Making
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The Meal Presentation

6 Steps to Perfect Plate Presentation

When your thinking of cooking a special dish for your intimate meal and want to present it beautifully, here are 6 steps to a great presentation.

1. FRESH INGREDIENTS
2. SIMPLICITY
3. CONTRAST
4. DEFINITION
5. SPACING
6. TIMING

Lets Do a Salmon Dinner together

1. Fresh Natural Ingredients

This is the most basic rule of all good cooking.

Choose a really nice fresh piece of salmon, not one that has been frozen for a long time. A good piece of fish needs very little to make it complete. A nice sauce but just to just enhance it is fine, but never to mask it or complicate it. A mango salsa is a good choice.

2. Simplicity

You have all heard of the kiss principle but here is a better way to remember it when working with food. I was at the Red Lion, in Boise, Idaho 20 years ago doing a 100 dollar a plate dinner, back then it was a lot of money. I was so nervous being a young chef. I was trying to make a Mona Lisa out of a stuffed trout for the appetizer. I remember the chef came by when we were working on the presentation and I was asking him all kinds of questions about this and that and he commented saying , “Remember simplicity is elegance”.

So lets say you BBQ a the salmon filet.
Place it on the center of the plate ….that is the simplest. Almost too simple Lets add a few more things to the plate, some other foods that will give a flavor, color, texture and shape ……..


 
3.CONTRAST

Let's use fresh spinach ….and say mashed Yukon gold potatoes, and top the salmon with a nice mango salsa,

We have the yellowish white color of the potatoes, creamy in texture and rich buttery flavor.. Contrast it with the spinach that is green and just a little crunchy in texture and has tangy flavors.

The salmon has the nice bright reddish-orange color, the forward flavor of the fish rich with fish oils, meaty but still flaky in texture.

The mango salsa is beautiful bright yellow with pieces of red and green bell pepper, with a tender texture that blends well with the fish, and the flavors of the lime and mango, cut the flavor of the salmon. A good chardonnay also will help cut the oil of the salmon.

Step 4 DEFINITION

This means that you want to keep the natural shapes and colors of the foods, so that your date or partner will know what they are eating and identify it easy. Does this sound obvious? Take for instance a stew or soup. if everything is chopped up fine and cooked for a long time, soon you have a sludge of non-descript items. If the salmon is covered up too much with sauce you mask it's beauty.

When it is presented on the plate you want every part of the dish to be seen, and be identifiable. You want the best natural color of the salmon cooked just done so it looks moist and flaky. The white and fluffy look to the mashed potatoes and bright green spinach, still a bit crunchy, and not dripping so that it taints the mashed potatoes.

The Mango salsa should still show the individual bits of mango and bell peppers so you can tell what the individual pieces are and a similar size and shape. The sauce should not be a, "mushed of glob of stuff".

 
Step 5 SPACING

Empty Space ….It is not the bowl that is important; it is the empty space in the bowl that is important. It has been said that without the space in-between the notes in music you wouldn’t have any music….. It is the small spaces in-between the bars that keep the lion in yet he can still breathe and see. Get the picture? So leave a good share of white space in-between the items and the rim of the plate clean. This will show off the beauty of all your ingredients, and the contrast of all the colors.

When something has a nice look to it you notice it in an instant. You don’t have to decide if it is beautiful , it just is, or it isn't. Practice on one sample plate before doing the rest. You can arrange items and see if it works. If it doesn’t, don’t try to force it. Try this and that without trying too hard and you may come up with something really striking that you didn’t think about.

So how do you get this presentation accomplished without having to spend all your time in the kitchen…….

Step 6 TIMING

In cooking this is among the most important things of all to get down.

So much of this dish can be pre-done ahead of time, and figuring out a method that takes the least amount of pans and steps.

The Salmon can be cooked ¾ of the way done and then heated in the oven at for a few minutes before serving.

The potatoes peeled and cooked, and held in the pan warm and covered …until you can just take a masher and mash them in the same pan with some sour cream and butter. .

The spinach can be cooked until it is just crisp –tender, then use the shock- technique, drenching it in cold water . This will heighten the bright green color and stop it from over cooking. When you are ready to assemble the plates you can reheat the spinach in the microwave or saute pan.

The mango salsa can be prepared ahead of time.

I know this may seem basic to some of you who are already accomplished cooks, but I want to reinforce in your mind these 6 step by steps, that cover the bases so you guide your creativity and make stunning food presentations without confusion. I hope this will be a good tool to whip out and follow until it becomes second nature to you.