If the phrase ‘formal dinner’ brings to mind silver, crystal and well-dressed guests, the last thing you may think of serving is a casserole or stew. Such dishes are usually considered comfort food, and would normally be deemed too casual to be served at a formal dinner. So can it be done, and should it be done? Will you offend your guests or will you create a new tradition?
Following are some tips for serving stews and casseroles at a formal dinner. Rather than just talking about putting your stew in a fancy china dish, we’ve come up with some creative ideas to help the dish become a hit.
The first and most important tip is to invite people with whom you share mutual love and respect to your dinner. Circumstances like family gatherings and Holiday dinners lend themselves well to this approach, and by having a table of smiling, happy guests you prepare the way for grateful acceptance of whatever you may serve. People who love you care far more about spending time with you than what you may serve them for dinner. They may eve find a stew or casserole a delight, as most of us have little time to cook these days, let alone to prepare a homemade dish that can take time and care.
Secondly, you may wish to gear your formal dinner around a theme to help serving the stew or casserole seem appropriate. For instance, you could hold a cajun-themed formal dinner party, and serve all things cajun. The menu would, of course, include a spectacular chicken gumbo and a jambalaya dish, both of which could be considered stews. Pair these dishes with some grilled cajun shrimp, some high quality wine and some fun cajun appetizers and your guests will think nothing of the fact that you’re serving stew – they won’t even think twice! If you decorate around your theme as well, your guests will be having so much fun they will enjoy every moment, and your stew or casserole recipes might even become a hot commodity.
One other tip for serving casseroles or stews at a formal dinner is to make the dish more exotic than guests might expect. Rather than a standard casserole, use fresh, organic ingredients and spices, and possibly draw on another culture for flavor ideas. Setting a tantalizing and unfamiliar dish in front of people, and calling it by its real name (eg. ‘This is my special homemade Asian Stewed Duck’) can make for great conversation and can be impressive. Get creative, and enjoy the possibilities!