Grazing Stations

Grazing Stations are something I love working with for a few reasons

  • They’re so much fun!
  • They let myself and the team have some creative free rein
  • They can work with any theme
  • What a great way to let people taste a little bit of a lot of things, some of them new
  • They’re a great gathering point at a party

There is so much that can be going on with one of these, I think this is a really great starting point for a little series of posts highlighting the simple to the more involved aspects including recipes and ideas.

So what are the rules for making a grazing station? Personally I don’t really have any. But I do have a few guidelines.

First, if it’s for someone else meet the tone and theme of their event. Easier said than done, this is where your communication skills as well as your skills in cookery are going to be extremely valuable. You have to listen to the client to then communicate their vision to their guests and meld that with your abilities and your style. Be honest. Something might be beyond your abilities or knowledge. Challenges are great, many of us thrive on them, but be honest with yourself and your client if you’re getting in over your head.

Sometimes the theme is easy: Alice in Wonderland anyone?

Alice in Wonderland

For this one we had to control ourselves a little bit because it would have been so easy to go overboard. But the little touches that appear throughout the table were as appreciated as the few big obvious ones. On top of the sandwich tower we have some red cap mushrooms made using hard boiled eggs and tomatoes.  Next to that we have a bouquet of ‘flowers’ created using heirloom carrots and edible pens to give them faces just like the Disney movie. Somehow not pictured is the watermelon carved into a teapot, I might not be the best photographer but I’m learning.

Second use good ingredients. Fresh and seasonal whenever possible. Good quality meats and cheeses. I actually enjoy making a lot of the condiments and even some of the breads I use as well. Sure you can purchase a lot of fancy things even at a neighborhood grocery store and those are often great, even the non-fancy are great. Making it from scratch certainly isn’t necessary but hey, we’re here to cook right! A few little touches, even to a simple standard sandwich, can make it just a little more memorable.

On that note, I figured lets start off with a simple recipe for Mayonnaise and a few variations that can give a sandwich that little extra touch.

Basic Mayonnaise and a Few Variations
~1 ½ Tablespoon lemon juice
~1 teaspoon white wine (or white balsamic vinegar)
~1 egg yolk
~⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
~2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
~1 teaspoon salt (Kosher or sea salt)
~½ cup light olive oil
~¼ – ⅓ cup canola oil (or any other neutral flavoured oil)

Place all the ingredients except the oils in a blender or food processor (small bowl please) and blend until they are smooth.
At medium – low speed slowly drizzle in the olive oil, continue with the canola oil until a smooth emulsified sauce is reached.
If you see any splitting you can add a few drops of cold water and blend to bring it all together.
If it -completely- splits and you can’t recover with just the cold water, don’t throw the split sauce out. Start with a new egg yolk in a clean blender or processor bowl and slowly drizzle in your split sauce.  And if you and your blender are having a bit of a love hate relationship over mayonnaise (we’ve all been there), grab a bowl and a whisk and follow the same steps.  

Variations and some suggestions

Curried Mayo:
~½ cup of prepared mayonnaise
~2 teaspoon curry powder
~½ teaspoon ground cumin
~Dash of cayenne and a squeeze of lime juice
Use some diced chicken breast, some grated carrot and mix with curried mayo for a great sandwich.

Lemony Mayo:
~½ cup of prepared mayonnaise
~1 ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
~1 teaspoon lemon zest
~Dash of white pepper to taste
This works with so many sandwiches but I really love it with tuna, canned white or steaks seared and sliced with some peppery arugula. Personally when using tuna I really like to use a lighter bread, nothing too dense or thick. Sometimes when using a canned tuna I’ll opt for something with more crunch, cracker like.

See you in the next post for the series where I will pick up with some more tips and recipes.

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