Formal French Meal Structure
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How to Create a Full Course Meal Menu
Preparing for a full course meal can seem like a daunting task, especially if it's for a large crowd. However, if you follow a central theme or cuisine when deciding what will be on your menu, it is much easier to come up with your dishes. The following are some tips for creating your menu.
- Choose a cuisine, or flavors to base your meal around. This will make it easier to come up with your menu and continuity throughout the courses.
- Consider basing your meal's cuisines from one or several regions or searsons.
- Ensure that it can provide a solid main course, and work the rest of the courses-elements around it.
Tips for Hosting ANY Dinner Party
- Always use recipes that you have tried before.
- I choose popular and well known menu items. They are more successful than the ones that are too regional, or people have never tried before.
- I stay clear of shell fish. In a large gathering, there are strong chances that someone is severely allergic to them (unless you get a green signal from your guests).
- If you have a party of 20, don't cook every single entree for 20. In parties, people eat appetizers, plus there are more choices than one can eat, so unless you want to have a ton of leftovers, account for 70% of your headcount for each main dish.
- This above rule does not apply to Casseroles, Chicken Wings, etc. These dishes are loved by kids and adults alike, so everyone takes a helping or two
- For parties larger than 8, set up the dinner buffet-style. Even if there's seating for all, it is much easier to keep track and replenish items when food is in one central place.
- Don't forget to setup an area for drinks and water.
Twelve Course Meal Menu
Below is the outline of the courses that comprise a "standard" 12 course meal and dish suggestions for each course I've used in the past.
Course One - Hors d'oeuvres.
Since this course is typically served during a cocktail hour or as guests are arriving, hors d’oeuvres are usually finger-foods that can be held in the hand.
- Goat cheese crostini with fig-olive tapenade
- Zucchini fritters
- Shallot and pancetta tortilla crisps
Course Two - Amuse-bouche
This can be translated from French to mean “amuse the mouth” or more generally, to please guests’ palates with a small flavorful taste. Frequently, this might serve to stimulate the appetite or simply hint at flavors to come in the next meal course(s). In restaurants, this is normally a complementary item specifically chosen by the chef.
- Sweet potato chips with goat cheese and caviar
- Caprese bites with basil vinaigrette
- Pea soup served in a shot glass or espresso cup
Course Three - Soup
As with all of your courses, a classic idea is to relate your soup course to the season. It's always smart to avoid soups that are too hearty so guests don’t fill up for the rest of the meal.
- Cold melon and basil soup
- Pumpkin sage bisque
- Tuscan white bean and roasted garlic soup
Course Four – Appetizer
In many parts of Europe, this course is referred to as the "entree" because it introduces the main courses in the meal. It is usually served on serving trays or small appetizer plates and features small cuts of meat, seasonal vegetables, starches, and sauces.
- Charred broccoli with shishito peppers and pickled onions
- Mushrooms stuffed with Pecorino Romano, garlic, and bread crumbs
- Candied carrots with honey, cumin, and paprika
Course Five - Salad
This course is usually an assortment of raw vegetables with a flavorful dressing. In some parts of Europe, salad is served after the main course, but it is also common to serve salad before.
- Garden salad with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and tart vinaigrette
- Chopped Thai salad with peanut dressing
- Greek salad with olives, lettuce, red onions, and feta cheese
Course Six – Fish
This dish is a flavorful light protein before the main courses.
- Grilled salmon with a soy sauce marinade
- Lemon garlic tilapia
- Crispy trout with a parsley-caper vinaigrette
Course Seven – First main course
The first main dish is often a white meat, such as chicken, duck, or turkey.
- Spicy Thai basil chicken
- Roasted duck with an orange-ginger glaze
- Deep-fried turkey with a honey bourbon glaze
Course Eight – Palate Cleanser
This is like a reset for your taste buds. Its purpose is to remove residual tastes from the mouth before the next course.
- Sorbet (lemon, melon, or mint)
- Water with lemon
Course Nine - Second main course
Typically, the second main course is a red meat, such as premium beef, lamb, or venison.
- Stuffed lamb breast with lemon, ricotta, and oregano
- Grilled flatiron steak with rosemary potatoes
- Herb-crusted venison medallions
Course Ten - Cheese course
Create a platter of different cheeses along with items to accompany them.
- Include a variety of cheese textures and flavors, such as aged, soft, firm, and blue cheeses
- Choose a selection of breads and crackers
- Provide companion items, such as jams, chutneys, spicy mustards, caramelized onions, candied nuts and pistachios
Course Eleven - Dessert
Usually accompanied by a glass of dessert wine or coffee and tea, this is a sweet and decadent course.
- Rich flourless chocolate cake with a glass of sweet port wine
- Lemon creme brulee with dry white wine
- Fruit tarts and berries with champagne
Course Twelve – Mignardise
At the end of the meal, you can serve a mignardise, which is a tiny, bite-sized dessert or pastry served with tea, coffee, port, brandy, or scotch.
- Miniature butter madeleine biscuits
- Small pieces of chocolate
- Bite-sized macarons
Formal French Meal Structure
The following menu was used at dinner on the last day before the HMS Titanic sank. It shows the proper order, the formal name, sample servings and recommended type of wine you should serve with the course.
First course — hors d'oeuvre
- Canapés à l'Amiral
- Oysters à la Russe
- White Bordeaux
- White Burgundy
- Chablis (especially with oysters)
Second course — soups
- Consommé Olga
- Cream of barley soup
- Madeira or sherry
Third course — fish
- Poached salmon with mousseline sauce
- Dry Rhine or moselle
Fourth course — entrées
- Filets mignon lili
- Chicken lyonnaise
- Vegetable marrow farci
- Red Bordeaux
Fifth course — removes
- Lamb with mint sauce
- Calvados-glazed roast duckling with applesauce
- Roast sirloin of beef forestière
- Château potatoes
- Minted green pea timbales
- Creamed carrots
- Boiled rice
- Parmentier and boiled new potatoes
- Red Burgundy or beaujolais
Sixth course — punch or sorbet
- Punch romaine
Seventh course — roast
- Roasted squab on Wilted cress
- Red Burgundy
Eighth course — salad
- Asparagus salad with champagne-saffron vinaigrette
Ninth course — cold dish
- Pâté de foie gras
- Sauterne or sweet Rhine wine
Tenth course — sweets
- Waldorf pudding
- Peaches in chartreuse jelly
- Chocolate Painted Eclairs with French vanilla cream
- French Vanilla ice cream
- Sweet dessert wines (muscatel, tokay, sauterne)
Eleventh course — dessert
- Assorted fresh fruits and cheeses
- Sweet dessert wines, champagne, or sparkling wine
- Coffee, cigars
- Port or cordials
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