Secret Recipes and Entertaining Tips from SF Chefs


An Entertaining Tip from Jeremiah Tower (Stars):

“Never, ever, serve finger food that is larger than half a mouth full, drips, falls apart, or where the toast is so cooked that it shatters all over one's Armani the moment one picks it up.  And for passed snacks and hors d'oeuvre that are skewered, tooth-picked, or in spoons etc., have the waiter with another tray for the discards.  Remember, one has only two hands and one of them is filled with a glass of champagne or a filled-to-the-brim cocktail.”

An Entertaining Tip from Emily Luchetti (Waterbar):

Emily actually learned how to make this recipe from Jeremiah Tower, and will be serving it at the Stars Realigned dinner! Here are a few of her cooking tips for entertaining with friends:

“When entertaining, I like to get the dessert done ahead of time as it frees your brain and hands for the rest of the meal.  This Summer Pudding recipe can be made 2-3 days ahead of time, so it’s great for parties.  It’s also a versatile recipe – perfect for an informal BBQ or a fancy party!”

Summer Pudding Recipe

Serves 8 

3 pints strawberries (about 6 cups), hulled and quartered

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of kosher salt

2 pints blackberries (about 4 cups)

2 1/2 pints raspberries (about 5 cups)

1 loaf (1 pound) Brioche or thick sliced white bread

Whipped Cream

Spray an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line the sprayed pan with plastic wrap, making sure to press it into the corners and allowing a 1 1/2-inch overhang on all sides.

In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries begin to give up some of their juice, about 10 minutes. Add the blackberries and raspberries and continue cooking until all the berries are soft and have broken apart, forming a sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to warm.

Trim off the crusts from the brioche and cut the loaf into 32 slices. Each slice will be about 1/4 inch thick.

Spread 1/2 cup of the berry sauce into the bottom of the prepared pan. One piece at a time, dip the brioche into the sauce in the saucepan, saturating it. Place the berry-soaked brioche pieces in the pan, forming a single layer and a snug fit. Spread 1/2 cup of the berry sauce on top of the brioche. Repeat the layering, starting with the berry-soaked brioche, until the pan is full, ending with the berry sauce.

Cover with the plastic wrap overhanging the sides and place the loaf pan on a baking sheet. Cover with a pan just large enough to fit over the loaf pan, and put a large food can or other weight heavy enough to compress the pudding into the second pan. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To unmold the pudding, remove the weight and second pan, fold back the plastic wrap, and invert the loaf pan onto a cutting board. Lift off the pan and carefully peel off the plastic. Cut the loaf into 8 slices and place on individual plates. Top with whipped cream.

Planning Ahead

The pudding may be made 2 days in advance and kept refrigerated. Unmold just before serving.


Chef Jan Birnbaum (EPIC Roasthouse):

Chef Jan Birnbaum has provided a great list of entertaining tips (a checklist of sorts!) and a few of his favorite recipes to cook with when entertaining at home. 

Entertaining Tips for 6 – 12 Friends: 

1)    Prepare something you know and have done at least several times.  The best way to have fun with your guests and friends is to make the meal doable.  Let’s face it; you likely don’t do this every day so the best way to impress your guests is not preparing a brand new dish that you have not practiced many times.  Save those dishes to practice when your audience is small and tolerant.   Preparing a dish that you have never done before will guarantee a less than fun day for you.

2)    Think it all the way through and make plans ahead of time.  Think about the prep you can do before and how you can best make a splash.

a)    What to serve? (Addressed below)

b)    How will I plan the day or two before so as to minimize the stress of the day?

c)    Do I have the kitchen and cookware to make the menu?

d)    Do I have the dishes to serve the menu on?

e)    Will I serve individual plates or will I serve “family style” and allow the guest to plate their own?

f)     What will be the best drink - beer, wine, and specialty cocktail, non-alcoholic adult beverage?  How will that be served?

g)    Who will set the table while I finish off the meal or will it be preset?

h)    For cleanup – are you prepared?

i)      When will I prepare myself for the guests?  Shower / Dress?

j)      Do I have music set up, TV with the game on, or a slide show of the birthday guest?

k)    Will there be children, vegetarians or others that have special needs?

3)    Choose your menu carefully and thoughtfully

a)    Make sure that the task list for the menu is varied with enough things that can be prepared ahead and just a few things that need last touches to finish them off.

b)    While you will prepare a menu and written task list, leave some room for adjustment at the market.

c)    Shop two days in advance and get all the things you need.  Make a flexible, but complete market list.

4)    Other details

a)    I suggest at least one person to assist you the day of.  Have them arrive at least several hours in advance.

b)    How will clean up go? Plan of attack? 

Below are recipes that Chef Jan enjoys cooking at home while entertaining.

Recipe:Lobster and Halibut Ceviche

This dish is dramatic, impressive, fresh and seasonal and completely prepared ahead.

  • 1 or 2 (1 and a half lb.)            Cooked Lobsters (you can probably buy them cooked) if not, cook them in copious amts of salted water for 8 minutes and shock them in salted ice water for 4 min.
  • 1 lb. Local or fresh Alaskan Halibut filet diced into ½” pieces
  • 1 or 2 red peppers carefully minced
  • 1 Yellow pepper carefully minced
  • ½ Red onion carefully mined
  • 1 Jalapeno trimmed of seeds and membrane and minced
  • 2 Tbs. Chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. Chopped mint
  • 1 cup Fresh lime juice
  • 2 ea. Avocado ½ “ dice
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 35 ea Tortilla chips

In a stainless steel or glass bowl with another bowl of ice below it, place the diced lobster, raw fish, peppers, onions, avocado and herbs in the top bowl.  Reserve the limejuice and olive oil and add it one hour before serving.  One hour before, add the juice and the olive oil.  Allow to marinate for one hour and then plate into martini glasses.  Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and mint and a few tortilla chips.

Recipe: BBQ Brisket in Spicy Beer and Tomato Sauce,

Scallion Potato Salad and Spunky Corn Relish
  • 4 TBS Pure olive oil
  • 1 Fresh Brisket approx. 9 lbs
  • 1-1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 3/4 cup Spice mix (see recipe below)
  •  2 large          Carrots cut in 1/4's lengthwise & sliced 1/2"
  • 3 Medium to large onions rough cut
  • 1 or 2 Jalapenos sliced
  • 1 TBS.            Minced Garlic
  • 6 Roma tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 -32 oz. can Plum tomatoes
  • To taste Salt & Pepper
  • 1-2 oz.           Canned chipotle in Adobo sauce
  • 6 cups            Chicken or pork stock
  • 16 oz.             Medium bodied beer
  • 6 TBS.            Lime juice
  • 6 TBS.            Red wine vinegar

Spice mix: 4 TBS.

  • Kosher Salt
  • 2 TBS. Paprika
  • 2 TBS. Chili powder
  • 1 TBS. Toasted and ground cumin
  • 1 TBS. Toasted and ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
  • 1 TBS. Grated lime zest
  • 1 TBS.  Crumbled achiote

Season the brisket with a 1/4 of the spice mix.  Season the flour with the 1/4 cup of the seasoning.  Dust the ribs in the seasoned flour.  Heat 1/2 of the oil in a large thick flat pan.   Over medium- high heat, sear the ribs in batches.  When it is seared, add the other half-cup of oil to the pan and caramelize the onions, carrots, jalapenos and garlic.  Add the Roma tomatoes and cook until they break down.  Add the canned tomatoes and chipotles.  Cook to a stew like consistency.   Add beer and the stock and return the brisket to the pot.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Roast in the oven at 350 degrees until brisket is tender.  To test the doneness, stick a two-prong meat fork into the thickest part to the brisket.  Lift the roast.  If the fork will not quite hold the weight of the roast, it is perfect.  Remove the brisket and reserve.  Reduce sauce.  Pass the sauce through a small hole china cap.  Blend solids with just enough sauce to help it spin.  Mix the blended solids back in.  Add vinegar and lime juice.  Adjust seasoning.

Recipe: Scallion Potato Salad

2 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes 

Scallion Mayo:

 2 Egg Yolks

1 tsp. Chopped garlic

½ cup Champagne or white wine vinegar

2 TBS. Dijon mustard

3 TBS. Lemon juice

1 TBS. Kosher salt

1 tsp. White pepper

2 bunches Scallions greens only cut into 1/4 " slices

4 dashes Tabasco

1.5 cups Olive oil pure

¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, puree all of the ingredients until the scallions are completely smooth.  While the food processor is running, drizzle the oils in a little bit at a time until all oil is added and a thin mayonnaise results.

Slice the potatoes into 1/4 " slices and place them in gently boiling salted water.  When the potatoes soften remove them from the water and cool them flat on a cookie sheet.  While the potatoes are still warm, gently mix the mayonnaise.

Corn Relish

  • 8 Ears of Fresh Sweet Corn
  • 1.5 Cups Mixed Red, Yellow, Green Pepper Brunoise
  • 1   Cup Red Onion Brunoise
  • 4   Tbs. Champagne Vinegar
  • 4   Tbs. Olive Oil
  • T.T. Salt & Pepper

Remove the kernels from the cobs.  Place the vinegar, oil in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Add the peppers and onions and pour over the corn kernels.  Season them with salt and pepper and chill.

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