Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tips for A Successful Holiday Buffet

Here is an article from “HomeMadeSimple.com” about serving a holiday buffet your guests will applaud.

Serving Up a Brilliant Buffet

This is the season for entertaining, and we all know that buffet-style parties are easier to prepare for and manage than sit-down dinners for a larger group of guests. However, most of us struggle with basic questions: What are some easy, delicious foods that are not the “same old, same old”? How can I be sure that there will be something to please everyone? How much “stuff”—food, drink, ice—do I need to make sure everyone has enough? Relax! We offer you here a basic guide for entertaining large groups of people without losing your holiday spirit (or your mind).

Managing the Numbers

Probably the biggest worry for any hostess is running out of food or drink. Here is a basic guide to help you make comfortable calculations for your party guests.

  • Prepare more food if you are having a buffet rather than a sit-down meal; guests tend to eat more from buffets. However, the more selections available, the less people will take of any one item because they want to taste everything.
  • If you want to serve appetizers before the buffet, calculate three to five servings per person (have less if you want to be sure people will be hungry for the buffet!).
  • For a buffet serving 25-30 people, a good basic menu includes two casseroles in 9″x13″ dishes (or one casserole plus meat—turkey, ham, beef), two salads (about three heads of lettuce per salad), rolls (one per person), and two to three desserts.
  • Meat amounts can be tricky, but here is a general guide: for 25-30 people, have a fifteen- to eighteen- pound turkey, OR a six- to seven-pound boneless ham, OR a twelve-pound roast beef.
  • For serving pasta, calculate about two ounces per person if it’s being served as a side dish or as one selection on a buffet table, about four if a main course.
  • When planning beverages, know your crowd; in general, though, calculate about one drink per hour for each guest. For a party where guests will be standing/moving around a good deal, plan on four to five drinking cups per person. For ice, you’ll need about one pound for every four to six guests.

Food and Drink Ideas

Make as much ahead of time as possible—you want to enjoy your guests, not be stuck at the stove all evening! And don’t be afraid to take advantage of all the wonderful take-out options that are available; they can go a long way toward saving you time for other party preparations.

Try these ideas for a varied, simple, and delicious spread that’s sure to please any guest.

  • Having a meat dish that does not have to be kept warm as the buffet “centerpiece” is usually a good idea—turkey, ham, or roast beef are good prepare-ahead choices, and can be sliced before being set on the table for easy service.
  • Do you have a fondue pot, or know someone who would lend you one? Fondue is easy, fun, and a wonderful winter treat; if you can arrange for more than one pot, you can provide a mix of savory and sweet fondues for guests to enjoy. And after the pot contents are made, all you have to do is cut up a variety of dipping material—meat, vegetables, bread cubes, fruit, angel food cake—all of which can be prepared early in the day and stored for easy replenishment.
  • Prepare (or buy) a variety of pasta sauces; heat and set out around a big bowl of cooked pasta for guests to try. Some suggestions: pesto, marinara, Alfredo. Encourage guests to mix—for example, a bit of Alfredo mixed with marinara makes a fantastic creamy tomato sauce.
  • Pizzas made from refrigerated dough and various savory or sweet toppings make easy, delicious finger foods. Roll out a tube of refrigerated rolls and bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 10 minutes; top with shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses and sliced jalapenos, pop back into oven until cheese is melted. Or spread cooled, baked dough with cream cheese; top with finely chopped broccoli and cauliflower, and shredded cheese. Bake a tube of refrigerated cookie dough in the same way; spread with cream cheese blended with confectioner’s sugar and a bit of vanilla, and arrange fresh, frozen, or canned fruit on top. Cut into small squares.
  • For an easy and fun “theme,” focus on one kind of food—appetizers, desserts, fondue. Or, depending on your guests (number and preferences), have a theme buffet devoted to a specific ethnic food, such as Caribbean, Indian, or Asian.

Other Tips

  • Avoid food that requires a knife for eating.
  • If you serve a salad, provide tongs for serving rather than a spoon—easier for guests to manage with plates in their hands.
  • Make sure you have enough oven and refrigerator space for preparations; if not, ask a neighbor if you may borrow some space.
  • Arrange all the dishes you plan to use (including plates, utensils, etc.) on the table ahead of time to make sure there’s enough room for everything.
  • Of course, you can always rely on a few close friends to supplement your table with their own creations.

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