What can I make to serve 20 people for Thanksgiving Brunch?
I'm having 20 people over at 11:30AM on Thursday. I want to serve some light food i.e. a light brunch, buffet, small plates or hors d'oeuvres. While this wont be a food heavy event, it will be elegant and I don't want to just serve cheese and crackers.
Awesome! Here are some options.
FINGER FOOD! Do tempura-fried pinapple pieces wrapped in Prosciutto! Simple, fast and has a huge impact. I do this for parties and they are a massive hit. You'll need other things but this will be a hit. I was inspired by something like this once on iron chef and ... it was easy and everyone just loved them.
Get a fresh pinapple (should be fairly yellow or slightly orange) and 1/4 pound of good prosciutto. Cut pinapple into bite sized chunks, wrap with a slice of prosciutto and secure with a toothpick. These can be done hours beforehand or even the day before. A bit before your guests arrive, mix up some tempura batter (use ice cold water or better yet ice cold seltzer water). I don't personally use Alton's recipe but you can't go wrong with it:
Just give the pieces a quick deep fry - only 4-5 pieces at a time in canola oil at 375 degrees - so that your temperature stays near constant. I use my dutch oven as it's heavy cast iron really holds the temperature .... but any small pot can work. Hopefully you have an appropriate thermometer to monitor the oil - I use a candy/fry thermometer.
I do a pulled pork almost every week, so I'm quite familiar with how it's done. I usually use my crockpot but also sometimes use the oven, if I want "bark". Pork shoulder is the traditional cut for pullled pork and that's what I use. Nothing fancy is required. Drop your slab of pork goodness into the slowcooker, fat side on top - set to low, pour in enough water so that there's just a bit covering the bottom, cover the top with foil with a few holes in it - and then the normal cover on it. No rush.
Wait until the internal temperature hits about 200 degrees. That's right - 200 degrees. Low and Slow - that's how it's done. A big slab of pork will probably take about 8 hours, and might well take 1-3 hours more to hit that. Really. Here's another gauge. When it's really done, your thermometer should EASILY slide into the deepest portion of the meat with no apparent resistance. If the meat resists, then it will need more time.
After it hits that magic # (and don't be afraid to let it go longer - it is near impossible to mess up pulled pork, let it sit covered by foil for 20-30 min. Then pull it apart, and mix in a liberal amount of x-virgin olive oil, and toss it with fresh ground pepper and kosher salt.
Don't even think about using powdered pepper or idodized salt - we will find you ... :-) Ok ....so we're done with that.
PORK LOIN ROAST
Now let's talk about taking the pork loin ROAST ... Oh man am I getting hungry just thinking about this ...
First, remove the silverskin. Then pour some canola oil into one of your hands and lightly coat the roast. Please don't use olive oil - it can scorch too easily. Now coat the entire roast lightly with .... you guessed it - kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Ok now this will be very simple. First roast it at 225-250 until the internal temperature of the roast is 120-130. This can take place faster than you think, since the meat is fairly lean. I'd recommend checking it at 45 min so that you know how it's progressing. Then increase the oven to 425-450 to brown up the outside, and bring the inside to 140 degrees. This can take 10-15 min.
The key is to not overcook it. Once your thermometer hits 140, remove the roast and put onto a plate or wooden carving board, and cover losely in foil. The meat should continue to cook a bit. That's it. Let it sit a bit - 10-15 min before you carve. More if you like.
Yeah I know ... pork is "supposed" to be cooked to 145. But then it will continue to cook and then be dangerously close to drying out a bit - it's too lean to take that risk - in my opinion.
Just in case the center is still slightly underdone - just pop the WHOLE THING in the microwave and give it 30-60 seconds. If that doesn't do it, give it another 30.
Ok now you have a GREAT pork loin roast. And it'll be fine on it's own but I always make a custom killer sauce to go with it. I hate to give away some of my best secrets but here's one of them:
Jeff's KILLER sauce #1. I recommend a 5 quart dutch oven for this. It'll keep the heat steady and keep the splatter down.
1. Pour 1/2 cup of x-virgin olive oil into your blender and while it's spinning drop in rough chopped pieces of 1 cup onion. Puree the heck out of it
2. Saute the puree'd onion slowly for 15 min.
3. Add 4+ TB pureed garlic, stir and let simmer for another 5 min
4. Add 1 can tomato paste. Taste it. You'll probably need to add 1 more can. Let it simmer for 5 min
5. Add some kosher or sea salt to taste
6. Add fresh ground pepper to taste
7. Add X TB Good Chili Paste. SEE THE IMAGE. I prefer "rooster brand" - these are the same folks that make the Srirachi hot sauce in those plastic bottles. Any decent asian market should have this stuff. It's cheap and awesome. The Rooster stuff has a more clean flavor than some others.
If you can't get good chili sauce, you can use Srirachi hot sauce - this is available pretty much everywhere nowadays. You can also use a bit of chili powder and a bit of cayenne pepper but I prefer using just the rooster - it's clean and fresh.
Start with 2 TB and add 1 more at a time until it's got just the right amount of heat and tingle. It should be slightly hotter than you think it should be - since it will be a sauce to go with meat.
8. Add some good low sodium soy sauce to taste, 1-3 TB. This is optional but I find it gives the sauce a bit of complexity.
9. Add 1/2 can of coconut juice. You'll need to blend the contents of the can well before using as it will be quite separated.
10. Let this simmer together and blend together nicely for another few min.
11. Taste it and if it needs a bit of salt, pepper, chili pepper - add as you think best
12. The MAGIC ingredient. Add in a goodly amount of DRIED Fenugreek Leaves. Indian markets will often have this. If not you may well be able to get it from an indian restaurant - they should darn well have it. And it's cheap. I get like 1/2 cup+ for about $3.
Use DRIED fenugreek leaves (leaves NOT seeds). The fresh stuff or frozen stuff won't give you the correct results. I can't you a good amount but it's probably 2-3 TB at least, perhaps more. I'll toss some in, let simmer, taste and add more, etc.
Let that simmer for a few more minutes and OH MY GOSH it should be just magic. Few people know how amazing dried fenugreek leaves are in a sauce. So your guests will just be amazed.
Oh ... and SHRIMP ... everyone loves shrimp ...
Have a GREAT Thanksgiving
Baked Egg Cups
Salmon Croquettes with a Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce
Crostini with Chicken Salad (dried cranberries, poppy seeds, honey, celery, almonds or pecans, mayo, etc)
Breakfast Quesadilla wedges - filled with cheese of choice, egg, mushroom, hash browns, meat, etc.
Stuffed Endive leaves - i do mine with goat cheese, cooked diced onion and garlic, almond meal, pumpkin seeds, lemon zest, salt, pepper and a lemon white wine vinaigrette
All great suggestions in the earlier replies. A good dish for a crowd (and easy to prepare ahead) is strata. My favorite recipe is from Cooks Illustrated, especially the rosemary & fontina variation. The recipe is easily doubled. I used to make an Easter brunch for the choir at our church, and everyone always loved this dish.
bake several roasting pans of quiche, ricotta french toast (prepare night before, refrigerate & bake on thursday), and/or zuchini frittata (ditto) & then cut them into 2" x 2" squares lined up in neat rows on a platter. serve warm or room temperature.
fruit salad with melon and fresh pineapple
pomegranate punch (ginger ale + pomegranate syrup + lemon slices)
pear bellini or mimosa
Assortment of cheeses and crackers
Julienne vegetables with variety of spreads and/or dips
Dill and sweet pickles
Bruschetta (tomato, olive oil, mozzarella, garlic, etc.)
Some good quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and perhaps Pinot Grigio