Presentation: It’s as Important as the Seasoning

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Making a dish visually appealing is as important as making sure it’s seasoned properly. Sometimes it’s just the smallest of touches that can make all the difference, like – what bowl you serve it in, what garnish you use and how you actually plate it up. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anything coming out of my kitchen looking like it came out of a haute cuisine restaurant, but I do love the idea of presenting it in a way that indicates to my guests I went to a little extra effort just for them. Here are a few of my favorite presentation tips. They are quick, easy and will have your guests oohing and aahing at you next dinner party.

Soup: Soup is a perfect dinner-party first course as it can be made ahead and simply reheated if being served hot or just plated if being served cold. I have two schools of thought when it comes to soup. The first is to serve it in something other than a soup bowl – a tea or coffee cup with saucer, or if it’s a cold soup a low stemmed margarita, martini or wine glass. The second idea is to serve it in a traditional bowl, but with a garnish. You could go with chopped fresh herbs, a little dollop of cream or even something complimentary to the dish like a strip of bacon sticking a little out of the bowl or slices of avocado to give a little added texture.

Rice: Rice is a perfect complement to a dinner-party main course. You can make it ahead of time, keeping it warm in a bain marie or double boiler. When it comes time to serve you can pile it high in the middle of a warmed bowl/plate and serve the main dish on top or divide your dish with the main course and rice each on one side of the plate/bowl. Another great way to serve it is to place it in a buttered ramekin and ‘turn it out’ onto the plate creating a shape. Here, let me show you. You can serve your dish around the rice or to the side of the rice. A few minutes of effort right before serving really makes a big impact here.
Potatoes: Like rice, mashed potatoes are a great dinner-party side dish. You can make them ahead, keeping them warm in a bain marie or double boiler. They work well with meat or fish and come on, who doesn’t love mashed potatoes?  I like to use an ice cream scoop to plate the potatoes in the middle of the plate and then place the other food on or around the potatoes. Another way to plate the potatoes is to use ‘chef’s rings’ to create rounds of the potatoes on the plate. You can stack cooked mushrooms, herbs or even a little breadcrumbs and butter on top, for a little added flavor.
Fresh Herbs: Herbs are a great way to garnish any course prior to serving. They add to both the visual and the flavor of the dish. You can place a little sprig on top or chop up the herb and sprinkle it decoratively on the dish. Either way, don’t wait until you’re ready to serve to wash, chop, etc. Have your herbs ready to go in a resealable plastic bag (with some paper towel to absorb the moisture and keep them fresh).
Food Placement: When putting the food on your plate or in your bowl try to be creative. Don’t just rush to put it on, but try and place the items next to each other in a way that they will be visually appealing. A good example is when plating lamb chops, you could just sit them on the plate side by side, but they are visually more appealing when they are crisscrossed and leaning against a tower of sautéed potatoes and cauliflower. Just like with the beef and mashed potato dish, you can almost taste the combination of flavors with your eyes.

 

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