Mini plates for the holidays

December 4, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
Entertain your guests this holiday season with a twist. Serve mini plates that will have all of your guests wanting more!

With holiday entertaining coming up, why not add a new twist to the meals you serve your guests? How about serving "mini-plates"? Our Leigh Glaser went to Taste Catering in San Francisco, to see how easy this is to do.

Taste Catering
3450 Third St, 4D
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 550-6464

Web site:

Chris Borges, Taste's executive chef, presents a "festive" small plate trio to serve guests, complete with recipes.

Arugula Pesto
(makes 2 cups)
8 cups baby arugula, loosely packed (approximately ½ lb)
2 Tbsp. garlic, chopped
2/3 cups toasted walnut halves, chopped
½ cup chopped parsley
4 Tbsp. fresh finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Blanch arugula in boiling water for 15 seconds. Shock in ice water to set bright green color. Drain, and squeeze excess water out of arugula. Chop thoroughly.

Using a mortar and pestle, pulverize arugula, garlic, walnuts, and parsley into a smooth paste. Slowly drizzle in oil, and add the parmesan, mixing well to incorporate. Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste when it's closer to serving time.

Braised Short Ribs
(18 individual pieces)
6 flanken cut short ribs (3 bone pieces, cut 1 ½ " thick)
¼ cup all purpose flour
1.5 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
½ Tbsp. fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup red wine
½ cup dry sherry
3 cup beef stock
½ Tbsp. Kosher salt
1/8 star anise pod
1 Tbsp. soy sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Cut each 3 bone piece of short ribs into individual ribs. Season the ribs to taste with the salt and pepper and dust with flour. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed ovenproof pan over high heat. Add ribs and brown on all sides. Work in batches if you need to so that the ribs don't get crowded (this will help with browning).
  2. Transfer ribs to a plate. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and sauté, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Pour off excess fat, then add the wine and sherry, deglazing the pan, scraping off any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wines by three-quarters until thick and slightly syrupy, about 15 minutes.
  3. Return the ribs to the pan, and add the herbs, tomato paste, soy sauce, spices, and beef stock to cover the ribs. Bring to a boil, cover with foil, and place in the oven. Braise, cooking in the oven, until the meat is fork-tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Allow the ribs to cool in the liquid, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, remove the excess fat that has solidified at the top from the overnight chilling. Place the pan with the ribs and cooking liquid over medium heat, uncovered, and heat until liquid has loosened. Remove ribs from the liquid and cut off the bone, if desired. Return ribs to the pan and cook until the liquid has reduced by one half, about 30 minutes. Continue to cook, spooning the sauce over the ribs, until the sauce is somewhat thick and ribs are glazed. Take care not to burn the glaze; move the ribs around in the pan to keep them from burning.

Butternut Squash Soup
(yields 6 cups)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 leek, sliced
2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and dicedv ¼ cup cognac
2 cups vegetable stock
3 ea whole cloves
½ cinnamon stick
½ Tbsp. chestnut honey
Kosher salt to taste

Heat butter in a 4 qt saucepot until foamy. Sweat onion, leek, celery, and carrots until soft. Add butternut squash and mix thoroughly. Add cognac off heat, return pot to heat and flame until alcohol is cooked off. Add stock, all spices, and honey. Bring to a boil, then simmer until squash is cooked through, approximately 20 minutes. Puree soup in a blender and add cream. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Twice Baked New Potatoes
(yields 18 potatoes)
18 each small new potatoes, approximately 2 pounds
3 Tbsp. olive oil
6 Tbsp. crème fraiche
1 large russet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1.5 Tbsp. whipping cream
½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ egg yolk
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
½ Tbsp. finely chopped chives

Slice a very small slice off a round end of each potato, creating a flat surface so each potato can stand upright. Using a melon baller, scoop a cavity out of the opposite end of each potato to create a potato "cup." Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and roast in a 350 degree oven until almost cooked, approximately 20 minutes. When cool, put 1 teaspoon of crème fraiche in each potato cup.

Heat cream and butter together in a small saucepan. Boil russet potato until done. Drain, put through a potato ricer and add hot cream mixture, salt, pepper, and chive. Let cool a few minutes and mix in yolk. Put mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe a little of the potato mixture into each potato cup. Make sure you pipe enough mixture to create a "top" for each potato.

Bake each potato in a 400 oven for approximately 10 minutes, or until tops of each are slightly browned. Let cool a few minutes before serving.