Gather Around

Trough-Style Dining

The word trough probably has you picturing high sun over rolling grass-covered knolls with birds chirping, and a farmer loading a long receptacle with muck that you wouldn’t go anywhere near, let alone dine on. Another day goes by, and all the animals get their grub and the farmer goes about business. Normal. Ordinary.

But wait. On second thought, it’s so simple and streamlined. It’s the most expedient way to care for all the needs of your guests simultaneously. Why don’t we do this for parties? It. Makes. Total. Sense.

Read the rest of this story...

For the past two years I’ve hosted a feast that’s a cross between a crawfish boil and a clambake with many delicacies that might not make sense to most, but we’re not apologizing. Chicken tenders made a regular appearance. So did the traditional corn, clams, Andouille sausage, new potatoes, shrimp, and lobster. All were cooked together (except for the chicken fingers) in a sensationally herbed lobster broth, drained, and tossed on a clothed table where we all dined with our hands. Baguettes, biscuits, and cornbread were always present. Small cups of the cooking broth were served with the meal because it was almost better than the ingredients themselves.

When everyone was too full to talk, that’s when the work began. Each guest seated at the table was responsible for cutting the corn off cobs, taking the shells off the shrimp, and cutting the Andouille into bite-sized pieces. Everything was headed back into the pot of delicious broth and divided into perfect gifts for everyone take for another day. It’s not leftovers! It’s a new creation and a perfect lunch.

This year, however, dinner would be different. We decided that a surf n’ turf would be more fitting for the move from table to trough. Outside on a rooftop overlooking the city and a spectacular sunset, guests gathered. Some new faces and a new display made the evening. Dinner was served on a bed of arugula with roasted potatoes of all colors of the rainbow, and carrots simmered in a French onion broth.

Our gracious hosts grilled giant shrimp and tenderloin and handcrafted the centerpiece out of a concrete tube and parchment paper. It looked fantastic. All of the food was deliberately distributed the length of our long trough platter service. We paired it with tiny cups of French onion soup with traditional toasted croutons and melted Gruyere cheese. We went with the classic James Beard Champagne Cocktail, and I felt like making donuts… and a marbled key lime and fresh mint donut trifle. It sounded good at the time, and it was.

In keeping with tradition at the end of the meal, the food was gathered and thrown back into the soup pot. It created an outstanding fall soup. All the flavors made for a warm and hearty new entrée that flew out the door with the guests.