HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

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?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  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
    http://www.wheatfoods.org/Artichoke-W...
    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
    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Green-Pe...

    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 wedding...here'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:
                    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                    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:

                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                      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

                        http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produc...
                        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

                      1. I made these lemon rosemary chicken skewers as an appetizer for an event. They were very well received. Relatively few grape tomatoes (one on the end of each skewer) makes them look more dramatic and appetizing at a reasonable cost.

                        I'm sure I didn't use any hot sauce when I made this (not being a hot sauce kind of gal myself).

                        People liked them and they looked dramatic. I did grill them rather than oven cook them as recommended and do feel I had better flavor that way.

                        But, all in all, a really good recipe.

                        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                        1. Suggestions for cold grilled veggies: add asparagus, eggplant, portabello mushrooms, & peppers to the list

                          For a starch dish, how about an assortment of rolls / sliced bread with a variety of different flavored butters? Or, some sort of chickpea salad. Although you mentioned staying away from potato salad & pasta salad, you could possibly consider cold potato or pasta dishes, just not the standard mayo-based chunky / piecemeal salads. Presentation-wise, sliced small potatoes look nicer than potato chunks and pasta strands or orzo look better than macaroni. Sauces that are vibrant and flavorful, like sour or spicy or both, rather than simply creamy could be interesting. Try sliced baby red potatos with a vinegar / oil based dressing (vs. mayo based) and fresh basil / scallions (had this at a potluck, and don't know what other ingredients were involved in the recipe). Or, a cold noodle dish, like this Hot-and-Sour Soba salad recipe from the NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/hea...

                          Random other foods that I think taste good cold:
                          -tomato caprese salad
                          -gazpacho
                          -vietnamese summer rolls (usu. with shrimp or pork
                          )-sushi

                          Other suggestions for cold/room temp foods (I cheated and copied them from my old university's catering site, since UMich had pretty decent catering):

                          Cold Hors d'Oeuvres
                          # Skewered Filet Mignon with Horseradish & Peapods
                          # Skewered Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Honey Jalapeno Sauce
                          # Skewered Lime Chili Chicken with Chipotle Mayonnaise
                          # Skewered Chicken Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce
                          # Shrimp Canaps with Red Pepper Mayo on Cucumber
                          # Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Canapes on Cucumber
                          # Beef Tenderloin & Horseradish Canapes on Sliced Potato
                          # Smoked Salmon & Fresh Dill Cups
                          # Spicy Shrimp & Sundried Tomato Cups
                          # Shrimp Tandoori Bites with Raita Sauce
                          # Chive and Chevre Potato Cups
                          # Shrimp Cocktail served with Cocktail Sauce
                          # Smoked Chicken Salad Pte Choux
                          # Roast Yellow Pepper & Chive Boursin Pte Choux

                          Platters
                          -Lavash Pinwheel Platter
                          * Filled with assorted meats, cheeses and garnishes then rolled and sliced.
                          -Mini Focaccia Platter
                          * Miniature focaccia squares topped with pesto, mushroom, fresh mozzarella, roasted pepper, fresh thyme and tomato confit.
                          -Smoked Salmon Platter
                          * A side of smoked salmon accompanied by red onion, sliced cucumber, capers and bagel chips. Garnished with piped cream cheese.
                          -Roast Top Round Platter
                          * Accompanied by assorted party breads and rolls. Served, sliced, with horseradish-fresh chive sauce, and a roasted garlic and red onion sour cream.

                          Other
                          -Spicy Shrimp
                          * Delicious jumbo shrimp marinated with Asian chili pepper paste, then sauted and chilled. Served with a julienne of sweet colorful peppers and snow peas.
                          -Asian Vegetable Salad with Grilled Chicken
                          * Julienned Napa cabbage, snow peas, carrots and scallions tossed with Asian vinaigrette
                          -Grilled Lime Chili Chicken Salad
                          * Tender boneless chicken breast seasoned with cumin, chili powder and lime, then grilled and sliced. Served on a bed of assorted greens with red and yellow peppers, vidalia onion and cilantro. Garnished with dried cherries, smoked cheddar, toasted pine nuts and a southwestern ranch dressing.

                          I hope this gives you some ideas that might be useful!

                          1. Well, I gave some ideas on your other thread with the beef tenderloin, however. with 100 if I read correctly ... good luck. Very ambitious. I just did a 100 person wedding 4 weeks ago. Casual, much like yours in a way but I had 3 people helping me and I was strapped.

                            One bit of advice ... appetizers are important. It keeps people busy and tied up and keeps them entertained and fills them up. You definitely need appetizers. Fruit skewers with a lemon honey yogurt sauce or honey ginger sauce as I mentioned in your other post. the antipasto is good. Maybe some bruscetta, easy to make and lots of toppings available. Spring rolls are easy and can be made ahead and stuffed with anything, cut in 1/2 or 1/3rd which make a pretty appetizer.

                            Stews or warm food are great. You need something warm or HOT. Beef bourguignon is great and a couple of crock pots would work or you can rent a chafing dish very very cheap. Roasted veggies are also great. Roast ahead and then just reheat in a aluminum tin.

                            Also a tip. Buy a couple of those heat packs you break them open and you can use on your back or arm or knee etc. Those things are great and put under a pan and will keep it slightly warm, they really do work.

                            Smoked salmon is great and done ahead, chicken to me shouldn't be made ahead, especially breasts. Dry and not worth it. Not chicken is maybe a tomato sauce with onions and peppers is great, but again, you would need to reheat or keep warm.

                            A cold cucumber, carrot and radish salad with a light rice wine vinegar is great simple and spring like. Fruit definitely.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: kchurchill5

                              Have you made bruschetta in advance with success? Can you shield the toast from getting soggy with an arugula leaf or two or something in between the toast and the wet ingredients?

                              1. re: jeremyn

                                You would just take the toasts and the bruschetta topping separately to the venue, and then put the topping on just before serving. Do you think you will have help that could do this for you?

                                1. re: Full tummy

                                  I just sent a full reply, yes, the toast is easy in advance and the toppings too. But you have to put them together before that day. A couple of hours is ok with the ones I listed because they are not very moiste, but that day.

                            2. Wow, that's a lot of people, hope you have dear ones to help you out. Is it an inside reception or a lawn thing? Was thinking of borrowing grills and people to man them and contstantly putting out grilled chicken/veggies/pre-made shishkabobs/stuffed breads/oysters in the shell? Good luck and have a blessed marriage!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: bayoucook

                                I agree, even one big grill and someone just rotating the kabobs would works great.

                                Nice idea bayou, Stuffed breads are a favorite of mine, Stuff with all kinds of things, even stuffed with sausage and cheese, or just veggies and cheese, or just cheese, just wrapped in foil and baked on the grill. Can all be put together ahead of time, then sliced.

                                As bayou mentioned, I hope it goes well and definitely hope you have good friends and family that are helping. Your day, so make sure you enjoy yourself. And I will be in the minority on this but I still believe that it is important but more so tradition to have food at weddings, but do what you can and don't stress too much over it. I truly feel people shouldn't go in debt just to have a good dinner or to try to please everyone. Most people who attend I find remember it for the wedding and the friends they see and to be with you and to share your happy moment, not the food. Do the best you can, but remember to relax and enjoy your day. I'm sure no matter what the food will be just fine and your guest no matter what will have a great time as you will!!

                                Best wishes.

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  Thanks for the relaxing advice. I expected everyone to freak out and simply tell me it cannot be done, but I'm going in the the attitude to do the best I can and hope it works out. Like you said, I am not willing to go into debt / spend $5-$10k on a caterer.

                                  1. re: jeremyn

                                    Just do the best you can it will be just fine and everyone WILL have fun

                                2. re: bayoucook

                                  It's an outdoor, lawn thing. But grills aren't allowed at the venue =(

                                  1. re: jeremyn

                                    It doesn't really matter. It'll be lovely and a special day for you and your groom.

                                3. jeremyn, is the reception inside or outside? Cold food is much more appetizing outside than in, IMO. I think thinly sliced beef tenderloin would be lovely with some kind of creamy blue cheese sauce and/or herb butter to spread on crusty baguette slices.

                                  I think Ina Garten's method for beef tenderloin is pretty foolproof -- screaming hot oven for 22 minutes or something like that, and you end up with rare to medium rare beef that's super moist.

                                  Regarding scheduling, I think once you get the menu firmed up, the best thing would be to write out everything that has to be done for every ingredient and pick the things that can be done a) by someone else or b) more than one day in advance. I'm thinking, cook the grains 3 days ahead, mix the salads, prepare antipasto trays and roast veggies 2 days ahead, and grill or roast the meat the day before. Do you have enough refrigeration space to store all this stuff, both at your house(s) and at the reception venue?

                                  If you want one hot dish, really, chafing dishes are NOT that expensive to rent for the afternoon. Or ask a local church or club if they have a couple you could borrow!

                                  Best of luck to you! :)

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: LauraGrace

                                    We're working on our menu / food itinerary already. The grain salad can definitely be done a day in advance, and someone has offered to put together a fruit tray for us. We're going to give them money to pay for the produce and encourage them to hit the farmer's market for higher quality goods.

                                    We were indeed planning on doing the veggies two days in advance, and I'm glad I have a second opinion that that will work ok.

                                    You think mixing salads, dressed, two days in advance is ok? I suspect it will work fine if they are covered and refrigerated.

                                    We have some friends who are letting us borrow refrigerators... I havent even mentioned the cake here, but that takes up a whole freezer on its own!

                                    1. re: jeremyn

                                      Everything can be dressed except any fragile greens, such as lettuce, arugula, etc., as it will become all wilty and unappetizing. Otherwise, dressing in advance will probably improve the flavour, though it should be checked the day of, as sometimes the dressing gets absorbed, and you need to add more last minute. So, maybe keep some extra dressing for each salad for pouring on last minute.

                                      1. re: Full tummy

                                        Agreed. The tabbouleh could def. be dressed two days in advance. It just gets tastier as it sits.

                                  2. For another veggies starch, what about couscous w/ pesto--then you can add vegetables cut into slivers, carrots, celery, broccoli, etc. and currants or raisins for a little sweetness. Serve at room temperature.

                                    1. This orzo salad from epicurious.com is excellent and keeps well, even if made a couple of days ahead. Add the pine nuts just prior to serving. I have some in the fridge now we've been eating on for a couple of days and it's just as good as the night I made it.
                                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: onrushpam

                                        Have you tried this version? It's my favourite!! Basil, olives, pine nuts, with orzo. Yum!!!

                                        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                          Orzo is really good days later? I don't cook it often at all, but I imagine it getting all gummy. Any suggestions on avoiding that?

                                          Either way, I think I'll try marrying these two recipes and seeing if I like it in a couple of days. Thanks for the suggestions!

                                          1. re: jeremyn

                                            I leave it quite firm and rinse just a bit under tepid (not cold) water in a strainer. I've never had it get gummy. I cook the orzo in my homemade chicken stock, when I have it on hand.

                                            It's best to use block feta (not the pre-crumbled stuff) and rinse it a bit before chunking it up. The pre-crumbled feta just sort of melts away into nothing. Use all or even more the parsley it calls for and don't chop too finely. I've used basil in it, too, but really like it better with just the parsley.

                                            Oh, and use good vinegar! I use an organic cabernet vinegar I get at Fresh Market.

                                            1. re: jeremyn

                                              It's never gone gummy on me, and I do usually have it in the fridge for a couple of days. In this case, though, I would recommend the extra salad dressing for just before service, as I do find that it gets absorbed. Make sure to cook the pasta "al dente" to start, though.

                                              1. re: Full tummy

                                                I'm giving that second orzo salad recipe a try tonight. I'll stick it in the fridge for two days and let you know how it comes out!

                                              2. re: jeremyn

                                                I make a dried cherry with pine nuts and balsamic dressing salad that is terrific.
                                                Yes it stays, I add torn basil last minute, i use the tiniest tomatoes whole, and toss those in with red onions. Sometimes cukes. I recommend this salad, it holds well and its so delicious. I use a balsamic and olive oil dressing and the key is not to drench it.

                                              3. re: Full tummy

                                                I just made your recipe, FullTummy. Very tasty, if a bit too oily for my taste. I wouldn't be surprised if that is mitigated somewhat by letting it sit overnight.

                                                Either way, it's pencilled in as a definite possibility. I'll probably make it again and reduce the oil slightly if I still think it's a bit too oily tomorrow.

                                                1. re: jeremyn

                                                  Glad you like it. Of course, you can always dress it to taste, which I do, as well. I just really like the flavour combinations, and I always get raves with it. Let us know how it fares in a day or two.

                                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                                    Just fine two days later. I just made it again tonight and reduced the oil and vinegar a bit, but also upped the basil, olives, and parmigiano. Assuming we like it in two days, it's on our menu! Thanks again!

                                                    1. re: jeremyn

                                                      Great!!! Glad it worked out for you.

                                                2. re: Full tummy

                                                  This is my favorite! I make it ahead all the time

                                                  1. re: Bigley9

                                                    Yum yum!!! It really is a find!!!

                                                  2. re: Full tummy

                                                    That looks so good! What would be a good sub for arugula?

                                                    1. re: bayoucook

                                                      I'm not seeing arugula in either of these recipes - did you mean radicchio?

                                                      1. re: bayoucook

                                                        There isn't any arugula... I find the radicchio stands up well for a couple of days; it has a cabbage-like texture, so will not turn into a wilted mess. Give it a try, it's a great recipe!

                                                  3. For a chicken dish, the recipe linked below for "foolproof grilled chicken" is wonderful -- because the chicken is brined *and* served with a sauce, it remains tender. You could definitely grill it the day before and let it come to room temp before serving (in fact, several of the reviewers on the recipe attested that it tasted better the second day :-)

                                                    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                    1. You have a ton of cooking to do - without the other stuff called a wedding. Have you considered hiring a cook (not a caterer)? It's very easy to hire a temp cook from a school or a restaurant for ~$10/hour. They cook to your recipes and timeline (you become chef!). This might relieve a small burden the day before or of the event - small money for a large effort.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: alwayscooking

                                                        I'd do something along these lines, too. There are enough things going on with a wedding and for someone experienced, the catering itself is a full time job, let alone trying to do the cake and the wedding plans.

                                                      2. Are you going to rent some catering equipments like food warmers? Maybe you might want to rent a few, that way you can keep some of your dishes warm. I know you said you don't really want potato salad, but how about Parisian potato gratin? Instead of slicing potatoes, you can buy those pre-peeled baby potatoes and then make it into a creamy goats cheese gratin with some leeks or onions and then baked until nicely brown over the top. It could be made a day in advance and heat up before serving the next day- in which case, food warmers will keep the gratin nice and warm for your guest on your big day - or cooked 2 hours before serving so it has time for flavors to settle and marry.

                                                        1. If you slice the tenderloin thin enough and serve with little rolls and some horseradish sauce, it can be a "standup" item. I've even done a marinated eye-round roast, cooked rare and sliced very thin.

                                                          I used to do a yearly buffet party for 50-100 people, all by myself with no serving help or anything. It was relatively "upscale"... china/silver, etc... I was the queen of "do ahead"!

                                                          I just thought of another one... I'll have to dig up the recipe. It's boiled or steamed shrimp (largish), mixed with cherry tomatoes, olives, parm and some sort of dressing. I haven't made it in so long, I can't remember the details. I served it heaped in a pretty crystal bowl inside another crystal bowl filled with ice... frilly toothpicks alongside. So, folks could make their own little "kabobs"... a shrimp with a tomato or an olive. I'll see if I can hunt up the specifics. It was always a hit.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: onrushpam

                                                            That sounds delicious. And also anti pasti kabobs on a skewer - anything you'd have on an anti pasta platter piled on skewers drizzled with olive oil. I, too, have done the beef like that for parties, altho' sometimes it bbq brisktet with tortillas and sauce. Yum.

                                                            1. re: bayoucook

                                                              I called my sister and she provided the info:

                                                              1 lb. 21-25 shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked (I cut them in half length-wise, to make them go further)
                                                              1 pint grape tomatoes
                                                              6 oz. whole, pitted olives (you need smallish ones, whatever kind you like)
                                                              1 can sliced water chestnuts
                                                              8 oz. Mushrooms, cut in half if large
                                                              ½ head cauliflower or broccoli, broken into flowerets (discard stems)

                                                              Dressing:
                                                              2 Cups Mayonnaise (I think I used less)
                                                              ½ C. well-drained horseradish
                                                              2 tsp. dry mustard
                                                              Juice of one lemon
                                                              1-2 tsp. salt
                                                              Grated parmesan (this wasn’t in the original recipe and I don’t remember how much I used… maybe ½ cup?)
                                                              Mix and refrigerate 1-2 hrs. (or more) before serving

                                                              1. re: onrushpam

                                                                That is my kind of recipe - thanks - gonna make it this week!

                                                                1. re: bayoucook

                                                                  That does look good.

                                                                  Thinking of another great recipe similar is

                                                                  Shrimp steamed 1 lb, Honey dew balls, cantelope balls, red or purple seedless grapes and watermelon is also good.

                                                                  Dressing: 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 small shallot minced, 4 tablespoons of lime, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh mint chopped, s/p to taste.

                                                                  Mix all together and let marinade and then serve with small skewers. Great and easy. Thanks for the reminder onrushpam I haven't made this in probably 6 or 7 years. Fresh mango in large chunks is also good or papaya instead of cantelope. Even blood orange segments is great with this.

                                                          2. I posted mine but it seem to dissappear, did you get mine. I posted the kabobs recipe, shrimp and chicken and mushrooms, the chimichurri and the bruchetta recipes.

                                                            Let me know if you didn't, they aren't showing up so I don't know what happened. I can repost if you didn't get them, Kim

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: kchurchill5

                                                              I got yours. You posted it over on my other thread. Very helpful, thanks.

                                                              1. re: jeremyn

                                                                thx

                                                            2. Since you're planning on making the cake, flouwer, etc., I'd go as simpe as possible. Catering something like this, even cooking in advanced, will take a lot of time and you're going to have your hands full. Even flowers take more time that you'd think. I've baked wedding cakes for 150 people and that alone takes me all week, since I'm not a professional baker and don't have the resources outside a regular kitchen.

                                                              If I were going to do it, I'd do something like get an assortment of really good small rolls, good ham, some sliced chicken breast (real chicken, not deli). Have a fun variety of mustards, mayo, chutneys, relish, etc. Do a couple of salads, like the tabbouleh and orzo and a big green salad w/ roasted vegetables (I love the roasted cauliflower and radicchio salad from epicurious below and add grilled corn in the summer--it can all be made in advance w/out dressing). Don't dress it but have the dressing on the side. Hire a few reliable high school or college students to do the last minute prep. It's all stand up food, no knives or cutting needed.

                                                              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                Well, I'll say first that your wedding cake was probably a lot prettier than ours will be. We've done several practice cakes and they are simple and elegant, but not creative, intricate, or grand in any way. We're doing buttercream, so we make sure to get it nice and smooth, and then we simply wrap the edges in ribbon and decorate with a very few well placed real flowers. No piping, no mess. But we're satisfied with the results of our practice cakes and that's what matters.

                                                                Second, we have a lot of help with virtually everything that isn't food-related. My fiancees mom is a respectable cook, but aside from her we're virtually on our own. We do have some young helpers (bride's sister's friends) who can help us the day of the wedding.

                                                              2. As an update, here's where I'm at:

                                                                Two cold grain salads -- tabbouleh, possibly FullTummy's orzo salad?

                                                                Cold or room temp grilled/roasted veggies -- summer squash, mushrooms, slow-roasted tomatoes, possibly asparagus

                                                                Fruit salads (hopefully provided by a family member)

                                                                Beef and Chicken, most likely cut into small portions, about 1.5 oz, grilled hot until charred and served with sauces. The chicken -- most likely with a buttermilk curry marinade and served with a mildly spicy thai peanut sauce. The beef - grilled medium rare and possibly served with chimichurri, pesto, or something similar -- a green sauce?... recipe suggestions?

                                                                Antipasto -- whatever we find that looks good. Any tips on platter platings that are simple and elegant?

                                                                Still looking for suggestions on another veggie dish besides plan vanilla roasted/grilled veggies.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: jeremyn

                                                                  Re. the veggie dish/es: Here's a favorite that works well made in advance. It's a salad but very good, and it would go well with your flavors -- especially the curry marinade on the chicken:

                                                                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                                  You could also go very traditional with the veggies. Get a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Blanched and chilled asparagus and green beans go great with the Mustard Sauce that's on pp. 95-96. You could also do leeks vinaigrette.

                                                                  1. re: jeremyn

                                                                    My favorite sauce to serve with beef is chimchurri, and it's very easy and incredibly good, and it only tastes better if you make it in advance. I do it this way for steak and it makes enough for four or so, so you'll just have to multiply it by a lot, but with a food processor, that won't be hard. It's a bunch of parsley, the juice of a lemon, some red pepper flakes, a clove of garlic, all tossed in a food processor with half a cup or so of olive oil drizzled in.

                                                                    1. re: jeremyn

                                                                      For another veggie dish.....
                                                                      Ye old raw carrot sticks and celery with a dip
                                                                      How about corn chips and salsa dip? Guacamole?
                                                                      Have these dips in little mini plastic cups since
                                                                      People don't want to dip into a common bowl

                                                                      1. re: jeremyn

                                                                        What about grape tomatoes and bocconcini salad? It's better when it's had a chance to meld.

                                                                        http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipes/...

                                                                      2. If you're still looking for another starchy dish, this is really good and is good made ahead, it's a 3 bean salad, but the beans are edamame, black, and black eyed peas:

                                                                        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                                        1. There are some great baked casserole dishes but I don't know if you want to get into more warm dishes. I love a butternut squash lasagna also good, but does need to be somewhat warm but can be made well in advance.

                                                                          Also sauteed greens I love but not everyone does or a baked creamed green casserole is great but again baked

                                                                          1. you can make a braised short ribs dish, keep in the crock pot in small sections. people can eat them with little brioche rolls. you can make the ribs to go with the rest of the dishes (ie, chipotle, asian, barbeque, classic herbs)

                                                                            a cheese dish is always very entertaining and easy. it will be nice if you have a second identical cheese dish. people tend to massacre cheese blocks and it look pretty scary 20 min into the event. Replacing with a fresh one will help fill up your guests.

                                                                            a nice do ahead veggie dish can be romaine lettuces or veggies wrapped in spring roll rice paper. you can make a herby green goddess dipping sauce to go with it. I made it from Michael Richard's cookbook. let me know if you want me to find the recipe.

                                                                            1. I often make a huge pan of oven "poached" chicken, refridgerate it in it's juice and slice boneless breasts about 1/2 in thick. Serve with Pesto, or a blue cheese or a gremolata - I will make the chicken and a tenderloin and have 3 sauces that will work with either

                                                                              1. I agree that tabbouleh tastes best a day or two old. But make sure you don't put cucumbers in it 2 days before serving... they get all slimy. Also, I've had bad luck with fresh mint blackening. Maybe add mint and cucumbers day of wedding?

                                                                                Another grain salad: farro. It is quite chic and with some rataouille (or roasted veg) and goats cheese added it remains elegant and becomes a bit more substantial.

                                                                                As for plating antipasto, I went to a wedding where they had this amazing buffet with antipasto and jars of grisini all piled up on different levels. It looked so bountiful and tasted delicious. I think that there was fruit there as well: grapes and melon at least.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: relizabeth

                                                                                  I've done farro with pecans, dried cranberries, olive oil, red wine vinegar and orange oil (I used Boyajan). It was simple, elegant, a bit different and devoured by "non-foodies".

                                                                                2. We almost did our own catering--decided against it late in the game because the caterer we ended up using made many of the same dishes we'd considered.

                                                                                  Things that worked well for us:
                                                                                  Caprese skewers: sliced or cherry tomato, mozarella, basil leaf alternating on a skewer, drizzled with OO and balsamic
                                                                                  Soups in shot glasses: We were trying to cut back on rental costs and dishes (since we ended up hiring a caterer, we didn't want to pay extra for dishwashing) so we insisted on no utensils at our reception. Serving soups in shot glasses made it a little more interesting and less messy than traditional, and people were generally satisfied with a shot or two, so we didn't use as much.
                                                                                  Asian Noodle Salad: Ours had seared ahi and teriyaki sauce, but we considered with chicken and a thai peanut sauce--cold noodle salad that in our case we served our of small chinese food boxes with disposable chopsticks from the 99cent store. Convenient, prepared in advance, and fun!
                                                                                  Skewered everything: We had beef skewers with horseradish sauce, beef skewers with ponzu sauce, chicken skewers with pineapple marinade...all of them were made in advance, and most were cold. The ones meant to be served warm were warmed ahead of time and brought in wrapped in aluminum--unwrap and serve, still good.

                                                                                  Since you're still looking for possible salads/veggies, how about a grain salad made with something more unusual to general palates? Barley tossed with roasted veggies and a simple vinagrette (sp?) can be good; Trader Joe's sells a great Harvest Grains blend that makes a nice cold salad, especially when tossed with cooked salmon; 100% wild rice (not wild blend--looks blah) is cooked tossed with chicken and veg.

                                                                                  Crudite cups are another idea--I've seen these carved out of bread hunks, but simple paper cups or glass votive holders run through the dishwasher (perhaps wrapped in wedding color ribbon?) serve just as nicely. Cut veggies arranged nicely with their ends in a dollop of dressing. Simple food is always good if presented elegantly.

                                                                                  Lastly, Costco has some surprisingly good puff pastry hor d'oeuvres if you decide you need something warm.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: thursday

                                                                                    Forgot to mention roll-ups--prosciutto rolled around mozarella or fontina, smoked salmon rolled around goat cheese, ham rolled around swiss with mustard and lettuce..they're simple, but make a nice presentation; we've done them frequently when we feel like we're getting too "bread-heavy" with appetizers.

                                                                                    1. re: thursday

                                                                                      Thanks for the suggestions, thursday. We may do some gigantic roll-ups for our antipasto platter and slice them to make the presentation a bit nicer.

                                                                                  2. My wife and I catered our own wedding in July 2006. We were in much the same position as you are. We had to have 99% of the cooking and prep done by the night before so we went with a menu that could be served cold or at room temperature.

                                                                                    We ended up roasting a couple of turkey breasts and sirloin roasts then slicing very thin along with some nice ham. We served a few large blocks of very good cheese along with slices of assorted artisan breads. We had a couple of very nice pasta salads and a classy potato salad along with assorted fresh fruit and vegetables with dip. Essentially we had a picnic but we did it with very nice ingredients and a very nice presentation. It was a lot of work and immediately after the wedding my wife and I both wished that we had just run off to Vegas and eloped. Now I am a few years removed from the wedding and I am glad that we did what we did. I had an aunt pass away shortly after the wedding and now my grandfather is not long for the world. It means everything to me to have been able to share that most important day of my life with my family.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                      I already wish we had eloped... but I hope I feel like you do in a few years!

                                                                                    2. This situation (unless there are kosher/hallal issues) just screams for ham. This is exactly why for centuries upon centuries, ham=party. It's a cured meat that tastes great tepid or warm, with much less concern about food safety. Otherwise, take your cue from Greek summertime foods, which are typically served tepid.

                                                                                      1. I think it would be fun to stick with a theme, where your food would be all one ethnic cusine. For me it's easier to plan, otherwise I always leave things out, and have a difficult time trying to coordinate dishes. Have you considered that?

                                                                                        For example if you went with a French Theme you could plan your cheese station
                                                                                        and the salads a salad nicoise, an assorted vegetable tray, scallions, carros, radishes, peppers, etc. served with with parsley dressing
                                                                                        Salad with glass cruets filled with vinagrette placed nearyby (you can these at Walmart for $1) to this area add your cold meats, dry sausage, moist sausage, ham, sour pickles/or cornichons (you can make your own)
                                                                                        Pate - make your own
                                                                                        adding to that, quiche or onion pies
                                                                                        For ther entre a Cocoa VIn or BB the cocoa vin instead of doing the traditional using a stewing chicken, try using the lesser expensive, hind quarters. Smart & Final has good $$
                                                                                        with it serve baquettes
                                                                                        Platters of baby lamb chops
                                                                                        Sides could be huge platters of roasted vegetables like roasted asparagus
                                                                                        I am hoping too, that you'll consider hiring some young people. I've done this, I would hire kids in the neighborhood, they were terrific. You just must meet and coach them. You'll be happy you did.

                                                                                        1. Just did Mother's day for 20 all in advance and all room temp. Flank Steak with red pepper pesto, Turkey Tonnato (poached the turkey), Orzo with everything, Italian potato salad (oil/vinegar,rosemary) Celery and radish salad and asparagus in lemon vinegarette. Big hit!

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Bigley9

                                                                                            Very nice job, sounds like an amazing meal.

                                                                                            Love the celery, radish and asparagus, orzo is always good, flank is always a big hit hot or cold.

                                                                                            Nice planning. I am sure it was a hit!

                                                                                          2. For those who have helped, here's the update...

                                                                                            Everyone finally convinced me... so I decided to braise beef and rent a chafing dish rather than try to roast or grill beef in advance and serve at room temperature. I'm not in love with the idea of having to heat it up the day of the event but I couldn't come up with a room temperature beef dish that I was in love with.

                                                                                            On the other hand, I'm grilling some buttermilk/curry marinaded chicken breasts the day before to serve with a thai peanut sauce. I tried this both cold and at room temperature both one and two days after preparation and was quite satisfied.

                                                                                            We're using FullTummy's orzo salad recipe; tabbouleh; the ubiquitous-but-foolproof spring greens with goat or blue, fruit, and caramelized nuts; fruit salad / fruit tray provided by a relative; roast asparagus, tomatoes, and cauliflower.

                                                                                            Would you all prefer room temperature roasted veggies or cold? I like them both ways so I'll take a vote, even if I only get a few responses. I'm leaning towards room temp.

                                                                                            We finally have our RSVPs mostly in, and we're looking at a head count of 105-110. It will definitely be an adventure. I can post an update or pics if anyone who's helped me out here is interested in seeing how it turned out.

                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                              I prefer room or slightly warm, Put in a chafing dish and it would be nice and warm but room temp is just fine. Not cold for me. Warm is good.

                                                                                              1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                I would go room temperature as well. When something was raosted and then is served cold I feel lke it was forgotten. At room temp the flavors will be much better

                                                                                                1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                  Room temperature. Better flavour, not so jarring in the mouth.

                                                                                                  1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                    At least room temperature. The salads can be cold. You need a contrast to that.

                                                                                                    1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                      We definately want to know and see! Thanks!

                                                                                                      1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                        I wouldn't worry (at least quality-wise) about heating up the braised beef the day of the event, as dishes like this often taste best the next day. What cut/recipe are you using? If you need suggestions, Julia's beef daube recipe from MTAOFC is great, as is the short rib recipe from Chez Pannise Cafe Cookbook.

                                                                                                        1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                          Nice. As for the roasted veggies, I prefer room temp, if they are seved cold, they seem to taste more like like left overs.
                                                                                                          good luck to you!

                                                                                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                            Wow, that's a consensus if I've ever seen one.

                                                                                                            I'll probably use the beef chuck "short ribs" sold at Costco. They are not real short ribs, but they are very cheap and convenient, and I've made plenty of tasty braises with them before. As far as I can tell, they are basically 1"x1"x6" slices of beef chuck.

                                                                                                            1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                              J, if you have access to Sam's club through a friend, they carry "real" short ribs with bones. I also have a Costco membership but make my DB buy large quantities of short ribs at Sam's for me because I don't like the boneless ones from Costco.

                                                                                                              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                                                                I'll keep that in mind for my own use, but there isn't a Sam's near our wedding venue. And purchased anywhere else, I suspect that real short ribs are too expensive to serve to 100 =(

                                                                                                                That said, the costco substitute is admirable and makes a tasty braise.

                                                                                                        2. We catered our own wedding for about 40 people, and it turned out fabulously.

                                                                                                          But what we did was pick a few signature dishes we could make (including tuna poke and lamb with goat cheese and balsamic reduction on crostini) and then we added samplings of our favorite foods from restaurants around town.

                                                                                                          We had a bit of a Tampa/Cuban thing going on, so we had mini empanadas, paella, cubans cut into tiny sandwiches with toothpicks topped with seashells, and a few of our favorites from the local tapas restaurant.

                                                                                                          I ordered everything in advance, and then we hired two helpers who ran around town to pick everything up the day of the party (we got married 2 weeks before our reception/party) and helped set everything up. We also mixed up sangria and key lime martinis in big batches and then had them play bartender, etc.

                                                                                                          I'd definitely recommend semi-catering vs. making a whole bunch of dishes in advance... We had amazing food and a bunch left over, so the next day we went to a friend's house with all the food and had another party!

                                                                                                          Oh, and we rented a couple of chafing dishes for the paella and some of the tapas.

                                                                                                          1. We are doing the same thing for our wedding, and here's what we came up with..Cheap and will work out nicely, I think...

                                                                                                            Salad(however they want it)
                                                                                                            Soup(Probably Butternut Squash or some kind of Vegetable soup)
                                                                                                            Sandwiches(On nice bread, cut into triangles, whatever meat they would want..maybe toasted)

                                                                                                            Soup and Sandwiches will probably come out at the same time, salad as the beginning.

                                                                                                            Easy to prep ahead. Cheap to make.

                                                                                                            1. Chunks of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto.
                                                                                                              Crab meat/ranch dressing (you wanted quick! :) ) mix on leaves of endives.
                                                                                                              Toothpick "skewers" of mozarella chunk and cherry tomato and a leaf of sweet basil, drizzled w/ extra-virgin olive oil.

                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: aqn

                                                                                                                Back from the wedding and everything turned out great. None of our guests took pics of the food, but I'm sure our photographer did. When we get pics from her I'll post a link. I think people asked us for recipes for every single item.

                                                                                                                We ended up renting a chafing dish and doing some braised beef rather than trying to reheat a roast or serve it cold. I think this was the best solution. People always seem to be impressed by "falling apart" braised meat even though that is much easier to achieve than a well-reheated roast. So I think it was the right way to go.

                                                                                                                The only snag was the tabbouleh which got a bit mushy. The residual heat from making it in a bucket was surely the problem... it ended up cooking a lot longer than the same recipe scaled down for two or four..

                                                                                                                Thanks for the suggestions everyone. It was very helpful and I'm really satisfied with how everything turned out.

                                                                                                                1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                                  Good to hear!! Look forward to the pics. Congrats!

                                                                                                                  1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                                    Congratulations! I'll be anxious to see the photos.

                                                                                                                    1. re: jeremyn

                                                                                                                      Nice! You're my hero!