Buffet lunch menu
Hi - this year instead of an elegant sit down dinner on Christmas I am planning a buffet lunch for 15 several days after Christmas and I am at a loss as to what to serve. I have never done a buffet before. In the mix of people are one who doesn't eat pork or shellfish, one with a red meat allergy, one vegan and one who doesn't eat meat but does eat fish. I don't expect any one dish to address all of the limitations but I would each to have something good things to eat. I would also like the general tone to be elegant. Every time I try to think about a menu my head explodes and it is getting very messy. Any inspiration/ideas out there?
Also any hints on how to make a buffet work well would also be appreciated.
I would do a roasted salmon with a dill sauce and a braised chicken with mushrooms. A warm roasted vegetable orzo/quinoa salad, a couple of green salads(one endive, fennel, clementine/orange and pecan salad AND one simple butter lettuce with shallot vinaigrette)
roasted or poached salmon is a great idea. poached would allow the offering of traditional "daylight" accompaniments like horseradish cream, bagels, capers, chopped eggs and chopped red onion -- making it more like breakfast instead of dinner.
does your red-meat-allergic friend eat pork? (the other white meat). you could do a roasted or spiral ham.
if that's out, roasted duck or goose would feel very special. i always like the look of "centerpiece" meats on buffets as visual focal points. or if you can find sufficiently small cornish game hens, serve them cut in half. however that leaves the problem of folks wrangling with bones. will they have to eat standing? or is there enough seating?
love the fennel/clementine salad this time of year. garnished with pomegranate seeds makes it festive.
i don't think brunch requires a green salad though a grain salad will help your vegetarians. quinoa, cous-cous or barley with roasted butternut squash, golden raisins and lots of fresh parsley. you could fry some cumin or sumac and add that to your dressing. you can mix all the ingredients ahead, but don't dress it til right before serving.
you need an egg dish! it's brunch! make 2 crustless quiches: mushroom and goat cheese and then roasted peppers, melted onions and gruyere. (you could put pancetta or bacon into one of these.) these can be made the day ahead and re-heated or are fine room temp.
there's also crespéou.
do you have a crockpot? you could offer a puree of roasted vegetable soup: carrot/ginger; tomato/basil/cream; mushroom/thyme.
if you have a chafing dish, potato or sweet potato hash.
a savory bread pudding is great for brunch. i have made them with tomato and it's a big hit. or you could bake a variety of mini-muffins: cranberry/almond; banana/macadamia; lemon/poppy; berry/streusel.
seasonal fruits like pineapple chunks, grapes, kiwi, blood orange slices, etc. all arranged on a platter.
layer cakes always look special and this one has always been a huge success for me, athough i do vary the frosting and filling.
as for your buffet table, try to vary the heights of your platters and plates for visual interest. don't make a million different dishes, just make PLENTY of a few things. 2 main proteins, 3-4 sides, cake and fruit are way more than enough.
set the buffet with plates at one end and napkins and flatware at the other. it's too challenging to juggle silverware while serving yourself food.
Will your guests be sitting at tables, or balancing their plates as they can? If the latter, keep things as simple and easily eatable as possible to lessen the inevitable accidents...
We have done a " take" on a Niçoise salad with lots of ingredients for a composed salad. Platters lined with bib lettuce with sections composed of warm new potatoes, semi crisp cooked haricot verte, tuna steaks, grilled turkey tenderloin, hard boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, grape tomatoes, strips of orange, and yellow bell pepper, etc...Accompaniments were warm baguette, biscuits with honey butter, warm crab spread. Desserts were fruit tarts, lemon bars and madelines.
In addition to previous suggestions for the main proteins i would offer several veg based sides.
This lentil salad is very colorful and delicious:
Sliced roasted delicata squash with chopped fresh herbs scattered ontop can be elegant.
I saw this recipe for a salad that sounds great yet is visually appealing -
Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. They were very helpful. The lunch came off well and even I enjoyed it. I think next year I will do the same sort of thing. Both I and my guests were very relaxed!
The menu turned out to be: roasted free range turkey, steamed shrimp and dipping sauce, vegetarian lasagna, homemade baked beans (vegan), bourbon sweet potatoes (vegan), braised brussel sprouts, homemade breads (white and corn), cranberry sauce, and pickle and other nibble tray. I could never have gotten my organized around this without your help!