Presentation Is Key

By Sharon Naylor

September 28, 2015 4 min read

You may have heard the saying, "You eat with your eyes first." Each of your holiday meal dishes will look all the more enticing when you plate your turkey and side dishes with culinary flair. No doubt you've watched at least a few Food Network shows, seeing celebrity chef hosts and reality cooking show contestants plate each of their dishes beautifully, with swirls of sauce and sprinklings of bright green herbs. The resulting artistry makes each menu item look spectacular and all the more appetizing. So for your holiday dishes, be inspired by these tips on plating your food with style:

*Use White Plates

When food sits atop a pristine white plate, all of the colors and textures of the dish stand out. Compare that to plating food on a patterned dish that doesn't create the same kind of "frame" for your food. There's just too much contrast; too much pattern competing for the eye.

*Use Greens

Yes, your turkey would look amazing on a white platter, but a thin layer of salad greens beneath it give it a bed to sit on, and make this centerpiece of your meal stand out against all of your side dishes plated without greens beneath them.

*Build Towers

Chef Maria Cummins of culinary education group the Real Food Academy suggests using a food ring (a metal ring open on the top and bottom) to build layered food towers. Place the ring on the center of your plate, and spoon in some rice, quinoa or whatever you'd like as your bottom layer; then some diced vegetables; followed by avocado, and whatever other ingredients you would like to include. Gently tamp down the food within the ring to help it keep its shape, and gently slide the food ring off, leaving you with a nicely shaped tower.

*Sprinkle Sauces

Use a squeeze bottle to scatter gravy or sauce on your plate in back-and-forth motions to create some streaks and some dots, adding to the finished look of your plate.

*Smear Your Food

Spoon some gravy or a creamy parsnip puree on the plate; then use the back of a spoon to smear that dollop across the plate. The smear adds a streak of color, and the food you place on top of that smear stands out due to the color and texture contrast.

*Present on Food Spoons

You'll find small ceramic-handled spoons at the dollar store or grocery store. Each spoon set on a platter can hold a bite's worth of food, such as a dollop of ceviche or stuffing. An added benefit to this creative presentation is that you can portion-control more exorbitant menu items such as lobster or crab cakes, providing bite-sized servings instead of a big bowl.

*Swirl in Your Soup

If you'll serve a soup course, such as a lobster bisque, creamy broccoli soup or other thick soup, add some presentation flair with a swirl of cream or sauce on the top, using a squeeze bottle to help you control your chosen shape.

*Write a Message in Sauce

Use your squeeze bottle to write a word or phrase in sauce on your platter's bare spot, such as "Enjoy!" or "Vegan," if you'd like to ID a dish in a creative and edible way.

*Top With Fresh Herbs and Greens

Chef Cummins suggests topping plated dishes with a few different types of herbs and greens, to coordinate with the menu item you're accenting. Cummins recommends providing better visual interest with some herbs chopped and sprinkled all over the dish (not just the food), and also adding some long parsley or cilantro stems.

*Mix Up Your Plate Shapes

Chef Cummins loves the look of square and rectangular plates together, and when added to your round serving bowls, you're the tableware creates an artistry of its own. Plus, different sizes and shapes can more easily be arranged and fit onto your crowded Thanksgiving table.

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