We tapped three top South Florida chefs to help us create a three-course menu that’s sure to impress if you’re entertaining at home. Best of all, you won’t find these dishes on the menus at their restaurants, so you’ll truly be creating a one-of-a-kind meal.
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As chef and owner of Meat Market — an upscale, contemporary steakhouse with locations in South Beach, Palm Beach and San Juan, Puerto Rico — Sean Brasel enjoys playing with surf and turf combinations. “I love the idea of a mixed grill,” he says.
Brasel applies this concept to a one-bite appetizer that’s full of flavor. Using a super hot cast iron skillet, he sears scallops in butter and duck fat. “Getting a hard sear is key. It really brings out the delicate, sweet flavor of the fish,” he says.
This is an excellent dish for entertaining at home since, aside from the scallops, it can be prepared ahead of time. The short rib marmalade — made with cranberry juice, cherries, red wine vinegar and veal stock — can be stored in the refrigerator weeks in advance.
When it comes to plating, place the seared scallops atop toasted baguette slices cut into small circles and crown with the short rib marmalade. The advanced home cook with a siphon gun handy can give Brasel’s cherry habanero foam a whirl. Otherwise, garnish the plate with endive and orange segments.
“The tostini is perfect for absorbing the liquid jus of the scallop,” says Brasel. “The citrus and bitter greens cut through the rich fat and sweet and sour flavors of the scallop and marmalade to cleanse the palate.”
Chef Toby Joseph grew up in Boston in a large Italian family that was always cooking hearty bean soups and meatball soups. Never a fan of red sauce, Joseph created this veal meatball dish as an alternative, with broth and olive oil. “There’s no tradition to the dish, so you can really make it with anything,” Joseph explains.
Prepared in a Dutch oven, it can be made four to five days in advance, and reheated by simmering on the stovetop. “You can’t overcook the dish,” he says.
The meatballs are made with ground veal, pancetta and panko breadcrumbs, and then sautéed in a pan until they’re seared on the outside. Joseph prefers shaping them into an oblong, quenelle shape. “It’s a conversation piece,” he says.
The broth is prepared on the stovetop with pancetta, escarole and great northern white beans before the meatballs are added and the Dutch oven is placed in the oven at 300 degrees to slow cook over two hours.
“I love the earthy flavors,” says Joseph. “You can really smell the aroma in the kitchen.”
The dish leaves plenty of room for improvisation. He explains that it’s already light, but you can substitute the veal for ground turkey or chicken for a lower calorie alternative. It can be served with the broth on its own or poured over spaghetti or penne. Joseph prefers topping it with a dollop of fresh ricotta and a generous dusting of parmesan cheese.
For Chef Eileen Andrade, owner of Finka Table & Tap, buñuelos are a nostalgic holiday dessert that brings back childhood memories. “I grew up making them with my grandma,” she says. “It’s an interactive family recipe.”
The traditional Latin American dessert — common in many Cuban households — gets an updated, playful twist with Andrade’s recipe. Made of yucca and Spanish boniato (sweet potato) and deep fried in canola oil, Andrade prepares hers with anise and dusts them with cinnamon and sugar.
Instead of the figure-eight shape used in the traditional Cuban preparation, Andrade tests her creativity bending hers into pretzels. “That’s the fun part,” she says, explaining that you can make them any shape you like.
While typically prepared with a sugar syrup, Andrade adds a boozy touch, playing up the anise flavor with a sazerac syrup made of Redemption Rye and Pernod Absinthe. The addition of homemade whipped lemon cream merengue adds a bright, fresh note that balances the dish. Since buñuelos can be served hot or cold, they’re perfect for preparing ahead of time when entertaining at home.
Check out the individual recipes in the links below!
Don’t Forget the Punch
What party is complete without a cocktail? When it comes to hosting, Jason Cotter, director of food and beverage at Fort Lauderdale’s Riverside Hotel, prefers a festive punch spiked with vodka. You can recreate his Merry Ginger Punch at home using two parts vodka (he prefers Tito’s), two parts ginger beer, one part Cointreau and one part simple syrup. Garnish your punch bowl with freshly sliced orange and grapefruit wheels, and you’re ready to party.