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May 2, 2009 09:22 PM

Help plan wedding menu -- must be cooked in advance (?) (!)

We are in the fortunate / unfortunate situation of having to cater our own wedding. We're also doing our own flowers, cake, and everything (ah!), so 99% of the prepwork must be done at least a day in advance. Any menu item suggestions?

Things we're planning on so far:

Cold grain salad -- tabbouleh
Cold or room temp grilled veggies -- summer squash, slow-roasted tomatoes ??? What else?
Fruit salads
Grilled beef tenderloin (another thread) -- sauces? Tips for advance preparation?
Chicken dish?
Antipasto -- cheeses, meats, olives, crackers and all that jazz
Second starchy-dish?
More veggie ideas?

We're thinking of a satay/peanut sauce kind of thing for the chicken. It's unfortunate to have to grill chicken in advance, but hopefully adding copious amounts of sauce can add some moisture back to the dish.

Same story on the beef.. needs to be done in advance and preserve as much moisture as possible....and hopefully up the flavor factor since beef tenderloin is not the most flavorful meat in the world.

I definitely need another veggie / starch dish. I'm having trouble thinking of things that can be done in advance and served cold or room temperature though. We're looking to avoid things like pasta salad, potato salad, etc, since we want to avoid the "backyard high-school graduation party" feel as much as possible (not that these aren't perfectly acceptable dishes).

So, any suggestions?

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  1. Well, I guess if you've got your heart set on this room temperature menu, we owe it to you to try and help. I'm j ust brain storming here:

    You might start off with an Artichoke Wheat Berry Salad
    The room temp. veggies, as long as they're somewhat crisp, should work.
    I might use the roasted tomatoes in something like a tomato salad (olive oil, herbs, diced tomatoes, parsley, etc.
    Fruit salads - that's a given
    Grilled beef tenderloin in very thin slices or cut into bite size pieces with a sauce (tzatziki?) Chicken bits on skewers to dip into flavorful sauce
    Antipasto -- cheeses, meats, olives, crackers (wheat thins) and all that jazz
    A second starchy dish might be a cold green pea salad

    You could skewer the chicken pieces (you could also cut the beef into half inch squares and skewer them) and have sauce for dipping these or to drizzle over them.

    One thing for certain. If you select some good quality wines to go along with the food just about anything will satisfy.

    Just stay on top of the food safety rules ...
    You wouldn't want anybody to be sick about a beautiful wedding.

    1 Reply
    1. re: todao

      We're definitely on the same page about the alcohol. Liquored up guests aren't picky.

      Thanks for the ideas. I know this room temperature menu must sound very disappointing, but we certainly can't afford a caterer and we don't have time to cook a meal the morning of the wedding.

      While I absolutely despise mayonnaise, your pea salad gave me the idea of a tasty corn salad I had at another wedding.

      Our version of roasted tomatoes is a lot like a tomato salad anyway, but I like the idea of at least adding some greenery to make it prettier.

    2. we served roasted vegetables at our's what we had:
      carrots with the tops on, those mini peppers, asparagus, zuchinni with a balsamic glaze

      1 Reply
      1. re: lollya

        Carrots with the tops on are the definition of cute. How did you keep them moist? I've never been good at roasting carrots unless I barely roast them and keep them very firm.

      2. We catered our own wedding, too, with about 25 people there. Don't know how many you're planning on having... Ours was buffet style, and I used slow cookers to keep food warm, so I made a couple of stew-type dishes, since some people were eating while standing and chatting (with stews, knives are not necessary provided everything is cut to size). It was more of a party than a sit-down dinner, though. Is this the format of yours too? We hired a couple of young people to help with serving hors d'oeuvres (made in advance, too) -- spanakopita, sausage rolls, mini-quiches. We also ordered a cheese board from a local cheese shop, which was a great addition.

        1. Beef Bourguignon made day before will taste even better the next day as the flavors settle in, on your wedding day when it sits on your buffet table warmed up in a chafing dish. I would serve with a homemade mustard or horseradish sauce

          12 Replies
          1. re: gafferx

            We're looking at 100-120 people, so the scale is definitely not in our favor =(

            I would love to make a braised/stew type dish like beef bourguignon, but I'm picturing preparing that for 100+ people and I'm picturing a nightmare. I guess if you didn't brown the meat it would be easier, but then I'm not sure how to easily warm it up. We don't own a chafing dish...

            Does anyone have good, simple, low-maintenance methods for reheating food without a chafing dish?

            1. re: jeremyn

              My simple comment is you need something hot. Hot food is welcoming. At the rate you are going you will have a cold spread only. You don't necessarily need a chafing dish. Get a big hot stew pot out there and insulate it and the heat will carry over

              1. re: jeremyn

                Hubby has corrected me and said we had about 40 people there. Still, it's not 100. But, I must say we had a lot left over and could easily have fed another 20. It actually isn't that hard to do, even though it sounds crazy. People eat a lot less than expected if it's not sit-down (I don't think you've mentioned yet whether yours is)... I don't think it's that they'll eat more if it's sit-down, but since everyone gets a certain amount put on their plate, and it's not necessarily how much they want (usually more), food ends up being wasted. I found that with the hors d'oeuvres, charcuterie, cheeses, stew, rice, salad, and dessert, there was a lot of variety, everybody enjoyed the food, and there was more than I expected for us to eat later.

                For reheating, you could certainly use a couple of cast iron pots and warm them and the food in the oven before putting it out. As I said, I used a slow cooker (not for cooking, but for keeping the food warm), and there is enough insulation in one of those that it retains heat fairly well without being plugged in for a while. I also used a rice cooker, and that, too, keeps the heat for a while without being plugged in.

                As I mentioned, I hired a couple of young people, and they had a schedule for bringing out the hors d'oeuvres every ten minutes. One was in the kitchen manning the oven, putting the bites in and taking them out, and the other was circulating with the trays of food and napkins. I had premade all the hors d'oeuvres and had them in containers in the freezer till earlier that day. The reason I found the slow cookers so useful for heating the food is that I didn't really have space in the oven for that while the hors d'oeuvres were being cooked.

                Maybe you could let us know if it's sit-down...

                1. re: Full tummy

                  It's a buffet, not sit down. I'm worried that slow cookers don't scale up well to 100 people, unless you have a really huge one. That's why I'm planning on cold/room temperature items.

                  We have some young helpers, but I'm not sure whether I should trust them to do anything with food. If I figure a system for having everything ready and easy to mix and heat with instructions, it's possible.

                  1. re: jeremyn

                    Hi jeremyn,

                    Another possibility is cold poached salmon:

                    The "young" servers I had helping were round 20 years old; that's young to me, hahaha... I hired them specifically to help with serving, and one of them had some food experience before. It was a job for them, so they took it quite seriously.

                    If it's a buffet, then people will still need to be able to sit down to eat the tenderloin, as they will need to be able to cut it. That's why I tried to go with something that didn't need a knife, but your situation is different than mine. You're right that 100 people is a lot to serve with one slow cooker, but you could probably round up more from friends and family if you want more...

                    Another recipe that's meant for serving cold is veal tonnato or turkey tonnato. There are a variety of recipes available on the Internet, but it's something I've never made so can't direct you.

                    1. re: Full tummy

                      Cold poached salmon is a great idea -- although I've been avoiding farmed salmon. Not sure if you can get wild salmon this time of year, but if you can, this recipe (which has potatoes as a side and a delicious tarragon sauce) is awesome:


                      1. re: DanaB

                        That looks like a great recipe, DanaB. I love tarragon! Will have to try that sometime.

                        1. re: Full tummy

                          I hope you like it! We made it once to bring to the Hollywood Bowl, and everyone seated around us looked on with envy :-)

                      2. re: Full tummy

                        That was my first thought as well. Pretty easy with whole fish - basically cover with water, salt it very well (my go-to recipe specifies 50g of salt per litre of water) and let it come to the boil slowly. As soon as it does so (there should only be a few bubbles), turn off the heat and slap on a lid. Let it cool completely in the water, ideally overnight. Your fish will be moist and delicious.

                        Instead of grilled tenderloin, how about cold roast beef?

                      3. re: jeremyn

                        I don't know if you've ever seen one of these, I've seen them used at many different functions, both private or charity. I've not seen bb in them but you could, they use them for chili or kraut and dogs etc, for serving a lot of people, and they work very well.
                        Hot plates. If you have a Good Will store, or second hand store, you can pick them up for around $5. I wouldn't try to get a bunch of crock pots, get a couple of the roasters, you'll use them your entire wedded life for one thing or another. Or maybe you have a family friend that would buy one, and then you can always loan each other theres..

                    2. re: jeremyn

                      <We don't own a chafing dish...>

                      A slow cooker is perfect for keeping Beef Bourguignon warm. and it's easy to brown the beef in batches. After that, everything cooks low and slow in one big pot.

                      I know quite a number of folks who have done their own cold appys and then ordered a couple of hot stationary dishes as carry out from a caterer. I used to do things like that when I was catering, as well as the whole wedding. It's quite cost effective, and very time-friendly.

                      1. re: jeremyn

                        You could probably rent some something to keep food warm.

                    3. Tandoori chicken tastes even better the next day after being refrigerated. I would think about paying an Indian restaurant $50 or so to prepare a batch for you to pick up early in the AM or the day before and put in your refrigerator----If you can find space

                      Serve it cold or room temperature
                      Delicious and it stays moist since it is dark meat