I'm going to give you a quickie demo of how I go about putting a menu together.
I’m going to fix Catfish with Cherry Tomatoes and Lemon Sauce for the main dish. The dish can be put together ahead, refrigerated and baked right before serving. The sauce can be made ahead. I imagine what it will look like with the breading and the cherry tomatoes. (Cookbook photos are so helpful.) I imagine tasting the lemon sauce and the capers in the breadcrumbs.
Breadcrumb Caper topping:
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
¼ cup capers, drained
1½ cups fresh bread crumbs
Zest of 1 lemon, see photos if you need them
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
¼ teaspoon pepper
1½ pounds catfish fillets of similar thickness or other white fish fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Basket of cherry tomatoes
Lemon Sauce, see recipe below
Parsley for garnish, coarsely chopped, optional
1. If you need to grate the cheese and make the breadcrumbs, you can do both in a food processor. Grate the cheese with the grater insert, remove the cheese, and then make the breadcrumbs with the regular blade.
2. To make the topping, combine the cheese, garlic, capers, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and mix well.
3. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place the olive oil in a baking dish. Turn the fillets in the oil to coat both sides and lay side by side in the dish in a single layer.
4. Sprinkle with the topping and the cherry tomatoes. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Test for doneness. When the fish flakes easily, it’s done.
5. While the fish is baking, make the lemon sauce. When the fish is done, sprinkle with parsley if desired and serve with the Lemon Sauce.
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Serve at room temperature.
Adapted from the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi’s Come On In
Here are a few suggestions of dishes to serve with the Catfish and the reasons that I've chosen them.
Green Olive Tapenade
If you want to have something to eat standing around the kitchen, what about a Green Olive Tapenade with crispy crackers or cucumbers? Nice color, can be made ahead, and has a strong distinctive flavor.
Stir-Fried Sugar Snap or Snow Peas
I know that the texture of the fish is nice and soft. The peas have great color and the crunch. The peas can be de-strung ahead. They need to be fried at the last moment.
The breadcrumbs on the fish take care of starch. No rice or bread or potatoes are necessary unless one of your guests would feel neglected without it.
If I wanted a salad, I might choose a slaw, such as Jicama Slaw or Erasto’s Slaw. Either can be put together ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Stir again just before serving. It might be best to serve in small side bowls.
For dessert, I probably wouldn’t want a big lemon hit because of the fish’s Lemon Sauce. Tiny Chocolate Pots might be just right. They can be made ahead and are ready whenever you are, unless you want to add some whipped cream.