Holiday Party #3: Planning my buffet menu

A Very British Christmas
Originally uploaded by Flipsy.

I'm planning the buffet menu for our Holiday Book Party. It's about three weeks away so I'm starting to pressure myself to get the menu locked down. Then I can start working on getting the ingredients together, testing some recipes, and placing orders with Fresh Direct, the butcher, and maybe, just maybe splurge for a new piece of All Clad from Cookware and More as a birthday/Christmas treat to myself.

While the whole menu won't be strictly British, some of the menu will be inspired by my take on Christmas in Britan, R*'s home country. I've never been in the UK for Christmas, but I've been doing my research and asking R* lots of annoying questions.

I love the idea of serving a bunch of hot, homemade appetizer, but it is always a struggle. People gulp them down the second I yank them out of the oven. I make Martha's Mini Meatball Sandwiches every year, so I'll stick with that tradition. I'd also like to do some kind of stuffed mushroom, maybe with crab? And then maybe some mini reubens -- I like to do something that's an homage to NYC. Or a soup served on tiny spoons? I'm also going to make some spinach artichoke dip and a few other things that can sit out on trays for a while. If people have the chance to serve themselves some food, there won't be as much of a frenzy over the passed appetizers, I think.

I'm in love with scrambled eggs made in a double boiler, French style as I tried on my first (and only) trip to Paris. Sprinkled with truffle salt, they are amazing and so so rich and earthy. What's a way to adapt that for an appetizer? Is double-boiling eggs for a big crowd too ambitious, will they go cold soon? (Mr. S, are you still reading my blog? For some reason, I'm thinking you might have some soothing, common sense appetizer advice?)

How can I keep the appetizers going while I keep the dinner hot too?

Stilton will be the appetizer nod to the Brits. If I'm over ambitious, I could make tarts with stilton and maybe carmelized onions? Or, more likely, I'll buy a big wedge of stilton and serve it with a port syrup.

The Main Course
The main course is pretty locked, based on a trip I made to R*'s hometown this summer (Kidderminster, UK!) and Elizabeth David's Christmas cookbook. We'll serve bacon wrapped maple pork loin (in theory, this is a Canadian recipe, but it seems pretty Brit to me), mashed potatoes, chestnut and chipolata dressing (definately British, but I need to find a recipe). I haven't decide on the vegetable yet. I'd like to serve roasted cauliflower, but that's too much white on the plate with pork and potatoes. Any suggestions? I also thought about a salad, but since our buffet will be serving 40+ people over the course of a couple hours, I don't think a salad could stand up to it.

Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake is one of my top 5 favorite cakes. I've made this this cake a bunch of times in January and February, when clementines are so available, but I've never served this "wonderfully damp, dense and aromatic flourless cake" for Christmas, but it is a Christmas cake with roots in the UK, like my main course inspiration. The clementine cake will be the start of the dessert buffet. Hopefully, I can find almond flour someplace cheaper than what's at Dean and Deluca, my usual source.

I'm hoping to stick with a citrus theme for the rest of the desserts. To me, there's something clean and spark-y about serving a citrus dessert course, when people will be expecting chocolate and cut out cookies. Maybe a pavlova with tangerines if I'm ambitious? Or grapefruit cookies, maybe drizzled with chocolate or filled with marmalade? Citrus and chocolate seems kind of gross to me, but would I feel weird about not serving any chocolate? This meyer lemon pound cake looks good too and can be made ahead. Or lemon or blood orange granita, but I don't want to wash so many spoons. You do have to think about things like this when cooking for a crowd.

I'll be blogging some holiday buffet ideas over at Apartment Therapy Kitchen and would love some suggestions and ideas. I hope you'll post some comments and suggestions here. Once everything is "sorted" as my Brits would say, I'll post my full menu and recipe links here.

Happy Holidays! (Flipsy, thanks for letting me borrow your picture)


Blogger cybercasey said...

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2:35 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

If you can get to Trader Joe's, they have almond meal at a very reasonable price. The almonds are not blanched first, if that makes a difference. Having worked in both of these establishments (D&D and TJ's), I can honestly say you will do just as well quality-wise on most things at Trader Joe's, for about half the price.

3:17 AM  
Anonymous Mr S said...

I'm still reading, but I've been so swamped with work lately that commenting (and even cooking) have temporarily fallen by the wayside.

I think the scrambled eggs will be difficult for a crowd. They'll get cold quickly. However, poached quail eggs served in flat bottomed chinese-style soup spoons could work, I think, and would be equally good sprinkled with truffle salt. The mini rubens are a fun idea. You could do them on little rounds of rye toast. Stuffed mushrooms with crab sound excellent. And I've had really good luck with fried ravioli in the past - they get eaten before they can get cold, and the prep is really easy. Fry them in olive oil for an especially Italian flavor. They're not British at all, but you could call them an ode to NYC. One of my favorite dips for a crowd is an old russian recipe - roast a couple of large eggplants at 300° for 1-2 hours, until very soft, then scrape out the flesh and mix it with salt, pepper, 3-4 cloves of minced garlic, and about a cup of mayonnaise. It's best when it's had a day or two to sit, and is good with any kind of cracker, bread or breadsticks.

Roasted root vegetables are probably the way to go for the side dish to serve with the pork loin. Very winter and very UK. A mix of carrots, celeriac, parsnips, and onions will be a nicer color that cauliflower.

Check the baker's supply store on 22nd St just west of 6th Ave for cheaper almond flour. I know you want to stick with a citrus theme, but Christmas in Britain makes me think of plum pudding, which I hate, but I made a plum upside-down cake a few months ago that could be a good substitute. Unfortunately I can't remember where I found the recipe, but it may have been from marthastewart.com (there's a grapefruit upside-down cake recipe there that looks a little weird, but might be good?) or adapted from the pineapple upside-down cake recipe in the Joy of Cooking. Meyer lemon curd is really easy to make and is one of the nicest things about this time of year, and it could fill one large tart or a whole lot of little tarts. A blood orange trifle could also be nice.

Good luck!

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Mr S said...

By the way, thanks for turning me onto Nigella's Clementine Cake! I made it yesterday and really, really like it. So does D, and he doesn't usually like desserts all that much. I used limoncello in the whipped cream instead of vanilla, which could have been too much citrus-on-citrus, but turned out to be a nice touch.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im doing the same thing and came across your blog. I have a wonderfully British but not so seasonal dessert that I used for last years Holiday Party. Barefoot Contessa from FoodTv(Ina Garten) has a killer Summer Pudding Recipe. I make it in a Pyramid shaped bowl and once inverted it becomes a GORGEOUS molded confection that is a very DEEP merlot color with specs of Raspberry, blueberry and strawberry. Its architectural shape and vibrant color make it a real show stopper if not VERY British! Bill

5:36 PM  

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