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Large Christmas party buffet, over 100 people...need menu help please.

Every year we have a Christmas open house-type party. The party stretches from afternoon until the wee hours (last year the last guests left at 4:30 am.)! We do a buffet and I am constantly cycling trays from the oven to the table. This year, I have a serious illness and would like to take it easy on myself, even get out of the kitchen and have fun, but still serve great homemade food. Must haves on the buffet are:
ham
Swedish meatballs (shortcut=Ikea)
a pasta dish (I like to change it up from year to year)
a tray of cold cuts
some other main dish and/or sides
I could use some help on the pasta (in past years I have done lasagna with wild boar bolognese and Pioneer Woman's mac and cheese), and some other main dish. Also, maybe some simple apps for a crowd.
Thanks in advance!
p.s. I put out a breakfast buffet around 11. That includes an egg casserole, bacon, sausage, muffins, bagels, homemade waffles if I have the energy.

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  1. Wow, you are amazing for tackling this any year!
    I can't say enough about a spiral ham and slider rolls.
    A shortcut for the pasta is baked ziti--just a bit less fuss in the prep.
    Do you put out a cold pasta salad dish?

    1 Reply
    1. re: monavano

      Ditto on the spiral ham and slider rolls -- add 3 or 4 interesting mustards and a couple of big hunks of cheese so people can add it it to their ham slider if they want.

      And also ditto on getting some helpers -- paid ones mean you can order them around more. :) Just give them really explicit instructions. Makes a HUGE difference.

    2. Nothing wrong with shortcuts, but my guess is there are folks who have been asking "What can I do?" while you've been sick. Utilize them, even if it's just for a couple of loaves of good bread. Use a slow cooker to keep soup hot; you can do that in advance and re-heat in smaller quantities on the stove, then transfer it. You can use cups and no spoons if it's a smooth soup like tomato bisque, and have a couple of bowls of assorted garnish (parsley? cilantro? popcorn?) around the mother ship of the slow cooker. Folks just fall out over my tomato soup every holiday I serve it. I know the food is sort of your trademark, isn't it? But my guess is folks come for the people and the fun more even than the food.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lemons

        I totally support the soup idea. Give yourself a break and do a soup bar. You can even do two or three ahead of time and keep them warm in crock pots. Get lots of loaves of bread and fixin's and you are all set. You can have helpers clear, wash and dry used bowls or just go with disposable.

      2. See if you can find a helper (high school or college student?--they can almost always use a little extra $$$) to take care of heating food, running platters to the table and clearing dirty/empty dishes and glasses from the buffet. It sounds like you still want to cook. Having extra hands (and feet) to help with the running and clearing should help.

        1. Me too for New Years Day, although I can't lay claim to having people here until 4:30 in the morning!

          Get a warming tray or portable restaurant chafing dish thing to save you having to reheat stuff. I have one that holds two 9x13 pans or three mini size hotel pans. It's a huge help.

          Personally, I think hot pasta dishes are a PITA for big parties. They don't hold well and are usually awful at room temp. Quit those in place of cold/room temp pasta salad or noodle dishes. I have done thai peanut noodle salad, asian (non-peanut) noodle salad and Italian style veg/pasta salads, all of which are room temp friendly.
          Quiches are great buffet food, IMO. They can be made and baked ahead, are good at room temp or hot, hold well and are infinitely variable.
          Chicken Satay is a good and popular room temp main.
          Swedish meatballs in can go in a crock pot.
          Pulled pork in a crock pot with a variety of condiments and homemade wee buns is one main that has been a hit in my past. Likewise with a platter of sliced tenderloin (room temp) if you're a big spender.
          Roasted seasoned nuts are an easy app item. I like rosemary-salt pecans, curry almonds, and spicy candied anything.
          For breakfast, I do a DIY waffle bar. Just make the batter and set out condiments and iron(s). People LOVE this. Yeast batter waffles and homemade compotes and whip make it special.

          1. I'd hit up an Italian caterer and go for baked ziti or stuffed shells, sausages and peppers and a couple salads, olive trays etc. Add some sub rolls and you should be good to go. Sounds like your breakfast could be easy to prep, just skip the waffles and add some sweet buns etc.

            3 Replies
            1. re: treb

              +1. Depending on your location, this can be a surprisingly affordable option. I say the former because if there are a lot of Italian places in your area, prices will be competitive. I got a tray of excellent homemade eggplant parm last year for cheaper than it would have cost me to make it....plus the bonus of the extra time to do other things.

              For the suggestion of quiche, I'm a fan of its Italian relative, frittata. Good hot, better at room temp, breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner friendly, and good for using up bits of meat, cheese, veg, etc.

              1. re: pinehurst

                I'm a fan of its Italian relative, frittata. Good hot, better at room temp, breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner friendly, and good for using up bits of meat, cheese, veg, etc.
                _______________________________________________________

                or Spanish tortilla, to go with my yet-unfulfilled wish to have a party that includes a whole bone-in jamon with the stand...

                1. re: splatgirl

                  spanish tortilla is excellent at room temp, just keep the eggs a bit runny. some jamon serrano and manchego cheese, romesco sauce, yum!