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Holiday Party Menu Help

  • k

Each year we host a Holiday Party for about 100 people and I am finally switching from heavy hors d'oeuvres to a dinner menu. The party has grown over the years and it's become more and more difficult to make that many individual bites, actually it's beome rather unpleasant which is not what this party is about.

In the past I'd avoided a dinner buffet because I cannot seat 100 people simultaneously. This year I'm going to set that worry aside, add a few rented high tops and have people graze. For that reason I still want more of an appetizer feel to the menu and I would like dishes that will hold at room temp or in chafers so that my guests will pick throughout the evening rather than sitting down all at once to a large plate of food.

Now I will keep a few of the hors d'oeuvres that have been the most popular, and have them passed. But the rest of the food will be part of a buffet and for some reason I am at a loss - probalby because I almost never do a buffet...

I've considered focusing on Italian foods including a large selection of antipasti, but I feel a bit limmited. Then I thought about an international menu but that gets so easily garbled. I'm also considering doing several large roasts (maybe prime rib, ham and turkey) and then filling in with more interesting dishes. But I just can't seem to make any menu decisions this year!

I look to cook and have a fair amount of time to dedicate to the party. There are no particular food requirements though children are invited to this event. I do not offer separate or special foods to children (just my parenting philosophy) but I do try to include at least one dish that is appealling to the kids - last year it was fondue!

TIA for your help, I'm floundering...(no puns please!)

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  1. Since you can't seat everyone, I wonder about doing roasts...how will people cut meat on a plate while standing up? Think about foods that only require a fork, not a fork and a knife. What are the "favorite" hors d'oeuvres you plan to retain? Use their flavors/textures to inspire the rest of the menu...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hungry Celeste

      I will probably pass phyllo triangles filled with Moroccan spiced lamb, mini crab cakes, bacon wrapped water chestnuts, endive leaves with tarragon chicken salad, and some kind of shrimp hors d'oeuvres.

      I hear you on the roasts that why this puzzled me. In part I'm trying to break out of my usual mold and we very commonly see people offer buffets of fork and knife foods when there is almost no place to sit. I would be able to seat at least half of the people at any given time so I think the idea is that people won't all eat at once. I guess it doesn't make sense - maybe it's something people do if there food is bad or they didn't make enough and they don't want peopel to eat any! : )

      Anway, I'm not at all committed to the roasts idea. With the high tops everyone would be able to set a plate down to eat so maybe if we nix the roasts and stick with more manageable dishes. I'm planning to rent small plates to encourage people to eat and talk and then maybe eat some more.

      Can't wait to hear your ideas. BTW - even the hors d'oeuvres are flexible, except maybe the crabcakes which are a huge favorite.

    2. You may want to consider a cous cous salad that is great at room temperature. I think that chicken liver pate with toast points or gourment crackers would be a good addition.
      In terms of the roasts - what about if you cut the toasts into bit-size pieces that way your guests don't have to worry about knives and forks.

      1. maybe doing some large casserole type items such as lasagna, moussaka, black bean and chile.... chicken staty sticks with peanut sauce... or grilled/baked chicken on sticks with different dipping sauces such as satay, bbq, teryiaki

        the roast/ham idea is still doeable, especially if there are fixings to make mini sandwiches... which is another idea to do a variety of mini sandwiches such as a proscutto and basil (rachel ray did a good one the other night), chicken and pesto with provolone, grilled veggies, ... i have done this on a large loaf of bread and sliced them up and put then on trays for people to select.

        1. How about a whole roasted or poached salmon (or two)? It looks impressive and it's easy to eat with just a fork.

          1 Reply
          1. re: TorontoJo

            Definitely poached salmon - that's one of my favorites, and you're right it will be easy for people to eat!

          2. Lately when I host a party I like to do what I've been calling a 'Pan-Mediterranean' menu. A lot of it is Italian antipasti and Turkish/Armenian mezze style dishes, but there are also some North African type things thrown in there as well. Stylistically it all seems to work together, and a lot of it can be prepared ahead of time. (Bean or lentil salads, babaghanoush, charcuterie/cheese platters, marinated mushrooms, etc., etc.)

            The main dish can be a problem with so many people, and I don't really like pasta casseroles, so I have done a tagine a number of times and people have loved it. I use the same basic recipe, but the meats have been veal, chicken, lamb and even rabbit. Serve it alongside some couscous or even quinoa, and it is something that people don't have to sit down to eat. Along those lines- I think any sort of braised dish would be better for you than a roast.

            In the casserole department, one that I have been meaning to do is an Armenian dish called a Kofte, which is a layered bulgar wheat thing with ground beef. A friend of the family makes it and it always gets devoured. I'm sure there are recipes on line.

            1 Reply
            1. re: TongoRad

              mmmmm, I love armenian kofte. Just a suggestion though, I always add extra onions, peppers, s&p, and cumin then the recipie calls for, as the baked bulgar tends to make the casserole a bit bland.

            2. Paella is a good choice. Bee sure to peel the shrimp to make it easier on your guests.

              1. You know I've never made paella, but I just ordered a bunch of saffron for my Christmas Eve bouillabase and I'm sure that I have enough. I can get a recipe from Epicurious but if anyone has suggestions (point taken re. shrimp shells) that would be great!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Kater

                  There is a "Paella for 45" recipe on Martha Stewart's site. It is quite luxurious, with lobster as one of the goodies. I've made a massively scaled-down version of it. It turned out nicely, but then, I'm no paella expert.

                  All of your hors d'ouevres appear to be consistent w/ a Spanish theme, except perhaps the tarragon chicken salad. And Spanish wines are great values, IMHO.

                  Manchego and quince, marinated olives, pork empanadas, lamb lollipops w/ pomegranite syrup, come to mind.

                  One of my favorite restaurants is Spanish/Morrocan tapas so you get tagines, flatbreads, etc. The decor is lavish with bright colored silk, embellished, tassled, etc. throw pillows. If you planned to go all-out on decorating it might be intersting and festive.

                2. With a party of 100, you're bound to get some meat eaters who will want something similar to a roast. But a roast can be difficult to cut as mentioned above. However, I've found that the flank steak is a nice meat dish to serve because you can have it cut into slices and it makes a nice presentation. And if done right, your guests can eat it with a fork in about two bites without the need to cut it into smaller pieces. The flank steak can be a simple preparation and you can create a sauce or relish that complements the theme of the rest of your dishes.

                  For paella, it'll be impressive if you can make one of those big pan paellas and people can just scoop the paella directly. It'll look really great, but will take awhile to cook. You might be able to rent a really big paella pan. Paella ingredients can be up to you but a general mixed paella can include chicken thighs and assortment of seafood. But if you're daring you can try rabbit. If not, you can go for an all seafood with cuts of halibut with mix of shellfish.

                  1. You can get a high-quality spiral cut ham - it's so easy to get the pieces of ham off with one hand while holding a plate or glass in the other. Serve with small dinner rolls and a selection of mustard. Or another small sandwich idea is to make a big batch of pulled pork and coleslaw on the side. I've done that at our annual New Year's party to good effect.

                    Also on the mustard... grill lots of good sausages and cut them up to dip on mustard or curry ketchup. Lamb merguez sausages for example.

                    Another party favorite is a huge slow cooker filled with cocktail meatballs. Filling and delicious.

                    Lastly - small quiches - not the tiny mini ones but 2-3 inch diameter ones. Can be made ahead and you can have a great variety of flavors.

                    These might not be fancy enough ideas for your party though.

                    1. One really pretty, easy buffet item is a chicken and leek jalousie. I've made this to raves and people are always surprised at how easy it is. The filling is basically a mix of pre-roasted chicken, cream cheese, sauteed leeks. Then you roll out some pre-packaged puff pastry slice diagonal strips about 4 inches in on each side, leaving a wide, solid center strip. Put the filling on the center strip and criss-cross the cut strips over the top then bake. It seems like you're up for doing much more ambitious things, but this could be a good addition since it's pretty and accessible to most palates. If you'd like I'd be happy to post a more detailed recipe. I also think a "big aioli" could be fun and festive: small pieces of beef, blanched veggies, red potatoes, and a range of different aiolis (saffron, garlic), mustards, flavored salts and olive oil. Perfect at room temp.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Procrastibaker

                        I'd love you to post a more detailed recipe for the jalousie. Many thnx.

                      2. I am just in the middle of making Chicken and Leek Jalousie for Dinner.

                        8oz Cooked Chicken
                        8oz Finely chopped leeks
                        pinch of Chinese Five Spice
                        2tbsp of Grain Mustard
                        2oz butter
                        150ml Creme Fraiche
                        500gm Puff Pastry (I just buy one pack)

                        Melt butter and cook leeks until softened, take off heat and add five spice, mustard and creme fraice. Mix in diced chicken and season.

                        Chop Pastry in half and roll out first piece, put filling down the middle. Beat an egg and brush edges, roll out second piece of pastry, place over top and brush with egg. Cook in oven for about 30 - 35 mins on about 220 deg.

                        I serve this with new potatoes, carrots and broccoli.

                        1. I wouldn't fret too much about the roasts. We just had our party this past Saturday and I served Beef Tenderloin with a Bourbon and Cracked Black pepper sauce. I also have seating for about half the guests who were here. No one complained and everyone seemed to have no trouble finding a spot to eat. That said, if you have enough other dishes that do NOT need a fork and knife, then I would suspect that many people will wander and nibble and the people who need to sit down and cut meat will find a place to do so.

                          Have you considered possibly having beef stroganoff? Both the noodles and the beef would do well in separate warming trays. Hearty, filling, and pretty rich and luxurious - no need for knives and forks.