Sunday, August 26, 2007

Meal - Indian

This past weekend was our celebration of our friend BJ's birthday. For her dinner, I figured I'd give her options without the pressure of having to come up with a menu herself. Plus, I figured this would be a fun way to challenge myself a little bit. So I sent her the following note:

B.J. -
As the Birthday honoree, you have options for your dinner on Friday re: preferences.

Let me know what you'd like and I'll whip up a menu within those guidelines...

Which region/cuisine: Italian, Indian, Latin/Mexican
What meat: Chicken, Beef, Lamb, None
What style desert: Cake, Custard

She wrote back:

Indian chicken w/ custard sounds great.

The other challenge was that this was for a Friday evening, so the more pre-work I could do, the better. I came up with:

Butter Chicken
Red Lentil Dal
Saag Paneer
Rice Pudding
Served with Naan and Paratha

After this plan was set, I came across a mention of Kumail Nanjiani's show Unpronounceable, which seemed really interesting. A theme night emerged - Pakistani stand-up/monologist followed by an Indian meal. We went to the Lakeshore Theater for the 8:00 show and then scooted up to our place for dinner. So my minimal cooking time went to zero. No problem. Every one of these worked really well as make-ahead. I just heated up the breads (bought frozen at Patel Bros.) in the oven and frying pan, nuked the Chicken, Dal and Spinach (Saag) and we were good to go.

Comments on the individual recipes follows. In general, I was happy with every dish, but I found I think this was the fabled case of the flavors overpowering each other. They were all good and B.J. liked them, but there was something missing from having a clear win. For example, the Dal was mind-blowing when I first made it. At dinner, it was tasty but not to the same degree. In eating it on its on as leftovers, back to mind-blowing.

So, I learned a practical lesson in balancing a menu. I think the spices just ended up colliding into each other. In a case like this where all the dishes are served at the same time, I need to pick one to "star" and then find milder, but flavorful, complements.

1 comment:

mg said...

Did you serve this dinner in courses? If so after the dal you could then serve raita or bring out a nice lassi or just plain cucumbers as a palate cleanser. Having a lassi with the rest of the meal though - and bringing it out after the dal - will help balance the flavours.