We love helping our shoppers at Cattleman’s choose items to go with their meats, fish and main course purchases.
From vegetables and starches to side garnishments and sauces, these are the other things on your dinner plate that are meant to “go with” your main dish. Such as a steak or a fillet of fish.
In the professional Chef’s world, they call these plated accompaniments that go with your main courses, “sets”.
What’s a set you ask?
When putting an idea for a dish together, the Chef also decides what vegetable, starch, sauce or garnishment he or she thinks pairs best with the main attraction.
Actually, lot of thought goes into it.
The cooks on the ‘line” learn these sets so that while they’re cooking the pork chops for instance, they also keep in mind all the other parts that need to be simultaneously prepared to be plated along with it.
All that, so that when the final “plate up” happens, everything goes smoothly.
These are examples of “sets”.
ATLANTIC SALMON FILLET – crab and spring onion croquette, roasted corn puree, asparagus, shaved fennel, capers and petite herbs.
GRILLED DOUBLE RIB PORK CHOP – sweet potato cake, braised kale, saffron pear compote, pickled cabbage with cider jus.
I almost hate to say this, (because I know Chef’s, when it’s busy, don’t like to do this), but I’ll say it anyway.
In some restaurants, (quite often those with a good kitchen staff and the ones that cater to a “foodie” crowd), if you like the idea of a certain main course dish, but are not too crazy about its “set”, you can ask your server if you can have that main protein with a different set.
It’s not too common, but its not unheard of either.
Let’s say to fall in love with a “Grilled, Double Rib Pork Chop” on the menu, but it comes with sides and other things you don’t like at all.
The pork chop in this example, comes with a Gorgonzola Cream Sauce, Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Fried Plantain.
You could just suck it up, order it, just to enjoy the pork chop, and push everything else off to the side
Truthfully, I’d encourage you to actually try the set that the Chef intended, you might be surprised?
BUT, if you happen to see another dish on the menu, with a set that you think you’d enjoy more with your pork, maybe it’s a Roasted Chicken dish, and its set reads; Sage Bread Stuffing, Butter Whipped Potatoes and Country Gravy, you can always consider asking:
May I have the Pork Chop with the Roasted Chicken set?
Almost no one ever asks this question to a server so they may be surprised by two things.
- No one ever has asked me this
- How do you even know what a set is? (And THEY might not even know.)
My guess is that 90% of server’s responses will be, I’m not sure, let me check. (You can quote me on this)
Then, 75% of the eventual replies will be (once they check with the kitchen and wonder who is the person at table 23).
You get the Grilled Pork Chop, you wanted, and enjoy everything else on the plate as well.
There are a couple of disclaimers I’m obliged to share with you however.
First, Chef’s are generally very proud of their menus. Having said that, the best of them also understand that they’re also in the people business. As such, they sincerely want you to be happy with both your food, and, your experience.
Second, some sets are integral to the main protein itself and can’t be subtracted or changed. Say, for example if the Pork Chopped was stuffed, or a salmon fillet is potato or mushroom crusted. These are things done in advance and can’t be changed.
Also, don’t expect that they’d even allow you to disassemble parts of numerous sets to “build” your own dish.
Lastly, menu prices are built by not only the featured entrée, by also by the entirety of everything else that’s on the plate.
As a result, it’s entirely possible that there could be an upcharge for changing a set, (even if they allow it).
It’s understandable. You certainly can’t expect a restaurant to swap out a steak garnishment of sauteed mushrooms and an onion ring, for grilled asparagus spears and jumbo lump crab meat topped with Hollandaise sauce. (An “Oscar” set.)
Being a savvy diner also means being polite, considerate and reasonable. A busy Saturday night is probably not the best time to show off your newly discovered menu set prowess.
It is however, an occasional, last resort option when no combinations on the menu truly appeal to you.
Have you even found yourself in a situation where you’d like to have asked to modify a set? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.