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Wedding Brunch for 60-- please help me!

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Hi 'Hounds,

My wedding gift to my best friend is going to be a post-wedding brunch held in our back yard in urban DC. I'm thrilled to be doing it-- she and her fiance met here as neighbors-- but as the RSVPs come in, I'm getting a little nervous about pulling it off.

Luckily, my friend has stressed that she wants it to be super-casual and home-made, so we've decided on a breakfast burrito buffet.

The menu:

-Scrambled eggs
-Chorizo
-Grilled/roasted peppers and onions
-homemade salsa (2 or 3 kinds)
-black beans
-purchased flour tortillas
-maybe some spanish tortillas?
-maybe homemade veggie empanadas?
-Fruit salad
-Bagels
-coffee, juice, etc.

The wedding will be on Saturday, and I'll be gone all day for it, and spending the night in a hotel 45 minutes from where I live that night. I'm driving back the next morning and people will begin to arrive around 11. Obviously, things are going to be done mostly before.

I'm taking Friday off of work. I'm going to roast lots of veggies in the oven, make a couple of pots of slow cooker black beans, and tackle the salsas. Perhaps empanadas, which are time consuming but very easy. Perhaps a few spanish tortillas. The eggs I'll scramble in the morning-- I've seen some recipes for doing that in the oven. The coffee, bagels, and fruit salad we'll pick up that morning.

Here are my questions:

-How much food? We're estimating 60-70 people right now, over the course of 3 hours.
-Does the menu look ok?
-Any foolproof recipes to add? For salsas, especially.
-Does this plan seem doable? strategy make sense? Our other best friend, who is throwing it with me, keeps saying maybe we should just have cosi cater. He also likes his steak baked gray.....

Any advice is appreciated! I'm a decent cook, and ambitious, but this is certainly the biggest project so far! Luckily, it is going to be very casual and the food is VERY simple. But, because it is so simple, I want it taste really good. The budget is about $400 (we can go over, but I'd love not to-- weddings are REALLY expensive to take part in these days!), but I think that is doable without alcohol and with what we are serving, even in pricey DC.

thank you so much in advance! I'm looking forward to what you have to say!

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  1. Wow! Mega ambition!

    I love the idea of empanadas -- I just did them earlier this week for a party I hosted. I used the Goya pre-made pastry wraps that I bought at the local international supermarket. I did just see this recipe for pineapple empanadas on FoodTV week before last --> http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/eas... that you might think about if you wanted a sweet empanada. Empanadas are great because you can make in in advance and freeze --- and you can get anyone to help you stuff them, as they are almost foolproof.

    I am crazy about Rick Bayless' recipes, and I think many of them will be right up your alley as to this wedding brunch: http://www.rickbayless.com/recipes/

    Good luck, and do report back. When is the event? I think I would certainly allot part of your budget to having help either clean up and/or be wait staff/server for the food.

    Also, I have never been to this website before - so I have no idea how legit it is - but here is something about cooking for a large crowd http://lotsofinfo.tripod.com/

    1 Reply
    1. re: Tehama

      I love the rick bayless idea! and those recipes look surprisingly do-able. They are on such a small scale, though, and things like fresh tomatoes add up. But bookmarked for another time! I hadn't considered a sweet empanada, but I love the idea.

      It's on September 18, and assuming we make it through, I will report back!

      Wish we could afford help, but with food, serveware, drinks, and perhaps renting some table and chairs, we'll already be cutting it tight. (crazy at that price!). Luckily, we have an army of young, strong friends willing and able to help out. That's why I want a strong plan to direct my awesome "troops"!

    2. You are a very good friend! Just commenting on the empanada idea at the moment. I use the empanada dough recipe on epicurious, prepare and bake the empanadas and freeze them. They freeze beautifully and just need heating at 350-400 to get ready for the table. They're also good at room temp, so no need to have a fresh supply of warm ones. Actually, I made beef empanadas for supper last night, and the cold leftovers are being devoured as snacks today!

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

      1 Reply
      1. re: janeh

        Maybe I will have an empanada stuffing party the weekend before and fill some freezers. That makes it seem a lot more reasonable. 80? 100?

        We have some vegetarians in the mix, and since the filling of empanadas isn't easily identifiable, I thought I'd keep them all veggie to avoid potential mistakes. If you have any veggie recipes I'd love to hear them. I do a black bean/plantain one I like, but I'd like one more.

      2. As a DC ex-patriate, I'd like to add my 2 cents. If there's any foodies among your group, I would definitely recommend a Peruvian chicken / "broasted" chicken since you already have a Hispanic theme. I lived in Silver Spring for 6 years and never realized a top Peruvian chicken place was around the block. I know you'd have to get it the day before (or two) and re-heat it, but it would make an impact for any non-DC foodies.

        Otherwise, your menu sounds excellent although I thought empandas were a little tough to pull off with guests- kudos to you. Other than bloody marys, full speed ahead with your menu.

        1 Reply
        1. re: atg106

          We have the City Paper "best of" peruvian chicken place right up the street! Great idea! Thanks. Bloody marys are also a good idea. Even if no one else wants a drink, I certainly will after the last guest leaves.

        2. I'd probably do one pot of black beans and one of pinto/charro beans (I'm not a black bean fan).
          Also, why bagels?
          How about a Mexican rice or potato dish?

          I just made Ninfa's Green Sauce from the homesicktexan.com blog. Very easy! I think it could be made before you leave for the wedding, unlike guac. Different. Cool and creamy. I used Mexican Crema in place of the sour cream, just because I like it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: onrushpam

            Bagels only because i know some people can't/won't bother to wrap a tortilla, and we've got an age range from 8-80, so I want something bland and easy (heck, some people still think of Tex-Mex as "ethnic"!). I agree that it's not exactly on theme.....

          2. perhaps a breakfast strata or two that you could prepare and refrigerate the day before the wedding, then bake the morning of the brunch.

            1. Looks great, but I would add something sweet Perhaps pastries, mini muffins,coffee cake. Another thought, if you have the space and a waffle maker is a make-your-own waffle station like they haveat a lot of the hotels that provide free breakfast(or have a volunteer man this). Set up a table w/ waffle maker, premade batter to pour in. Make a card for the table with cooking time instructions. You could have any of the following-syrups, fruit toping, whipped cream, butter.

              4 Replies
              1. re: sherriberry

                That's a good suggestion-- I don't really like sweets, so I don't think about them. Do you have any easy recipes I can make at home? We have either really upscale bakeries I can't afford in the budget or very bad grocery store stuff, so I'd need to make something.

                1. re: TrussedUp

                  Blueberry muffins
                  1 3/4cup flour
                  1/4 cup sugar
                  2 1/2 tsp baking powker
                  3/4 tsp salt
                  1 beaten egg
                  3/4 cup milk
                  1/3 cup canola oil
                  Combine dry ingredients, the add wet ingredients that have been mixed together
                  stir until moistened, then fold in 3/4 cup blueberries, either fresh or frozen(thawed) and some fresh lemon zest
                  Bake @ 400 @ 20-25 min for ful size or 15-20 for mini
                  I prefer to make mini muffins as there seems to be much more waste w/ the full size ones.
                  For the waffles, just use the recipe on the Bisquick box, adding 1 tsp vanilla. Very inexpensive and tastes just fine and would fit in with your time constraints. Just keep the batter in a pitcher and place in a bowl w/ ice.
                  Either recipe could be multiplied easily.
                  For coffeecake, many recipes available online, or for the sake of time, you could "doctor" a boxed yellow cake mix-make as directed using melted butter for the oil, pour into a Bundt pan, swirl in some cinnamon or fruit pie mix. Make a simple glaze using powdered sugar flavored w/ an extract that will mix well w/ the chosen swirl in and add just enough milk to make pourable.Drizzle over cooled cake. Lemon cake w/ lemon glaze is always popular as well. This could also be done in loaf pans.

                  1. re: sherriberry

                    By the way, the muffins or cake could be done the weekend before and frozen. If you do this, wait to glaze the cakes until you thaw them out. Thawing should take only 1/2-1 hour. For mini muffins, I would triple the recipe which would make 5-6 dozen. For cakes, I would make at least three.

                  2. re: TrussedUp

                    In keeping with the hispanic theme, why not make tres leches cake? It's really quite easy. Basically a sheet cake doused with a mixture of sweetented condensed milk, evaporated milk, and half and half. And it's meant to be prepared in advance and left to soak up the leches.

                    I make mine a quatro leches - I add coconut milk. And I sometimes serve it with a passionfruit curd on the side. Basically same recipe as a lime or lemon curd, but with passionfruit. I buy frozen passionfruit puree at Hispanic supermarkets.

                    PS: Tres leches cake also means no worries about the cake getting stale if you make it in advance.

                2. Whether you pay them or not, try to anticipate exactly what you'll need help doing, and give your help as clear a set of instructions as you can.

                  1. Okay, the way I would assume you could figure out how much food you'll need, is to think about how much food an average person would eat, then add a little extra per person.

                    So, you're going to need to plan for two sandwich/wraps per person. Say each tortilla/bagel holds one egg, scrambled. That means you're going to need to plan for 2 eggs per person, so around 180-200 eggs scrambled. (You may want to consider using a pre-made egg product used for high-volume type events. They're not always the highest quality, think buffet eggs, but honestly, it could get ridiculously expensive otherwise.) Do the same thing for each ingredient, but make sure to overfill. Many people will take larger portions than you would yourself, so, you need to take that into account.

                    I would honestly go with all purchased tortillas, and just keep them warm in a warming pan. Otherwise, it will be just another aspect that might take up your time. With the salsas, make them on Friday, and let them sit overnight. Again, it's better to have too much versus too little, so include extra salsa. Make more of the milder types than the spicier ones, unless you know for a fact that people tend to prefer their food spicier in the group.

                    Hopefully this helps! I've never personally catered an event, but have done a lot of research for catering events at a former job, and this is what seems to work best.

                    With regards to recipes, I would honestly make your salsas out of similar ingredients. For example, make a simple salsa with tomato, onion, and cilantro. It's nothing fancy, but adds a little flavor to anything. To that, add jalapenos to spice it up, and maybe some avocado to change it up. Finally, you could go from there and add...corn, and red and green peppers. So the salsa starts with a simple base, then you divide it out. That way, you limit the amount of ingredients you purchase (hopefully saving you some money!), and keep it quick and simple.

                    1. One other thought for the non-adventurous or non egg eating diners-a spiral sliced ham, if it fits into your budget. It is pre-cooked and can be served at room temp. Just cut off the slices yourself and put on a platter-if people slice it themselves, they tend to take a larger portion and there is more waste. BTW: I used to work at a golf club that did a lot of catering. If larger portions are offered, people tend to take the full portion and not eat it all and a lot gets thrown away. Smaller serving sizes are preferable.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sherriberry

                        I second smaller servings.

                      2. I think your menu sounds great! I recently helped my mom with a post-wedding brunch for my little brother, and while we were kind of stressed out about it, it went really smoothly. Some things I would say are that people ate a lot less than we'd thought. Lots of folks ate somewhere else and just dropped in to chat and/or were hung over and just nibbling on things. For empanada fillings, potato, cheese, and rajas is a pretty cheap and delish combo, though if you're worried about things being too complicated, I think just a good breakfast taco spread and a good bagel spread would work. Maybe not the most culturally stable but as a texan I can dig it. Maybe some roasted/boiled potatoes added to the taco setup (potato, egg, and cheese is my favorite bfast taco). For the bagels just some cream cheese and sliced tomato/onion/capers/whatever would be delish and easy. Or we had some cold cuts and mustard along with the bagels which ended up being very popular. Got cheap tiny bagels (that tasted fine) from Costco, along with some pre-made fruit salad. Not exactly local seasonal but cheap and easy.
                        I love this salsa verde:
                        http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/toma...

                        For sweets we made and froze brownies. They defrost in a few hours and don't even really need to be reheated.
                        Good luck! It will be great.

                        1. I personally like the idea of some brunch type casseroles that will feed a large crowd and can be made ahead of time. I don't have any recipes in mind though.

                          In terms of the eggs, someone also mentioned it, but if you are looking to save some time, I would go with "Egg Beaters" or something like that which comes in a large cartoon and doesn't require breaking a lot of individual eggs. Not sure if Costco or a store like that has that sort of thing but it would certainly save some time.

                          Make sure someone other than you is assigned to pick up the fruit salad etc. Good luck.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: FayeD

                            Oh! This reminds me of an idea I got on Chowhound years ago! Make the breakfast casserole recipe of your choice, but bake them individually in cupcake tins. That way you can pre-make and refrigerate + reheat and would help on your time considerations, too!

                            I am so impressed with your ambition. Best wishes for a spectacular and loving gift to your BFF!

                          2. i'm going to be a bit contrary mary here. unless you have help or assistants manning your buffet table, any kind of "make-your-own" anything bar quickly becomes a right mess after just a few people going through. add salsa and the mess gets made even more quickly.

                            for events, we have pre-made egg burritos, wrapped them in foil and then steam them to warm for service. adding cream cheese to the scrambled eggs helps keep them soft. they then can be held in chafing dishes, labelled appropriately. it's easier to plan amounts needed this way as well, starting with just 2 eggs per person, in each wrap. if putting chorizo in the wraps, WITH eggs, you'll only need about 2 oz. per person, minus however many vegetarians you'll have. as mentioned elsewhere in the thread, people tend to take way more food than they can actually eat in these scenarios and a depressing amount goes in the trash.

                            i agree about the pinto beans, definitely more traditional.

                            a platter of roasted veggies would work too, with a garlicky aioli for dipping.

                            i'd make a regular salsa and a fruit one, either peach or mango, depending where you are and what looks best in market. also put out some sour cream. you'll only need one or tablespoons per person of salsa and sour cream.

                            instead of spanish tortillas, which would just be more eggs, maybe pin wheel sandwiches, which can also be made ahead. be sure to butter the wrap, then place a lettuce leaf, then your fillings. this will create a barrier, so the wrap doesn't get soggy. not everybody likes eggs, ya know?

                            roasted potatoes, i think, instead of bagels. a starch is good to have, but the bagels really seem out of place.

                            instead of fruiit salad, make kebobs. again, easier to control portions. watermelon, green grape and kiwi would look pretty.

                            also a cookie plate for something crunchy and sweet.

                            1. Great menu! The few tweaks I would do are ditching the scrambled eggs. I found that keep scrambled eggs warm turns them to rubber. If you need another protein for the breakfast burritos, I'd go with the shredded chicken mentioned earlier. The other tweak is to maybe do breakfast tacos as opposed to burritos. It simply requires smaller tortillas. That way people can nosh as opposed to having a big burrito. And if you go the empanda route, do sweet since it would be good to have another sweet thing on the menu.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                i'd skip the empanadas entirely. unless you have a little mexican granny who can whip 'em out in a few minutes, it will likely consume far too much time.

                                allow yourself time for set-up, clean-up, etc., rather than leaving everything til the morning of.

                                also realize you do not need to keep the food going for the entire 3 hours. 2 hours of hot food is plenty of time.

                              2. If you forego the empanadas, may I suggest some sort of starch? Since many of the food items are on the spicier side, perhaps something more bland that would appeal to people who have problems w/ spicy foods. Mashed potatoes, boiled red potatoes w/ butter & parsley, rice pilaf, could be prepared the Friday before and simply reheated. Others may have better thoughts about what would work w/ your other foods.
                                As to the set-up, if possible, make the food accessible from both sides of the table so as to get more people through more quickly, as well as to have easier access to refill dishes. Another thing I have found to be helpful is to put the utensils and napkins at the end of the buffet line. People seem to have trouble balancing holding onto these as well as filling their plates(specially if they are assembling a tortilla or putting cream cheese on a bagel) and it slows down the line as well as causes many napkins to go floating into the wind. This is especially true for the very young/old.