How To Plan a Cohesive Multi-Course Meal

Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or creating a meal for a client, planning a multi-course menu is an important process. You want all the components to come together in a timely manner and for your diners to love their food, something that is especially hard if you’re working solo. Take the skills you learned from your online culinary courses and these tips to design a cohesive meal:

Timing is everything
No matter how many courses you have, timing should factor into the dishes you choose. If you plan on eating with your diners, you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen, unable to socialize. You also want to be sure the courses are completed in the correct order so that nothing gets cold unless it’s supposed to.

A good way to ensure every dish is completed on time while allowing yourself the time to step away from the work is to cook ahead so each dish will only need minimal work to finish. For example, a five-course menu may start with a cold antipasto or a soup that you reheat. Salad that you’ve prepare the night before can come next. Wait to put the dressing on until right before service. Meat can be in the oven and topped with a sauce that, once again, was made ahead of time. End with a dessert that was baked the day before or requires little assembly.

You can also choose one course that you make on the spot. Fish is a great candidate for this because it cooks fast and tastes best fresh.

Vary the dishes
Each dish should flop back and forth between high and low impact and heavy and light flavors. Don’t follow a thick cream soup with a heavy steak that’s smothered in rich gravy. Your diners will be too overwhelmed with both flavor and calorie intake. Instead, separate the two with a light salad or make a different soup.

Similarly, you should vary the impact of the dishes. This means that the plates that have amazing ingredients, stunning techniques and towering plating should be separated by simpler dishes. This way your guests will experience levels.

Create a logical journey
Each dish should complement the ones before and after, but you don’t have to make them identical. Change flavor profiles as you cook in a way that makes sense. Don’t toss your diners from one region to another without a thought as to how they arrived there. Experiment while you’re planning to see if your ideas move fluidly from one course to the next.

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