You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food - Paul Prudhomme
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Good company and good food are two of the finer things in life and whenever you get a chance to combine both of them, it’s an opportunity to throw caution to the wind, let your creativity run wild, and celebrate both.
And there’s no better way to enjoy being surrounded by the people that you care about and truly exceptional food, than with an exquisite five-course meal.
While the idea of five courses might seem somewhat excessive and the thought of attempting to create, and cook, a menu for it can be more than a little intimidating, with the right sort of planning and a considered and methodical approach, it can actually be a fun and exciting culinary adventure.
You just have to be ready to take the plunge and make a leap of faith into, what up until now, might have seemed like a far fetched gastronomic nightmare.
Part of the beauty of any dinner party though, is that it doesn’t have to be a black-tie and evening gown affair if you don’t want it to.
It’s your party, and you can set the rules, so your five-course dinner can be as formal or as informal as you want it to be.
And as you’ll be in the company of friends and family, the menu that you’re going to serve doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be if you want it to be, but some of the best five-course meals and dinner parties are a roaring success because they keep things simple, and the food that they thrive on is often hearty, rustic, and prepared with love and care.
There are some culinary scholars who will be more than happy to tell you that a successful dinner party is often dependent on the décor of the setting, but again that isn’t true.
What really matters are the people who attend, the conversation, and an opportunity to make new memories while enjoying a delicious menu that’s been crafted with affection rather than overzealous and unnecessary attention to detail.
After all, when anybody who was there looks back on the meal and talks about the evening, all they’ll remember is the company and the food.
How the table was or wasn’t set won’t even feature in the conversation. All that anyone who attends your party is going to care about are the same things that you do. Good food and good company.
Getting Ready For The 5 Course Meal
While we’re all more than familiar with three-course meals and what they involve, a five-course meal is slightly different and takes a little more planning.
And when we say a little, when we really do mean a little. It isn’t rocket science and you don’t need a doctorate in astrophysics to plan and successfully execute a five-course meal, you just need to know how to plan and prepare it and the order in which the courses should be served.
An appetizer is served to whet your guest’s appetite for the courses that are going to follow, so remember the cardinal rule - keep the portions small and serve just enough to leave all your guests wanting more. I like something simple like olive oil and goat cheese as hors d'oeuvre.
Usually served as the first course of a meal, on the larger menu of a five-course meal, soup moves up the pecking order and becomes the second course rather than a first.
Even though you might be tempted to go overboard and fill your guest bowls, it’s better to half fill them, so that nobody over indulges too early in the evening.
And the choice of soup that you serve, should ideally be determined by the rest of your menu.
If your entrée is going to be particularly filling, it’s a good idea to serve a lighter soup, but if the entrée you’re planning on making isn’t particularly substantial, it might be wise to serve a far more indulgent soup. Again, something simple like butternut squash is a great idea.
Served between the soup course and the entree, the salad course is designed to allow your guests time to take a breather and a rest before the entree is served.
Salads should be light, flavorful, and interesting and should help to stimulate and invigorate your guest’s appetite for the arrival of the main course.
It’s also important to ensure that the salad course is in keeping, thematically, with the rest of the evening’s meal and should, like the soup course, be designed to fit in with the entree that you’re planning to serve.
The entrée, or main dish, of any meal, is always the talking point that your guests will inevitably focus on and the part of the evening that they’ll remember most.
That’s why it’s important to plan it properly and the reason why the other courses should revolve around it and are designed to accompany it.
It should be filling, and have a protein (meat, fish, or vegetarian alternative) as its main ingredient and ideally should also be accompanied by a selection of appropriate vegetables.
Desserts are a sweet, light way of bringing a meal to a natural climax, and should, again, be planned with the main course in mind.
If your entree is heavy and filling, the dessert should be sugary and light, but if your main course isn’t substantial or filling, you can make up for it with a much heavier dessert which will finish your evening perfectly.
It’s a given that you’ll be serving wine with your five-course meal, and whether you serve a white or red wine will be determined by your choice of entree.
Or at least it should be - remember chicken and fish entrees should be accompanied by white wine, while main courses that include any sort of red meat or pork should be served with red wine.
However, another alternative, and one that we enjoy, involves pairing wine with each course of your meal.
A fairly easy undertaking, once you’ve planned your menu, you can either find the perfect pairing of wine for your chosen courses online or if you live within driving distance of a vineyard, you can always seek the advice of a sommelier - every good vineyard will have a resident sommelier who will be happy to help you to find the perfect wines to pair with each course of your meal.
Some Ideas For Five-Course Meals
You didn’t think that we were going to leave you out in the cold, throw you to the wolves, and not offer you a helping hand with the planning of your five-course meal, did you?
We wouldn’t dream of abandoning you at this stage of proceedings, and so have drafted an idea for two separate five-course meals based on a duo of the most popular types of cuisine, Asian and Italian.
And don’t worry, recipes for all the dishes that we’ve included in the prospective menus can easily be found online.
The Prospective Asian Meal
Whenever we think of Asian food, our minds inevitably drift toward Chinese cuisine, which is why our five-course meal is geared toward a more traditional Chinese menu.
It’s always better to go with an appetizer that your guests might be familiar with, which is why we’d suggest either Chicken or Pork Dumplings, or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, Lion's Head Meatballs
It’s always better to go with a traditional favorite, which of course means either Wonton or Hot and Sour soup.
Keep it light and keep it fresh, and the best way to do that is with a Chinese chicken salad.
As taste is subjective, it’s always better to try and plan an entree that’s going to appeal to the pallets of all of your guests, which means going with a simple, delicious option like chicken fried rice or a stir fry that focuses on a single protein like pork or chicken.
Remember the rule, plan your dessert to fit with your entree.
So it should either be sweet and light, something like a mango pudding, or slightly more substantial, in which case custard tarts would be a perfect way to bring your meal, and evening, to a close.
The Prospective Italian Meal
Everyone loves Italian food, so choosing a five-course Italian meal is a no brainer.
And it also means that all of your guests are bound to love the meal that you prepare.
When you’re serving an Italian meal, there are only three appetizers that should appear on your menu - lightly toasted garlic bread, artichoke bruschetta, or antipasto.
A favorite in Italian restaurants everywhere, the only real choice is Wedding Soup, which is perfect as you’ll be able to control the number of ingredients it includes and how heavy or light it is, according to our choice of entree.
When we think about Italian salads the one that immediately springs to mind is Caesar salad.
So why would you choose to go with anything else?
The three entrees that have always been a roaring success at our dinner parties are lobster ravioli, chicken parmesan, and homemade lasagne.
And if it works for us, there’s no reason why any of them shouldn’t work equally well for you.
There’s only one way to finish a perfect Italian meal, and that’s with the all-purpose Italian dessert, tiramisu.