“Do you plate your meals at home?”
For several years I gave summer cooking demonstrations in one of the dining facilities at the US Department of Agriculture here in Washington, DC. One day a woman popped that question. It was clear that she was hoping I would say “no.” I did not.
“I do,” I said. “but…”
Here’s the good news. Plating your food does not change the flavor. The meal will taste just as good plopped on a plate as it does carefully presented. In fact, if the difference between a homemade meal and swinging through the drive through on your way home is eating dinner right out of the pan then, by all means, go right ahead.
So why do I plate my meals at home? It’s an opportunity to let the people sitting at my table know that they are important and that today, this meal, whether Sunday brunch or a quick Tuesday night dinner, is special and worth celebrating. That’s just as – in fact it might be even more important when that meal is at a table for one.
I feel the same way about parties. Sure, I could serve everything up on disposable plates, bowls and foil pans. I could offer up delicious tasting food with no thought to plating or appearance, and it would taste just as good and show just as much love for the friends and family we invite into our home. However, presentation is your chance to create and share some joy with your guests. And that, my friends, is a little bit of magic.
Honey Sriracha Chicken and Pineapple Skewers
Makes about 30 pieces
Sweet, spicy and just a little tart, this simple skewer can largely be prepared ahead of time and adds bright color and flavor to your holiday hors d’oeuvres.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut in 2″ cubes
- 1/2 lb snow peas
- 1 pineapple
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs minced ginger
- 6 tbs honey
- 2 tbs Sriracha
- 3 tbs cider vinegar
- 3 tbs Rice wine or dry SherryWhite pepper
- Mix together marinade ingredients. Season to taste with white pepper and salt.
Toss chicken with garlic and half of marinade. Let marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 2 hours, then drain and discard marinade.
- Place remaining marinade in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half. Let cool.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt heavily. Prepare an ice bath: a large bowl filled with half ice and half water. Place snow peas in boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer to ice bath to chill. Drain.
- Prepare skewers: Place a piece of pineapple and a snow pea on each skewer. Refrigerate.
Warm oil in a 12” skillet over med-high heat. Add chicken and brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and sauté, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about another 10 minutes. Add marinade, increase heat to medium-high and cook until it coats the chicken with a glossy glaze, about 1 minute.
- Place 1 piece of chicken on each skewer and serve.
Note: To make a one-dish supper, skip blanching the snow peas. Add the pineapple with the chicken and toss in the snow peas 1 minute before adding the marinade at the end. If you would like, serve over rice.