The holidays are all about chilling out and relaxing with family and friends. All the effort gets put in to Christmas and New Years, while the days in between are spent drinking as much alcohol as possible until you collapse and eating the equivalent of your bodyweight in food.
One thing you shouldn’t have to do during the holidays is spend too much time messing about with long recipes and tricky meals that have the potential to go wrong. You can keep things simple and still put out some great food for a party or gathering at yours during the holidays.
So let me introduce the buffet. In this article I’ll be giving you tips and ideas to throw together a last minute buffet that everyone can enjoy. There are some great advantages to serving up a buffet as opposed to a meal such as:
• Shorter preparation time.
• Options to suit everybody.
• Quick and basic cooking.
• Leftovers stay good for another day.
• People can eat as and when they want.
One of the challenges with a buffet is putting out right amounts of different categories of food. If you put out different meats with very few side options, you’re going to run in to a few problems. Likewise, if you put on too many side options without any meats, you’re guests will probably end up eating elsewhere.
As food brands and types differ from place to place I won’t get too specific in this article with regards to preparation as such, but rather will be giving you an idea of what to include in your buffet by offering you an example. The key thing is to look for foods that are generally enjoyed by everyone and take little time to prepare or cook.
As a buffet can be put out for any amount of people, guessing how much to buy can be a little tricky. What I generally try to do is make sure there is enough of the larger or expensive stuff for one serving per person, while the cheaper or smaller foods you can buy enough for two or three portions per person. Obviously if you think a certain food might prove to be a hit (pizza always is), grab an extra pack just in case you start running low.
So, let’s begin:
Meat and Fish:
Firstly, you want your meats and fish. Some good options here would be cocktail sausages, slices of fresh salmon, baked ham and chicken legs. Remember to make sure portions are relatively small and all meat is sliced before serving.
Suggestions: Try pairing the salmon with some soft cheese and chives, or add small pieces of bacon to the cocktail sausages using cocktail sticks to pin it together.
Put out some bulkier foods that generally go well with anything. This could be pizza, fries, potato salad, fried rice etc. Sides usually disappear the quickest, so it’s best to stock up on these sorts of foods.
Suggestions: Buy frozen pizzas and get creative with extra toppings, add chicken salt to your fries for extra taste. You don’t have to buy expensive foods to make a tasty buffet, just think about adding extra ingredients beforehand.
Breads and Sandwiches:
Next you want your breads. This could be a simple loaf of white bread, a French stick, some bagels, or whatever you fancy. Add some simple spreads such as soft cheese, avocado, pickle etc. as options.
Suggestions: It’s best to offer at least two selections of breads. While a French stick is great with just a simple spread, some people might want to experiment with their own sandwiches, so offering bagels or a loaf to do this would be best.
There’s always somebody who floats around the buffet table just picking at things because they’re not that hungry. Adding some chips, nuts, pork rinds and other light snacks can be great for these people.
Suggestions: Try to keep these separated if possible. For example, keep different flavored chips in different packs / bowls, and different nut varieties separate. There’s nothing worse than sampling a chip from a bowl, liking it, then filling your plate with them only to find out they’re mixed with some shit flavor.
This is where you fill in the gaps with things that are good value in your supermarket, or just looks too good to pass up. A nice salad, some pastries, mini burgers or pies are all great options to add to a buffet.
Drinks and Desserts:
These are entirely up to you and the audience you’ll be serving. You don’t need me to tell you to get stocked up on alcohol – just make sure you’re catering for your audience. The most important point here is to cater for everyone, so variety is a must.
So, grab yourself some paper plates, plastic knives and forks and even some plastic cups if you really want a hassle free buffet. Any left overs can be bagged up for snacks over the next few days and providing you left most things in their original packaging, you probably won’t even have to wash anything up. Happy holidays from 1 Man Kitchen!