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)