Help needed for my next big food project

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Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jenise » Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:20 pm

Okay, so some of you might remember that a few years ago I was the exec chef, so to speak, for an event called 'Gastro/Dans'. That was a modern dance program of five approximately 15-minute segments, and I served a course after each one with playful names like Top Hats & Tails, The Beet Goes On, and, my favorite, Isadora's Dunkin' Donut wherein a chocolate crepe (representing the scarf that choked Isadora to death when it got caught in the spokes of her open roadster) folded in quarters and filled with a brandy laced whipped cream was served in a short plastic cup whose bottom held layers of chocolate ganache and blood orange marmalade. There were two really tough constraints: I had a budget as teensy as the kitchen I worked in, and my food and plating had to be silent--I could not use heat--because the kitchen was behind the curtain that was the backdrop of the performance space.

So the same modern dance group is doing another show and they've asked me to cook again. This time, the program's going to be more interactive for both me and the audience. That is, instead of sitting in one place, the performance is going to take place in the entirety of a home and separate garage, and the audience is going to follow the characters. The 'story' is in the process of being written, but it might be called Alice in Bellingham (instead of Wonderland) and tell the story of a girl who comes to town in the late 1880's, a mail order bride, who is stood up by her suitor and falls into a life of prostitution. And instead of silently working behind a curtain, they want me and my food production to be part of the performance.

Until I know more about the story I don't know how I'm going to fit in, but for the next production meeting I need to bring some ideas. If I bring some ideas they love, they'll fit those into the story. In aid of that, last night I watched Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland, circa 2010ish, starring Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter. I have never seen a movie version nor read the book--as a child, I hated anything written for children especially if it involved made-up creatures so Alice and her friends were definitely off my radar. I didn't come away from that with as much as I hoped for.

I have but two solid ideas. One: White Rarebit, a white cheddar version of the classic cheese sauce on toast. The other: some kind of finger food served on plastic-coated playing cards. Possibly a blue cheese cookie containing a stuffed olive, sliced at the bottom so that it cooks with the stuffed end straight up that could be the eye of the Cheshire cat.

A Mad Hatter vol-au-vent is a cool idea but the idea of baking off 120 pastries for the two nights the show will run is ridiculous. What else could I do that's hat-like?

A Tea Party will have to take place with food served in tea cups. But what--crème brulee for the dessert? I like that idea, but I might be better off saving dessert for red velvet and white cakes representing the two queens.

And then there's dishes like red beans and rice that could be called Red Queens and Rice. But yow, I need to get some vegetables and protein in there. But as you can tell, I will have to rely on a lot on foods that I prepare in advance because there will be no other way to do it. I will have one assistant.

And then there's the Jabberwocky and the blue caterpillar. And something that has written on it, "Eat Me".

But what.
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Mark Lipton » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:37 pm

How about some Mock Turtle Soup?

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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:47 pm

Maybe a single marinated and/or grilled portobello cap with something representing a blue caterpillar on it? (Not sure how you'll get the audience to shrink by eating one side of it and grow by eating the other side, though.)

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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:28 am

"Off with her head!" - there's gotta be something you can serve headless.

A grin-shaped cookie for the Cheshire Cat?

I like the playing cards as plate idea.
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jenise » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:06 am

Hmm...some good ideas here! Keep 'em coming! Two more ideas I thought of while driving around today: strands of spaghetti squash representing Alice's golden hair wrapped around something. In a French restaurant with an Asian chef, I once had a shrimp wrapped thusly and drizzled with garlic butter. Would never have thought of it myself, but it was delish. Also, while shopping at an H Mart in Seattle, upon spying oyster mushrooms it occurred to me that they'd be good Door-Mouse ears.
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:50 pm

Do you have budget for lobster - even a small amount? There has to be some way to make a dish/plating with lobster, snails and some kind of small fish as a reference to the Lobster Quadrille (aka The Mock Turtle's Song).
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jenise » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:52 pm

David, probably not. I'm going into this believing that I'll have a much better budget than I had for the first show--not sure I'd do it again with so little--but nowhere near what I'd need to include lobster. I probably can't even afford shrimp.
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:44 pm

Are you going to have glass of wine or cocktail to welcome people in? Maybe put each in a glass with "Drink Me" on it and serve with a little gougere or some other savory baked item on a paper doily with "Eat Me" on it?

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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jenise » Fri Feb 28, 2014 6:09 pm

Mike Filigenzi wrote:Are you going to have glass of wine or cocktail to welcome people in? Maybe put each in a glass with "Drink Me" on it and serve with a little gougere or some other savory baked item on a paper doily with "Eat Me" on it?


OOOH, hadn't thought of DRINK ME. But YES, we'll be selling wine, so that's doable. Also, I'd been stymied on how to get Eat Me on something, but you brining it up again reminds me that I have a friend with a computer cutting machine--she can make stencils (as well as the Drink Me labels)! Oh goodie. Thanks!
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:58 am

Hm. The croquet match using flamingos and hedgehogs. There must be something you can do with that.

Can someone be accused of stealing the Queen's Tarts?

I once went to a vampire-themed show that served bat-shaped cookies at the intermission. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat?
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:45 am

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Hm. The croquet match using flamingos and hedgehogs. There must be something you can do with that.



I was thinking about this as well. I got as far as arancini for the hedgehogs but could not come up with anything for the flamingos.

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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:06 pm

Mike Filigenzi wrote:
Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Hm. The croquet match using flamingos and hedgehogs. There must be something you can do with that.



I was thinking about this as well. I got as far as arancini for the hedgehogs but could not come up with anything for the flamingos.


Chicken tenders cooked on a skewer (so they're bendy)?
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sat Mar 01, 2014 2:53 pm

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:
Mike Filigenzi wrote:
Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Hm. The croquet match using flamingos and hedgehogs. There must be something you can do with that.



I was thinking about this as well. I got as far as arancini for the hedgehogs but could not come up with anything for the flamingos.


Chicken tenders cooked on a skewer (so they're bendy)?


Maybe with an achiote rub to make them pink?

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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jenise » Sun Mar 02, 2014 5:30 pm

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Hm. The croquet match using flamingos and hedgehogs. There must be something you can do with that.

Can someone be accused of stealing the Queen's Tarts?

I once went to a vampire-themed show that served bat-shaped cookies at the intermission. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat?


Hedgehogs and flamingos!

Oh my god, a meatball stew of sorts called Hedgehogs and Flamingos. Ever have 'porcupine meatballs'? They were briefly all the rage when I was a kid--a fad that may have been entirely local--mix ground meat with rice from a rice-a-roni packet, boil them in a broth made from adding water to the seasoning and turn that into a gravy. The rice sticks out of the meatballs kind of. Served with pickled carrot sticks in which the carrots are brined in beet juice for a bright pink color. Whadya think?
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sun Mar 02, 2014 6:25 pm

Jenise wrote:
Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Hm. The croquet match using flamingos and hedgehogs. There must be something you can do with that.

Can someone be accused of stealing the Queen's Tarts?

I once went to a vampire-themed show that served bat-shaped cookies at the intermission. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat?


Hedgehogs and flamingos!

Oh my god, a meatball stew of sorts called Hedgehogs and Flamingos. Ever have 'porcupine meatballs'? They were briefly all the rage when I was a kid--a fad that may have been entirely local--mix ground meat with rice from a rice-a-roni packet, boil them in a broth made from adding water to the seasoning and turn that into a gravy. The rice sticks out of the meatballs kind of. Served with pickled carrot sticks in which the carrots are brined in beet juice for a bright pink color. Whadya think?


Good idea! I thought of arancini because the rice makes them rather uneven, but if you can get meatballs with rice sticking out of them then that would be really good.

I like the idea of the flamingos somehow standing up next to a couple of meatballs, but plating that might be a bit much given the number of people you're serving. The carrots in beet juice would work nicely.

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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jenise » Sun Mar 02, 2014 6:50 pm

Mike Filigenzi wrote:
Jenise wrote:
Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Hm. The croquet match using flamingos and hedgehogs. There must be something you can do with that.

Can someone be accused of stealing the Queen's Tarts?

I once went to a vampire-themed show that served bat-shaped cookies at the intermission. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat?


Hedgehogs and flamingos!

Oh my god, a meatball stew of sorts called Hedgehogs and Flamingos. Ever have 'porcupine meatballs'? They were briefly all the rage when I was a kid--a fad that may have been entirely local--mix ground meat with rice from a rice-a-roni packet, boil them in a broth made from adding water to the seasoning and turn that into a gravy. The rice sticks out of the meatballs kind of. Served with pickled carrot sticks in which the carrots are brined in beet juice for a bright pink color. Whadya think?


Good idea! I thought of arancini because the rice makes them rather uneven, but if you can get meatballs with rice sticking out of them then that would be really good.

I like the idea of the flamingos somehow standing up next to a couple of meatballs, but plating that might be a bit much given the number of people you're serving. The carrots in beet juice would work nicely.


Because I have to prepare all the food for both nights ahead of time and because I'll have to pull off 50 servings at once every 20 minutes, arancini (which I'd prefer, if all things were equal) would be a little harder to pull off. Zero timing issues in a schedule that's going to be very delicately balanced, they can just simmer on a back burner. I also like that the meatballs actually give me a chance to do a meat course--which I really hadn't come up with any other ideas for. Easy to make larger meatballs that would be one per serving and present well in shallow paper bowls.
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:34 am

I love the meatballs idea. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around putting beet juice-stained carrot sticks in a bowl of pasta, though.
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jenise » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:15 am

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:I love the meatballs idea. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around putting beet juice-stained carrot sticks in a bowl of pasta, though.


I'm not thinking Italian--wouldn't be any pasta there. Just a large meatball and a brown sauce, with the carrot sticks adding some great color on the side.
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Re: Help needed for my next big food project

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:25 am

Jenise wrote:
Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:I love the meatballs idea. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around putting beet juice-stained carrot sticks in a bowl of pasta, though.


I'm not thinking Italian--wouldn't be any pasta there. Just a large meatball and a brown sauce, with the carrot sticks adding some great color on the side.

Ah, got it. (Although, I can Google my way to pink flamingo-shaped pasta....)
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