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December 23, 2010 | 8:06 a.m. CST
This article originally published November 16, 2009.
People need more substantive meals when the temps dip low. But along with the plummeting mercury, come a slew of holidays that leave many people needing to entertain and share a meal with family and friends. Luckily for you, some of Columbia’s best chefs and bartenders offer some tips to cook a great winter meal and how to entertain right.
Before beginning any meal, the most important step is to plan out your menu on paper, says Mike Odette, head chef and co-owner of Sycamore restaurant and a James Beard Award (one of the highest honors in the culinary world) semi-finalist. “Something that I take home from the restaurant is write lots of lists, your shopping list, your prep list,” Odette says. “Work it all out on paper, and do as much prep work as you can ahead of time. That way when the party starts, it is a party for you, too, and you aren’t just cooking for everybody else.”
Once your lists are made, Odette likes to get many of his ingredients from the Root Cellar on Broadway. He does this because they have a wide range of sources for their produce and this can ensure the best quality. Trey Quinlan, executive chef at Bleu Restaurant and Wine Bar prefers the Columbia Farmers Market for his produce. (Hurry, the market shuts down for the season on Saturday, Nov. 21.) At this time of year there are a lot of squashes, Brussels sprouts, cabbages and kale, says Quinlan “When it comes to buying those type of ingredients, the farmers themselves usually know the best way to cook it,” Quinlan says.
As far as a good appetizer is concerned Odette prefers finger food for his guests. “Little rye toasts with some smoked fish on them and maybe a little cream cheese,” Odette says. Quinlan suggests a dish right off of his own menu, sautéed Brussels sprouts. “It’s one of our most popular dishes, and it’s super easy.”
“If I am doing a holiday party, I’m going to do a country ham,” Odette says. He suggests hams from Burger’s Smokehouse or Baumgartner’s in Rocheport. After all, what is a holiday without a ham?
For a good winter meal, even a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America prefers a mother’s touch. “My mom has this really amazing country fried steak,” Quinlan says.
For a side dish Quinlan suggests simple sautéed kale. Sauté it with vegetable stock, or any sort of flavorful liquid. “A little beer is what I usually use because it’s an open liquid beverage I have while cooking,” says Quinlan.
If you are looking for something a little fancier to impress your party guests, Scott Cleeton, chef and owner of CC’s City Broiler would prepare a dish off his own menu, a New Zealand rack of lamb with a goat cheese spread. “We prefer a New Zealand rack because it is less gamy,” says Cleeton. “They are a little smaller and therefore easier to cook. Although there is not a lot to eat on them compared to the domestic racks.”
Much like how the cold weather makes you want a good rib sticking meal to warm you up, a little bit of alcohol can do the trick, too. For wintertime Mike Odette suggests a beer with higher alcohol content, such as a barley wine or an imperial stout. “Beers for sipping out of a brandy snifter,” says Odette.
To accompany Trey Quinlan’s country fried steak, Rich Trippler a bartender at Bleu, suggests a lighter red wine to accompany the fried dish. “I hate to say pinot noir because it’s so trendy right now, but a New World Pinot Noir would probably be nice,” says Trippler. “What else would work is a Chilean cabernet sauvignon. Chilean wine is still really inexpensive, and the cabernets that come out of Chile go with almost everything. A Budweiser would work really well, too.”
With Cleeton’s rack of lamb, he would serve a lighter New Zealand red wine such as a pinot. “Because lamb is still considered a little gamy, I certainly wouldn’t serve a nice, buttery red like a cabernet, that would be too much,” he says. For those looking for variety Cleeton would buy several seasonal microbrew six packs to keep the meal in season.
For desert both Odette and Quinlan look to the ubiquitous fruit of fall, the pumpkin. Quinlan suggests a pumpkin tiramisu of a hard cider and bourbon soaked spice cake layered with pumpkin puree and mascarpone cheese topped with cinnamon and butterscotch glaze made with the leftover cider and bourbon. Odette recommends a simple cheesecake tweaked with some pumpkin flavor.
Now that you are armed with the tips and ideas from the best of the CoMO culinary scene, fear not the holiday party or the family dinner. Bon Appetit.
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