1 Recently, I hosted a special dinner at my home for 15-guests. My friend, Chef Pierre Schaedelin from PS Tailored Events, arrived early to start preparing another one of his delicious meals. He used the flower room kitchen for most of his preparations. http://pstailoredevents.com
2 Chef Pierre prepared all the vegetables first. He says, "mise en place" is extremely important when cooking any special meal. This is a French phrase meaning "putting in place", as in set-up. It is used in professional kitchens when referring to organizing and arranging all the ingredients for the menu.
3 Look at the vibrant colors of all the fresh vegetables. Most of them were served with the Couscous Royale.
4 Here are the meats that were used for the meal - lamb, sausage and chicken.
5 The first course was called bisteeya, a traditional Moroccan dish that's most like an elaborate meat pie combining sweet and savory flavors, and using a phyllo dough encasement. Here, Chef Pierre prepared the dough in a shallow dish for the bisteeya.
6 Chef Pierre placed the chicken and spices mixture into the phyllo covered dish and layered it with an almond mixture, and then more chicken, until the dish was full and ready to bake. Here is my bisteeya recipe from season-4 of my show, "Martha Bakes". http://www.marthastewart.com/1103743/bisteeya
7 The finished bisteeya before it was placed in the oven.
8 Next, Chef Pierre cooked the couscous. Couscous is a traditional Berber dish of semolina, which is steamed. It is often served with a meat, or vegetable stew spooned over it, or as in this case, as part of a Couscous Royale, which is a classic Middle Eastern dish including chicken, sausage and a multitude of vegetables.
9 Couscous, which is considered a pasta, contains about six grams of protein in a one cup serving. One cup also provides a good source of carbohydrates, selenium, potassium.
10 Chef Pierre's helper for the day was Moises. He was a great help to Chef in preparing all the ingredients for the dinner - by the end of the day, they were ahead of schedule. Here, Moises shredded chicken for the bisteeya.
11 Chef Pierre also did what he could to prepare the dessert, so it was easier to put together during the dinner service. Here, Chef created various meringue shapes, which were later served with a delicious berry sorbet.
12 The big pieces of meringue were for one of the guests who was celebrating a birthday. I asked Chef Pierre to make something a little more special. Here is a recipe for meringue that is great for piping various shapes and then baking them until they are hard and crisp. http://www.marthastewart.com/313245/swiss-meringue
13 Meanwhile, inside my home, a table for 15 was set inside my brown room.
14 My housekeeper, Laura, always creates the most beautiful and inviting table settings. For this table, she combined whites and greens to make a simple, yet elegant, spring table. The addition of bold, pink flowers was the perfect touch.
15 My tree peony, Paeonia suffruticosa, collection was blooming the week of the party, so we cut various flowers to use for the centerpieces. Tree peonies are actually shrubs, not trees, and do not die back to the ground like herbaceous peonies at the end of the season. Tree peony flower buds are much larger and flatter than those of the herbaceous peony, but both make excellent cut flowers.
16 Here is an overhead view of the tree peony blooms on the dinner table - look how large and stunning the flowers were!
17 The tree peony flowers were placed in small glasses of water and positioned in small groups along the length of the table.
18 The various tree peony shades of pink and rose looked perfect on this table.
19 Each place setting included a tagine. A traditional tagine is made of pottery, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts, a base unit that is flat and a large cone-shaped cover that sits over it.
20 On the opposite side of my brown room, at a smaller brown table, we placed blooms of white and yellow tree peonies. They looked impeccable mixed with the glass.
21 The servery was decorated with plants from my greenhouse, and a drink station was created for cocktails at one end of the counter.
22 Chef Pierre went over the evening's service with his helper, Moises. The wait staff was from Perella Events. http://www.perellaevents.com
23 Standing with Moises, are my housekeepers, Sanu and Laura. On the counter are two bisteeya dishes. The small one was prepared according to Kosher guidelines using Kosher approved ingredients and all new utensils, plates and serving items.
24 The sausage and lamb were cooked to perfection.
25 The chicken looked golden when it was removed from the oven.
26 And these small cherry tomatoes were pierced with chive stems and flowers. Chives are bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plants, and members of the onion family. Their lavender colored blooms look great atop many spring dishes.
27 Here was a plate of bisteeya with a garnish of tomato and chive.
28 These were the tagine dishes ready to be filled. Moroccan tagine dishes commonly use spices such as ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and saffron.
29 The Couscous Royale dish was plated with vegetables, and a piece each of lamb, chicken and then beef.
30 The food was placed into the base section of the tagines. The top was put on as well. These conical shapes were originally made to catch the hunter's attention. They create a unique and hot cooking environment for the food.
As the food cooks, steam rises through the cone at the top of the tagine.
31 Chef Pierre continued to prepare the dessert. He made a beautiful meringue and sorbet cake for the birthday celebrant. In between layers of meringue, Chef Pierre added a layer of scooped sorbet. This process took a little time as Chef placed it back in the freezer in between layers to refreeze.
32 As dessert time approached, Chef Pierre used a combination of meringue and fruit to adorn the plates.
33 He then added the homemade fruit sorbet.
34 The scoops of sorbet were placed atop the meringue. Meringue is a simple dessert made from whipped egg whites, and sugar and occasionally an acid, such as cream of tartar, or a small amount of vinegar.
35 And lastly, Chef Pierre added sugared rhubarb, and a sprig of mint. Each dessert was different, but very tasty.
36 And here was the birthday cake! I told Chef Pierre I envisioned a meringue shaped birthday cake, and that's what he created, with fresh fruit and sorbet. It was stunning.
37 The last addition was a candle!!