Presentation is king for main courses in Sims 4

The Sims 4 has been letting people live out their fantasy lives in the Sims world for about two years now. The big advancement at the time was the emotional state playing a larger role in the game.

New traits played up on those emotions, and while many critics felt the release was limited in scope, Electronic Arts has attempted to add new features through game patches and expansion and game packs.

One such game pack is Dine Out, appealing to one of the base emotions everyone has – hunger. Not only can Sims go out on a dinner date, but entrepreneurial players can even open up their own restaurants.

The game designers looked toward molecular gastronomy to create fanciful and outlandish dishes for the Sims to enjoy or create. Molecular cuisine uses scientific methods to create meals by incorporating high tech equipment and the deconstruction of food elements into new and creative presentations.

The game pack includes 20 such dishes, broken down into appetizers, main courses and desserts. There are vegetarian options for those who wish to go that route.

As I scanned this list and the corresponding pictures, I was struck by how fanciful the name of the dishes had become and the flourish with which they were served. Could I, with no high-tech gadgets or chemical compounds, create something that could rival such delicacies?

The challenge was issued.

Because the Sims 4 Dine Out game pack uses molecular gastronomy for their dishes, many of the main courses were more about presentation than actual flavor impact. While I’m sure the chefs tried to maximize taste as much as they could, it is the flair of the dish that impresses the customer.

Eleven different dishes can grace your Sims 4 menu as entrees. Some of them seem pretty straight forward, with names like sizzled brisket over sour clover salad, semi-firm beet noodles or tiger shrimp in smoked dewdrop broth.

But what is a Sixam pit beast and why would such a thing be free range? It sounds terrifying, and the image of the dish portrays several tentacles reaching up out of some broth or gravy. This doesn’t sound like a good date night meal.

I decided on two dishes that I thought would be tasty, impressive on the plate, and not take away from any potential dessert to share with your dinner partner – cubed ahi with veggie wasabi matrix and volcano pasta.

By all that is holy, don't add the dollop of wasabi on top unless you need to clear your sinuses.

By all that is holy, don't add the dollop of wasabi on top unless you need to clear your sinuses.

The cubed ahi I tried to turn into more of a sushi dish, paired with ramen noodles. The key, of course, is to start with fresh tuna. Check with your fish monger to get about 12 ounces, if making for two, or find a sushi place you really like and see if they will sell you some.

The fresher your ahi tuna to start, the cleaner the final dish will taste and feel in the diner’s mouth. You’ll need about six ounces per serving, and start with a rectangular cut of fish.

Prepare about ½ cup of sushi rice. Don’t use another type of rice, because you need the stickiness and sweetness. In a separate bowl, mix together ¼ cup of mayonnaise with about 1 to 2 teaspoons of wasabi paste, depending on your level of tolerance.

Once the rice is done, mix that with the wasabi mayonnaise until all the rice is coated.

Now, here comes the fun part of putting it all together.

Take your ahi and slice it into two equal squares. If one is slightly larger than the other, don’t worry. We’ll use the larger piece as the base.

Place a layer of the wasabi rice on both pieces. Not too thick, but just enough to act as a buffer. Carefully cut each piece of ahi into quarters to make cubes of ahi with rice on top.

Put four cubes on a plate, side by side. Take the other four cubes and place them on top, rice side up in both cases.

Here is where you need to know the pallet of your diner. For presentation purposes, I put a dollop of wasabi paste in the middle of the top layer of cubes. If you or your dinner guest aren’t prepared for the punch of strong wasabi in the back of your throat, I implore you to skip this step.

Slide some ramen noodles coated in soy sauce next to your cube of flavor and bring on the chopstick. The cleanliness of the ahi tuna goes great with the wasabi rice, adding a level of wonderful tuna flavor to the heat and texture of the rice.

It might look a bit messy, but it tastes fantastic.

It might look a bit messy, but it tastes fantastic.

For the volcano pasta, I had some reservations about what this dish was really all about. Looking at the presentation in the game, it appeared the chef made a mistake in the cooking process, with overflowing cheese from an oversized pasta shell, but decided to wing it anyway.

I went with a modified stuffed shell recipe I like with a meat sauce for added flavor and presentation value. My volcano wasn’t going to be overly spicy, but it was going to have the look of destruction.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For each serving, prepare two jumbo pasta shells with four smaller pasta shells as per the instructions on the box. Drain and keep them moist until ready to use.

The rest of the recipe is based for two servings, but it does scale nicely if you want to serve more.

Mix together ½ cup of ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of oregano in a bowl. To that, add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of your favorite spaghetti sauce. For this dish, I used a four cheese sauce to bring even more creaminess to the plate.

In a baking dish, lay down a layer of the spaghetti sauce to prevent sticking. Fill up the cooked jumbo pasta shell with the ricotta mixture and put them in the dish. Add some shredded mozzarella on top of each, cover with aluminum foil, and baked in the oven for 20 minutes.

While all that is going on, in a skillet, brown up about ½ pound of ground beef. If you want, you can use pork, but stay away from ground poultry. Add some salt, pepper and minced onions, and cook until the meat is done.

Drain off the fat and add about 1 cup of the spaghetti sauce. Mix it all together over medium heat until the entire thing is warm. The mixture needs to be slightly loose, so add a little more sauce if it gets too tight.

Once the shells are done baking, it is time to plate. Remember, we’re going for presentation here.

During the baking process, some of the cheese will melt out of the shells. That is OK, because we are going to use that cheese to help set up pasta on the plate.

For each jumbo shell, place a little of the excess cheese behind the shell to prop it up. Add the meat sauce to the plate, making it look was erupting from the cheesy shells. Make sure to get the “lava” flow all around the base of the pasta shells.

Dot the “lava” with the tiny shells, filling them up with the meat sauce. If you want to add some spice to the dish, sprinkle the “lava” with your favorite hot sauce.

Both of these dishes tell a story and are wonderful to present to your diners. Food is meant to be good, but it is also meant to be fun. How many people can say they ate a box of ahi tuna or enjoyed a lava flow of cheese and meat?

Now, who saved room for dessert?