It’s All in the Prep

Executive Chef Bruce Kaplan of Kaplan Catering recommends a pre-planned and varied menu when hosting a dinner party, to take advantage of seasonal food options and keep costs down.

Otherwise, he enjoys letting the party roll.

“You don’t have to make everything ahead. Let others help, then you’re all sharing in whole process,” Kaplan said. “Everybody gravitates to the kitchen anyway; it’s hard to keep them out!”
He created an entire dinner party meal for Cary Magazine cameras in next to no time, evidence of his more than 25 years in the catering business.

The main dish is a mixed grill, or three smaller meat options rather than one large, to take guests’ preferences into account. Today those meats are flank steak, chicken sausage and shrimp.

Kaplan explains his techniques as he cooks, from grilling the flank steak 5 minutes on each side to why he props it up to set for 20 minutes before finishing it in the oven, 10 minutes at 300 degrees.

“So it doesn’t lose its juices,” he said. “Grilling gives good flavor, but you don’t want to dry it out. It’s best at medium rare to medium, and cut it very thin, on the bias.”

Never place raw sausage on the grill, he says next: Oven-cooking or boiling first toughens the sausage skin, and makes for better grilling results.

Don’t have a grill? Try oven roasting at a high temperature for a short period of time.
Kaplan also explains why he prefers vegetable oil to olive oil: “You get too much of the olive flavor,” he said. “Vegetable oil seasoned with olive oil works too.”

As for roasting vegetables, Kaplan demonstrates the spacing of chopped items, lying flat on the pan. Lightly oil the veggies with vegetable oil (olive oil will burn, he says).

Zucchini cooks for 5 minutes at 450 degrees; Kaplan then quickly moves it to a cold pan to stop the cooking process, to produce a crisp, caramelized treat.

“You can oven roast any vegetable for flavor; it’s better than sautéing,” he said. Vegetables vary, but generally require roasting temperatures from 375 to 425 degrees.

Slices of grilled bread are just partially toasted to reserve chewiness. One last tip: Always cut breads long, on the bias, Kaplan says.

Kaplan Catering, Raleigh
(919) 846-9808

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