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Chef Laura is the Kosher wedding whisperer

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The ins and outs of planning the menu for your perfect event 
06/06/2011

It is full blown wedding season and nervous brides and grooms all over the world are tying the knot. Many more are planning nuptials and are making themselves, their families and friends absolutely crazy.

The details for planning the perfect event are mindboggling and the options these days are abundant. Planning your fantasy event needs some TLC and since you only get to do this dream day once, you really want to do it right.

I have the pleasure (and sometimes pain) of sitting down with families and listening to their ideas and visions. Sometimes parents and engaged couples agree, but more often than not, they are in polar opposition of each other.

I have had parents request a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish menu and have the kids begging for modern, more global food selections. I had a European Ashkenazi bride marrying an American Southern Sephardi groom, the parents not speaking to each other during the menu planning because one wanted schnitzels while the other wanted bold flavored Sephardi cuisine. We compromised and had stations brimming with both styles of food instead of a seated dinner.

I have many brides who aren’t interested in the traditional wedding cake, only to have their mothers secretly emailing me for cake flavors and design options. Last summer, I had a father waving frantically at me from across the room wondering why there wasn’t any lettuce on his salad course, which was not a salad at all, but a gazpacho trio!

Basic Boot Camp for planning the perfect wedding menu:

1. Have a conversation, or two, with all the parents before meeting with the caterer or any of the vendors. Even if the engaged couple are paying for the event, it is nice for everyone to be “heard” and for some compromises to be made.

2. Attention all brides and grooms! You two need to be in agreement before you start the planning process. I had a tasting with a couple who fought the entire time about the menu. It was like two different wedding concepts were being tossed around. I ended up giving them a time out before we finished the tasting. I was afraid we were never going to get to the wedding.

3. Often, in order for everyone to be happy, you need to alter the style of the event. Instead of a sit down dinner, you do stations. You can switch from a traditional wedding cake to a dessert buffet. You can add a small symbolic cake instead of a full blown cake. There are so many ways to do a wedding; there is room for everyone to feel comfortable and happy.

4. That being said, it is the couple’s wedding and they get the final decision. Sometimes, not everyone can be happy!

5. Have fun with it. Personalize the event with your own touches. You do not have to do the same wedding as all your friends. Create your own theme and do something that is as unique as your relationship. Chef’s note: I like it when the couple asks me to write a menu for them based on their vision. Trust me, chefs like to create menus and will add some TLC to their own creations.

6. Enjoy the process. There are many details and minutia, but the end result will be spectacular.

A perfect marriage of flavors
Chick Pea Tagine with Crispy Chicken Schnitzel

Crispy chicken schnitzel marries seamlessly with fragrant chick pea tagine. A casual summertime supper that weds 2 delicious cuisines. Serve the duo with a crispy salad and bread.

Serves 4

For the tagine

1 small red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium fennel bulb, julienne
2 cups cooked chick peas
¼ cup chopped pitted dates
¼ cup chopped dried apricots
¼ cup sliced dried figs
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of crushed red chilies
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock or water
Kosher salt and pepper
Garnishes: cilantro leaves, mint leaves, preserved lemons, crushed cumin seeds

Preheat oven to 325

1. Sauté the onion, carrots and fennel, in batches in a large sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium high heat until the vegetables are browned (about 5-7 minutes). Transfer the vegetables to a Dutch oven.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 1 hour until the liquid is mostly absorbed the vegetables are soft.

For the schnitzel

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ¼ inch thickness
About ½ cup
1 cup flour, placed in a shallow pan
2 cups panko bread crumbs, placed in a shallow pan
2 egg whites, whisked with 2 tablespoons water, placed in a shallow pan
Zest of 2 lemons
¼ cup chopped parsley
Kosher and freshly cracked pepper

1. Heat a large sauté pan with ½ inch of oil over medium high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

2. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour, then the whisked egg whites and finally into the panko bread crumbs.

3. Gently put the chicken breasts in the oil and cook on one side until they are golden brown and crispy (about 3-5 minutes per side). Turn the breasts and cook the other side until brown.

4. Transfer the browned chicken breasts to a parchment lined pan. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and lemon zest.

5. About 7 minutes before serving, cook the chicken breasts in the preheated oven until cooked through.

6. Serve the schnitzels on a platter with the Chick Pea tagine and garnish with lemon slices. 

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