Attractive plating or presentation of foods is, of course, always important, but it could be argued that it is even more important for cold foods than for hot foods. Foods presented hot and steaming, directly from the sauté pan or carving board, have an immediate appeal to the nose as well as the eye, but cold foods must rely more completely on visual impact to make their first impression.
Furthermore, because the urgency in getting the plate from the kitchen to the dining room before the food cools down is absent, the cook has more time to arrange cold foods on the plate.This does not mean, however, that the most elaborate or intricate presentation is the best.'Keep it simple'is a good rule of thumb. Food is not made more appetizing by excessive handling.
Arrangements should be kept neat, but this does not mean they must always be symmetrical or regular. As in the case of salads, a deliberate casualness in the arrangement can be appetizing when it suggests the dish has been freshly assembled with minimum handling and rushed to the table.
In the case of pâtés and terrines, careful handling is essential to the presentation. Slice these items carefully and plate each slice with the best side up.To make neat slices, use a sharp, thin-bladed slicing knife. Before each slice, wipe off any residue from the previous slice and dip the blade in hot water. Slice the pâté with a gentle sawing mo-tion,using the full length of the blade. Don't force the knife straight down or make little jagged cuts; this will make the cut surface uneven rather than smooth.
If the cut end of the pâté has discolored somewhat from exposure to air, plate the first slice with this side down. In contrast to pâtés for buffet presentation, slices of pâté for à la carte service are often garnished with greens or other colorful items,which enliven the sometimes drab appearance of a plain meat pâté. In addition,greens and other vegetable garnish provide a pleasant flavor contrast to the somewhat rich, processed flavor of the pâté or terrine.
Tart or piquant garnishes and accompaniments, as well as tart sauces such as vinai-
grette and mayonnaise variations, help counter the richness of pâtés, which are often rather fatty.This is why sour pickles and mustard are classic accompaniments for these
Consideration must be given to the serving temperature of cold foods such as aspics, pâtés, and terrines. A common error is to serve these items too cold. At refrigerator temperature, their flavors are masked. Furthermore, their textures are too firm; the fat in pâtés and the gelatin in aspics are firmly congealed. A little warmer temperature is necessary to enable them to melt pleasantly in the mouth.
To bring them to suitable serving temperature, remove individual portions from refrigeration and let stand at room temperature for about 5 or 10 minutes,but no longer. Remember the sanitation guidelines discussed earlier.This period is long enough to let them warm slightly but not long enough to give microorganisms time to start multiplying. Keep in mind, too, that this short period of tempering applies only to those portions to be served right away. Whole pâtés from which portions were cut, for example, should be returned immediately to refrigeration. Again, remember the four-hour rule.
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