Chapter 6 — Composed First Courses

Chapter 6,the final chapter of Section 2: Welcoming Guests is all about Composed First Courses. A composed first course is the sort of plate you would be served in a fine restaurant, conceived and prepared by a chef with years of experience.  As with nearly everything in At Home, success is more a matter of aspiration than it is of some special skill. Trust me, you can do this. This is the perfect late summer recipe guaranteed to earn you wows. Please do not be put off by the number of ingredients or the length of the recipe as it is all very easy.I promise if you do this once it will become a part of your summer entertaining repertoire.

This past Saturday I helped our crew assemble 165 of these gorgeous plates at a Franklin Institute wedding. It was gratifying to part of the plate scraping crew as this course was cleared from Franklin Hall as there was nearly nothing left to scrape.

Tomato “Sandwich” with Corn & Lima Beans
If—and only if—you have ripe, in-season tomatoes, this recipe is a great showpiece. Select red and yellow tomatoes of approximately the same size. (For the little tomatoes, they can be a mix of` any variety.) We generally serve this dish with a medallion of goat cheese on top that gets sprinkled with some superfine sugar and glazed with a torch. We’ve simplified the recipe here with crumbled goat cheese, but feel free to try the glazed medallion if you have a plumber’s torch.

do ahead All of the vegetables may be prepared ahead and assembled just before serving.

1 ear corn, husked and cleaned
3 large red tomatoes, peeled
3 large yellow tomatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1⁄4 pound lima beans, cooked
1⁄2 cup chopped red onion, divided
1 cup baby yellow tomatoes, halved
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1⁄2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, divided
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1⁄3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper, divided
4 ounces fresh goat cheese

1 Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add corn and cook for 3 minutes. Remove corn and allow it to cool. Scrape corn and any milky residue from the cob. Discard cob.
2 Cut large red and yellow tomatoes into 1⁄2-inch slices. Set aside.
3 Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine red wine vinegar, shallot and garlic. Let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in olive oil. Season with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper.
4 Stack basil leaves and cut into fine strips with a sharp knife.
5 Combine corn, lima beans and 1⁄4 cup red onion. Toss with half of the dressing and half of the basil.
6 In a small bowl, combine baby yellow tomatoes, red grape tomatoes, the remaining red onion and the remaining basil. Add remaining dressing and toss well. Season with remaining salt and pepper.
7 To assemble: Layer a thick red tomato slice with 1⁄2 cup corn and lima bean salad, and top with a yellow tomato slice. Top with baby tomato salad. Crumble goat cheese over top of the “sandwich.” Repeat with remaining tomatoes, corn and cheese to make 6 sandwiches.
serves 6

Picture 1

This is one of what we call “napkin drawings” — the kind of little skteches one might do on a napkin and you can often find at the bottom of our Frog Commissary Catering “food sheets.” You will find these drawing in At Home when I think a little picture will help you understand how something is done — or in this case, assembled.

Throughout At Home are side notes that provide tips or help expand your entertaining horizons.

Plumber’s Propane Torch
Beware of ultra-specialized kitchen gadgets. Premium kitchen supply stores and catalogues sell a precious little butane torch for glazing sugar on desserts such as crème brûlée. Far better for the size and strength of its flame—and a little less expensive to buy—is a standard plumbing torch that attaches to a small disposable bottle of propane. For a few dollars more you can get a short hose attachment that makes this easy-to-use device even more convenient.

At our weekend wedding we glazed the medallion of goat cheese that sat on the tomato sandwich. It’s very simple and fun. Just cut a medallion of goat cheese about 1/4-inch thick. Place on tomato sandwich. Sprinkle with a thin coating of superfine sugar. Light the torch and adjust flame to moderate. Run the torch across and around the medallion taking care to move the flame sufficiently to darken the top of the cheese without burning.  Alternatively, you can crumble the goats cheese as indicated in the recipe, add the sugar and glaze.

Tomorrow begins a preview of Section 3: Easy Entrees & Condiments with Chapter 7 — Easy Roasts.

It’s just eleven days until At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining is shipped from Kentucky and shortly thereafter ready for shipping to you. The book comes with a “key” to its companion website. If you have not yet ordered the book, you are running out of time to get a signed, numbered, first edition. No time to waste to buy so buy it now for yourself and your gift list.

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