Kirsten's Kitchen: It's all in the Timing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kirsten Busam   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 03:43

Kirsten's Kitchen: It's all in the Timing
Our Chic Chef offers helpful hints for saving your sanity in the kitchen. Learn more about her secrets to a successful (and warm) meal.

When making meals for friends and family, I'm often asked, "How do you make everything ready at the same time?" Most of the time I shrug and say, "It just happens." Today, I will share the truth with you: It's all in the timing.


First, anything you can make ahead, do it! List all the components of your meal, and think about what parts can be done in advance. Maybe you can't cook the chicken, but you can make the sauce. Dishes like casseroles can be reheated, and salad dressing and some desserts can be ready and waiting.


Don't be afraid to take shortcuts. It's okay to buy a delicious pre-made soup or have the butcher tie your roast. Learn tricks to make things taste homemade, even if they are not. Remember: Even Martha Stewart has people do things for her.


Another trick is to buy seasonal. Seasonal food needs less preparation. Really good, fresh produce tastes best when less is done to it. This week I have created a seasonal menu that is simple and elegant and will have guests singing your praises. (Just make someone else do the dishes!)





Selection of olives, nuts, and cheeses with toast points

Serve with Cucumber Cocktails


First Course

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese



Mussels (or Shrimp) in White Wine



Rosemary Bread

Roasted Corn with Herb Butter and Black Salt

Zucchini Chips with Shaved Parmesan Cheese


Prepping Yourself for Success


All of the "Nibbles" should be store bought. Ask for help in the cheese section. Tell them your budget and that you want one or two mild cheeses to pair with cucumber. Pick up a nice bread (even if it's not rosemary) from the bakery. Go for something crusty to sop up all the broth from the mussels. Make the cocktail in a large pitcher before your guests arrive. Combine the ingredients below, and when you are ready to serve, just pour over ice and enjoy. You may also garnish with a sprig of rosemary or twist of orange.


Cucumber Cocktail:

  • 1 Part gin (Hendricks is recommended)
  • 3 Parts Fresca soda
  • 1-2 Cucumbers, skinned, seeded and sliced

Pick a variety of types and sizes of tomatoes. Slice wedges out of the big ones, and cut cherry size tomatoes in half. Play with color as well. Yellow, orange or striped tomatoes are wonderful this time of year, and you would be well served to try a new kind.


Whip an ounce of goat cheese with 3 to 4 ounces of cream cheese until fluffy. Top tomatoes with a dollop of goat cheese. This can be done an hour or so ahead of time. Make sure to cover so that the tomatoes don't dry out. Toss some arugula in a light vinaigrette and pile a handful on top. Drizzle with oil and serve.


The key to the rest of the meal is herb butter. To make this special ingredient, put four to five shallots and two to three cloves of garlic into a food processor and pulse to chop. Have a pound or so of butter at room temperature. By hand, chop some fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, lemon thyme and scallions would be good) and fold them into the butter with the garlic and shallots. This can be done a day in advance, just let the butter soften before using.


Shuck and clean the corn, and then boil in water or a 50/50 water and broth mix until slightly tender. Remove from broth and cool. If desired, cut in half to make smaller portions. This can be done up to a day ahead. Before the party, rub with herb butter, place in a shallow baking pan covered with foil and heat in oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Put bread in the oven to warm with the corn.


The mussels are the one thing I would buy on the day of the party. Ask your fish market if they will hold them for you to pick-up that day. If you don't like mussels, this dish is also good with shrimp. Clean mussels with a scrub brush, and discard any with cracked shells or ones that have opened. Do not cover with water because you will drown them. Instead, put them in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and chill. This can all be done a few hours before the guests arrive.


Making it Happen


When the guests arrive, play hostess until everyone has settled in and started munching, imbibing and chatting. Excuse yourself quietly. If anyone asks if they can help you, assign them to cocktail duty or setting the tomato salads on the table. (Remember, you can put the greens on the tomatoes at the last moment.)


Slice zucchini, dip in beaten egg, coat with seasoned breadcrumbs, and gently drop into hot oil fryer. Have a baking sheet lined with paper towels ready. Fry in small batches and set on baking sheet to drain off oil. When done frying, put chips in the oven to stay warm. At this point, the oven should have corn, bread and chips in it.

Make the mussels.


  • In a Dutch oven, melt 1/4 pound of the butter and cook on low for two to three minutes. It should bubble a little.
  • Add 2 to 3 cups of a nice white wine and heat until boiling.
  • Gently, pour the mussels into the pot and cover with lid. Cook over medium-high heat.
  • Shake often until mussels open (about five to six minutes). Discard any that don't open and spoon into a large bowl.
  • Pour broth over mussels, turn oven off, and place bowl inside with corn, bread and chips.

Now, toss arugula in dressing and finish salads. Invite your guests to sit. When you clear the salad plates, get the corn out of the oven, uncover and sprinkle with salt. Next, pile up the chips and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Set the bowl of mussels on a trivet and the bread on the table. Have guests pass you their plates and dish everything up for them. Serve it with a bottle or two of the wine you used to cook with, and they will "Ooh!" and "Ah!" Keep it casual and stress-free and they will never know how much you planned to make it a perfect meal.

Kirsten Busam -

Kirsten Busam is a contributor for Cincy Chic and the owner of Babycake's Gourmet Cupcakes.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 August 2009 08:22



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