With home party season fast approaching, we asked local caterers to share a few of their most delicious dishes. Some items work best for intimate gatherings, while others are suitable to feed a crowd.
Regardless of the occasion, each caterer agreed that quality ingredients and ample prep time are keys to planning the perfect meal.
Juan Rodriguez, Reata on the Road
Executive chef Juan Rodriguez's favorite catered appetizer will satisfy a band of hungry cowboys yet is dainty enough for a cocktail party. "Who doesn't like meatballs?" says Rodriguez, who also heads the kitchen at Reata restaurant. "This is comfort food, but with a Reata spin." Buffalo is quite popular at the restaurant right now, and Rodriguez likes to showcase the lean meat's versatility in this quick and easy dish. "There's the gaminess of the buffalo and sharpness of the blue cheese, but the sweet molasses really balances all the flavors."
Scott Gerrish, City Kitchen
When City Kitchen owner Scott Gerrish was asked to cater a wild-game-themed dinner party for a group of sportsmen returning from a hunting trip, the New England native was excited to prepare a hometown favorite. "This dish incorporates a lot of the fall items we use up there, like duck, fresh vegetables and cranberries," he says. "It's great for large events, too, and it's light enough to be served before the main course."
Louise Lamensdorf, Bistro Louise Catering
Since shutting her restaurant doors in May after 15 years, Louise Lamensdorf has remained busy as a private-event caterer. Primarily recognized for her Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, Lamensdorf drew influence from her years in New Orleans for this memorable main course. "I did a total creole dinner in a private home," she says of a recent event she catered. "This dish draws from many different influences, including Spanish and French, African-American, Cajun and Italian. You really need to live in New Orleans for a long time to get a true feel of the cuisines."
Susan Clark, Sweet Memories Cakes & Catering
Sweet Memories owner Susan Clark was 16 years old when she entered this cake in a local baking contest and won first place. Decades later, it's still her favorite. "You just don't find apricot cake all the time," she says. "And you can make this year-round with fresh or dehydrated apricots." Clark typically creates elaborate wedding and birthday cakes in her Keller-based bakery but fancies this cake for small family gatherings. "Especially in the fall," she says. "The colors are very fall."
Buffalo meatballs with sweet molasses glaze
1 pound ground buffalo meat (Rodriguez orders his meat from www.comanchebuffalo.com, but you can also find it at Central Market.)
3 ounces blue cheese crumbles
1 shallot, finely diced
2 ounces chopped parsley
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients by hand in a large bowl until blended. Divide the buffalo meat mixture into 2- to 3-ounce portion sizes, yielding about 10 to 12 meatballs. Roll each portion in your hands until round.
3. Place on a cooking sheet and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes.
4. Place on a serving tray with toothpicks and finish with sweet molasses glaze.
Sweet molasses glaze
1/4 cup Karo dark corn syrup
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
1. Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot and cook over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
2. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Makes 1 cup.
-- Reata on the Road
Maple-glazed duck salad
1 8- to 10-ounce duck breast (Gerrish recommends organic.)
Salt and pepper
3 ounces pancetta, julienned
1 head organic bibb lettuce
1 cup organic spring lettuce mix
2 ounces dried cranberries, like Craisins
2 ounces candied pecans
12 small sweet potato pancakes (see recipe)
1/4 cup cranberry relish (see recipe)
1/2 cup cider walnut vinaigrette (see recipe)
1. Season duck breast with salt and pepper. Sear, fat side-down, over medium heat until skin is crispy, three to four minutes.
2. Turn duck over and finish in a 350-degree oven 10-15 minutes. Let duck breast rest, then slice very thinly into 12 slices.
3. Place duck pan on stovetop over medium heat, without cleaning, and crisp pancetta until golden brown.
4. In a bowl, mix bibb lettuce with spring mix. Top greens with dried cranberries, pecans and pancetta.
5. On each plate, stack sweet potato pancakes in front of salad portion and rest three slices of duck breasts against the pancakes. Drizzle with cranberry relish. Top salad with walnut cider vinaigrette. Sweet potato pancakes (makes 14)
3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pinches ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
3/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1. Sift dry ingredients in mixing bowl; add remaining ingredients and stir until mixed and moistened.
2. Drop a dollop by spoon on a hot, greased griddle and brown each side, turning once only. Cranberry relish
8 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
4 ounces brown sugar
2 ounces granulated sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of cloves
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool before serving. Walnut cider vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
10 tablespoons walnut oil
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 drops vanilla extract
Place all ingredients in shaker jar and shake to combine.
— City Kitchen
Creole barbecue shrimp & lobster spaghetti
Serves 10 to 12 buffet-style, or 10 plated
30 extra-colossal shrimp in the shell, about 4-5 pounds (Lamensdorf recommends finding these shrimp at Central Market.)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup olive oil
Spice mixture (see recipe)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 heaping teaspoon mashed garlic
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup beer
1 cup chicken stock
1 1-pound box spaghetti, cooked, with pasta liquid reserved
1 or 2 steamed lobsters, optional
1. With scissors, cut the top of each shrimp shell, leaving the shell attached and the shrimp whole. (This process will make the shrimp easy to peel once cooked.)
2. In a large cast-iron skillet or heavy pan, melt one stick of the butter over low heat and add olive oil. Add spice mixture, lemon zest and juice, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Shake (do not stir) the pan until ingredients are well blended. Add beer and stock to the pan. Bring to a light boil, then immediately lower heat to a simmer. Add the shrimp to the pan and poach until cooked, about three to four minutes. Remove the pan from heat.
3. Remove shrimp from the pan and remove shells from the shrimp. Set shrimp aside and keep warm.
4. Reheat pan liquid and add remaining butter. Continuously shake pan. Return shrimp to pan and add cooked spaghetti. Toss and add lobster, if desired. (If using lobster, cut into small pieces.) Dish may be thinned by adding a bit of pasta liquid. For a buffet, serve on a large platter. If plated, divide pasta among 10 dishes and serve.
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red bell pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dried basil
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
— Bistro Louise
Apricot dream cake
2 1/2 dozen coconut macaroons
1 pound dried apricots
3 1/4 cups water (for apricots)
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water (for gelatin)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
6 eggs, separated
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
1-ounce can unpeeled apricot halves, well drained
Chopped pecans, for garnish
1. Break macaroons into small pieces and press a layer onto the bottom of a deep, 9-inch spring-form pan to form a crust. Macaroons should be sticky.
2. Cook apricots in water until fruit is tender. Whirl in blender and cool.
3. Pour gelatin into 1/2 cup cold water. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes, then stir over hot water until dissolved. Stir gelatin mixture into blended apricot mixture.
4. Beat butter until creamy. Add confectioner’s sugar and beat until blended. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Then beat in apricot mixture and lemon rind and juice.
5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with salt until foamy. Add granulated sugar and beat until stiff. Fold egg-white mixture into apricot mixture.
6. Pour about 1/4 of mixture into prepared pan. Add a layer of macaroon crumbs and continue to alternate layers, ending with crumbs. Chill overnight.
7. Remove from spring-form pan. Garnish with whipped cream, apricot halves and chopped pecans.
— Sweet Memories Cakes & Catering