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Nov 1, 2012 05:41 AM

Christmas dinner for 40! looking for inspiration and advice.

I've been asked to cater our office Christmas dinner party. I am nervous and excited, and so far, at a loss about what to cook :)
I have some experience cooking for large groups, although it's been a while since I did anything this size. The focus of the dinner is on spending time together, the food does not need to be very fancy.
Appetizer, main, and dessert, and possibly some small things to nibble before dinner.

I'm planning on doing most of the prep and cooking at the office, because I want to limit the time I spend at home cooking for this. There's a large kitchen at the office, but it has only 2 burners and a smallish oven. No microwave. Heating stuff and keeping stuff warm will be an issue. There's tons of counter space, big sinks, a professional dish washing machine, a huge fridge and freezer though.
Costs need to be kept down to a minimum. The food does not have to be traditional or particularly Christmassy, but seasonal in the sense that its suitable for a winter dinner. It can be really simple and unfussy.
I'll have some people to help me with prep, cooking and plating.

So... what to cook? I'm thinking a starter that can be completely prepped ahead and only needs assembling (cold, or something that only needs very brief reheating).
Main will obviously need to be something briased or stewed, that will only need reheating. (in fact the first thing I though about was a huge pot meatballs in mushroom / onion/port gravy).
Some kind of beef stew seems an obvious choice. But I'm not averse to something completely different, with Middle Eastern flavors maybe, or even a pasta dinner (although pasta for 40... hm...)

Dessert, again, needs to be something that can be prepped ahead and assembled at the last moment. All thoughts, ideas, tips and tricks are very welcome.. and I'll keep adding to this thread while my plans take shape!

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  1. My first thought was something like a large ham, which can be made ahead, and served at room temperature, with a large pan of something vegetarian like a macaroni & cheese or veggie lasagne, for those who don't eat meat. Not sure if some people at your company may have issues with pork, though.

    Another first thought was to perhaps kindly ask your company to rent or purchase (why not they have a great sounding kitchen?) some chafing dishes or warming trays, they are not terribly expensive, and would make the meal much easier if you knew ahead you could keep some dishes warm.

    Other suggestions, just off the top of my head are:
    Lasagne bolognese and a veg lasagne, like butternut squash or wild mushroom
    Various tarts like a leek & gruyere, bacon, onion & Gouda, wild mushroom & goat cheese
    Stratas like tomato & fontina, ham & swiss, broccoli & cheddar
    The above can be made ahead, even frozen, and just reheated or baked on site. Some more are:
    Beef or lamb stew
    Large pot of chili with toppings
    Stuffed turkey roasts (breast w a stuffing and roasted rolled)

    I don't have many ideas for apps, but I think once you have decided on the mains that can feed 40 people, then you will get a better idea of what to serve along with it.

    Good luck & have fun!

    1. I thought of lasagne right away too.

      I'd do a couple turkeys ahead of time and refrigerate, then slice when cold in beautiful slices. Heat and serve with Turkey gravy and rolls.
      Aforementioned lasagne, whatever works.
      Crock pots of meatballs or sausages

      Veggie casserole

      for dessert, CHRISTMAS COOKIES and ice cream.

      1. For dessert you could make rolled cake one lemon and one chocolate and turn them into BUCHE DE NOEL [CHRISTMAS LOG] at the last minute you can put some meringue mushrooms that would be beautiful.
        I have made boeuf bourguignon for 100 people, it's easy and can be made ahead serve either mashed potatoes and or buttered noodles

        1. Because it's an office party and not the holiday itself I would completely skip turkey and ham (people will get enough on the holidays themselves,) and run with your idea of a fall menu.

          Apple pies or tarts, pumpkin custard or pumpkin ice cream, a crockpot to keep spiced apple cider warm, butternut squash and carmelized onion tarts, butternut squash soup, sweet potato gnocchi in sage browned butter, individual chicken pot pies, etc.

          1. I did that at my job for 20 years, 30-40 people. What is your budget? Do you have access to portable ovens, etc? Meatballs are ok but you can't just have one meat You have to remember that lots of folks are not chowhounds, What kind of cooking equipment do you have access to?