heavenly - I modify it to use Polish sausage (kielbasa) instead of salami and chipotles and I've never had complaints. Not that helps much with vegetables.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:20 AM on September 8, 2014

Prosciutto wrapped grilled asparagus spears are heavenly and you could substitute a different cured meat. Balsamic vinaigrette reduction to dip them in.
posted by fshgrl at 12:44 AM on September 8, 2014

Sauteed brussels sprouts and bacon. Bratwurst and sauerkraut inside puff pastry, with mustard for dipping. Rumaki, because the idea of serving pseudo-Japanese food in Japan is hilarious.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:17 AM on September 8, 2014

Easiest way to fancy things up without completely revamping your menu: put thought into presentation. Stacked foods, pretty garnishes, small portions, a swish and dotted sauces around... Make the presentation just as exciting as the food.
posted by troytroy at 4:55 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

You mention that you make a lot of delicious sounding sausages. Why not serve some of those sausages on cocktail sticks, 1970s style?
posted by monotreme at 9:31 AM on September 8, 2014

"Sandwiches" of cucumber slices, yogurt sauce, and your lamb sausage.
Kushiyaki style presentation of grilled skewers with Andouille and green onion, rosemary garlic sausage and mushroom.
Bratwurst in lightly-salted cabbage wraps with a little berry jam.
Smoked cheese with broiled fig wedges.
Saffron roasted cauliflower with almonds.
Wilted pea shoots and rillettes spread on flatbread.
posted by Mizu at 3:55 AM on September 9, 2014

Skip the pasta; it's terrible at a passed app party because it requires two hands to eat. (Not a judgement; pretty much anything that takes two hands is awful for passed app parties.)

Stick to your strengths: do your charcuterie and serve with appropriate things to dip, spread on, or garnish. Pickles of all varieties (there's, as you know, a long pickling tradition in Japan), mustards, etc. Maybe something fermented like a sauerkraut or kimchi. You're slightly too late to do a duck prosciutto but if you start like right now with relatively thin duck breasts you may be able to pull it off.

Maybe branch out into preserved fish if you have time. Gravlax takes 72 hours, and there are fish sausages, gefilte fish, that sort of thing.

Honestly for this sort of party, as much as I hate to say it, presentation trumps taste (not, as in not saying your food doesn't taste great). Pulled pork sliders can be classy as all hell and super popular as long as you make them look sexy enough for the environment.

Stick to what you know and what you do, and push your limits on those axes. Catering an event for a first-time group is the worst time to try brand new things. And stick to one-hand, one- or two-bite things to eat. Juggling a fork and something to eat and a wine glass and conversation is just annoying for everyone.

Break a leg! (And share recipes!!!!!)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:56 PM on September 10, 2014

Oh, just did this on Monday for a catering (not my recipe; chef's):

Take 1 (or however many you need) octopus. Simmer in lightly salted water (maybe with konbu added?) at a very low temperature--70-80C--for about two hours. Turn off heat, let cool in the pot. Remove, push off skin and suckers with your hands, slice into tentacles and skewer. Dress with olive oil, balsamic, S&P, and some dashes of fresh pureed jalapeno or the equivalent. Tenderest octopus you've ever had, virtually zero actual work. (Or if you have an immersion setup available, cook sous vide and then move on to cleaning.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:16 PM on September 10, 2014

Should have said small octopus; tentacles the size of 1 decent app skewer, or 2 if sliced in half.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:21 PM on September 10, 2014

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