Crowd-pleasing caterer has ‘Super’ tips for home cooks

Patti Harris, left, the homeowner and host on Super Bowl Sunday, with cooking teacher extraordinaire, Barbara Tenney.

It was Super Bowl evening and some folks were surprised that I was going to one of the Knoxville Symphony League’s “Elegant Dining” fundraisers. “Wow, how did sales go for that one?” several people asked incredulously. “Actually, it was a sellout,” I said.

Here’s the reason: Barbara Tenney, cooking teacher, caterer and all around fun person was the main attraction. She whipped up a delicious four-course dinner in a matter of minutes, seemingly effortlessly. And she had us out in time to see the second half of the big game, if we wanted. She’s amazing.

Come along for the meal details, and I’ll share with you some tips Barbara has for us home cooks.

Patti and David Harris live in this lovely home off Rudder Lane in West Knox County.

Even though it was misty, the view still was spectacular. Here, Dean Farmer, left, and David Harris chatted on the back porch.

And, inside, Lee Ley offered Reggiano Parmesan wafers.

“It’s nice to have hors d’oeuvres when people get there,” advises Barbara. “It gets things going and causes people to start talking.”

Guest Mary Farmer, left, with one of the hosts, Theresa Stone.

Debbie Emery, left, and Robin Smith are co-chairs of the entire Elegant Dining series.

From left, Tina Hatcher, and Gary and Joan Boyd.

Jay Mounger, left, with Gay Lyons and John Butler.

Here are those wafers, again. Love those giant glass pills on the cocktail table. Very appropriate since Patti is a pharmacist!

The tables were lovely with Valentine’s themed flowers.

“Flower arrangements on the table should be low enough that you can see the person across the table,” reminded Barbara.

In the kitchen, Barbara was adding red grapes to the steamed Brussels sprouts.

“As far as I’m concerned, grapes can’t do anything except improve Brussels sprouts!” quipped one gentleman.

Barbara also added lemon to the Brussels sprouts.

Soon, we were asked to take our seats! At left, Jim Ley. At right, Lewis Kinnard.

Bloody Mary shrimp cocktails are on the way! From left, Nancy Bosson, Sandra Butler and Lee Ley.

Yum, yum.

Rudy and Elizabeth Koester.

Barbara begins assembling the cran-apple spinach salads.

“If you are going to have any kind of party, do everything in advance that you can,” says Barbara. “Did you notice I had the salad partially assembled and just added the dressing in the kitchen?”

“Always put your salad plates in the freezer,” Barbara said. “Have you ever had a salad on a hot plate that just came from the dishwasher? That’s not good.”

Isn’t it beautiful? The candied pecans were added at the last minute, as well.

An unusual side dish: vertical stuffed potatoes.

“I make them vertical because it’s something a little different. It makes the plate look pretty because it adds some height. Everything is not flat,” Barbara noted.

Paul and Tina Hatcher.

Time to cut the filet!

A finished plate: beef tenderloin with red wine orange sauce, vertical stuffed potato and Brussels sprouts with red grapes.

Marla and John Peterson.

One of the most fantastic desserts I’ve ever had! Poached pears in amaretto cream.

Barbara finished the meal with a wonderful treat called “David Duncan’s Coffee.” It was a signature item from longtime Knoxville caterer David Duncan, who lives in Florida now.

A word from Barbara on menu planning. “You don’t want too many heavy things. If you are having something heavy for the main course, like meatloaf, you don’t want chocolate layer cake for dessert! You want something light.”

Four of the hostesses: from left, Theresa Stone, Debbie Kinnard, Joanne Mounger and Nancy Bosson. Great job, ladies!

Rudy Koester, left, and Brian Bosson getting ready to head out.

Barbara sent us home with four homemade truffles, which were delicious.

“I always have a little something for people to take home,” Barbara said. “When they leave, they have a little remembrance of the evening. Just a little something extra.”

Here’s the recipe for that amazing coffee:


 3 cups strong brewed coffee
4 strips lemon peel
4 strips orange peel
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
½ vanilla bean
2 tblsp. sugar

Simmer 15 minutes.

1 ounce brandy
1 ounce Benedictine
3 ounces white crème de cocoa

Serve with whipped cream & shaved chocolate (if desired).



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13 Responses to Crowd-pleasing caterer has ‘Super’ tips for home cooks

  1. Deborah Sams, on February 15th, 2018 at 11:38 am said:

    Barbara Tenney is certainly an East Tennessee treasure. I was lucky to attend one of her cooking classes at KaTom this past Tuesday. The meal, as usual, was divine!

  2. Dennis Rowe, on February 15th, 2018 at 1:05 pm said:

    Cynthia, What an amazing dinner. Wonderful group of folks and at a magnificent home. Sara and I had the delightful pleasure of visiting with Dr. Harris and Ms. Patti when our mutual friend Dr. Frank Butler was in for a visit. You could not have rented a more beautiful view. Thanks to Ms. Barbara for the wonderful coffee recipe. But, I sure would like the recipe for poached pear with amaretto cream sauce.
    Keep the Blue Streak info coming.

    Best Regards

  3. Virginia Branum, on February 15th, 2018 at 1:16 pm said:

    Barbara is a wonderful cook, food artist and teacher. Her food is always memorable. But more than her cooking skills, she is one of the kindest, warmest and most genuine people I know. I count myself fortunate to call her my friend, for more years than either one of us will admit! Wonderful article, Barbara! Congratulations!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on February 15th, 2018 at 1:38 pm said:

    Deborah: I saw you mention Barbara’s cooking class at KaTom on your blog and I realized you are as big a fan of hers as I am!

    Dennis: Read on. I will post the pear recipe in the next comment.

    Virginia: I agree with you on all counts!

  5. Pam Rhoades, on February 15th, 2018 at 1:46 pm said:

    Gorgeous food! Barbara certainly knows how to “plate.” Wow!

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on February 15th, 2018 at 1:52 pm said:

    Poached Pears in Amaretto Creme

    Poached Pears

    – 1.5 liter bottle of red wine, such as pinot noir
    – 2 cups pomegranate juice
    – 1/2 cup honey
    – 1/2 cup sugarcane syrup
    – 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    – 1 tablespoon ground ginger
    – 1 tablespoon ground allspice
    – 1 tablespoon ground cloves
    – 8 pears, ripe but firm

    Amaretto Creme

    – 4 cups heavy whipping cream
    – 1 cup Amaretto
    – 1 cup chopped almonds
    – 1/2 cup mint leaves
    – Fresh raspberries for garnish

    To prepare the pears:

    1. Peel the pears, but leave the stem intact. Cut the bottom of each pear so that it will stand on end.
    2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the wine and all the ingredients except the pears. While stirring, bring to a boil and immediately turn the heat down to a simmer. Add the pears and let cook until softened so that a bamboo skewer can slide easily to the center. Watch carefully as time will vary with the ripeness of your pears, but no longer than 20 minutes should be sufficient. Remove the pears and let the liquid cool to room temperature. In the same pot or in a container with a lid, submerge the pears so that all of the pear is covered in the wine-infused liquid. Cover, refrigerate and chill before serving.

    Amaretto Creme

    1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the cream and slowly bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the amaretto. Stir the mixture and reduce by half. Add half of the chopped almonds to the sauce and stir. Remove from the heat and let come to room temperature before serving.

    2. For serving, spoon the sauce into serving bowls. Position the pears in the sauce standing on end with stem side up. Add a couple of raspberries and mint leaves to the bowl for garnish. Sprinkle with remaining chopped almonds.

  7. Dawn Ford, on February 15th, 2018 at 4:53 pm said:

    I love Barbara’s cooking classes and food. Should have signed up for this year!

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on February 15th, 2018 at 10:01 pm said:

    Dawn: Would have been even more fun if you had been there!

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  11. Monique Anderson, on February 16th, 2018 at 5:50 am said:

    Cooking classes are so fun. Looks like a delicious dinner.

  12. Georgiana Vines, on February 18th, 2018 at 7:42 pm said:

    Need to read about the dinners more closely. Would have loved to attend this one.

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