Perfect Buffet Party Plan
Modified from the
National Pork Producers Council
How to Have a Party and Still Party
Holidays and other celebrations can bring enough stress without adding the worries that
come with entertaining.
Many Americans who entertain during the holidays and other times have found a low-stress
way to do it -- buffet-style. Buffets are perfect because they work for any group and
allow hosts to have fun, too.
And don't stress out about choosing the right wine to go with your dinner -- keep reading
for some simple tips for perfect wine and food pairing.
When entertaining for large groups, take advantage of what's
available in local specialty stores to supplement your buffet menu. Stop by a favorite
bakery or deli to pick up a delicious loaf of bread or fresh fruit salad. No one will know
-- or care -- that you didn't slave away in the kitchen.
Make baked goods weeks in advance and then freeze your favorites. And don't be afraid to
display "traded" cookies that have come your way in holiday cookie swaps.
Spread the Cheer
A few simple flourishes to the buffet table will light up the
room. Fill a holiday saucer or bowl with salt and nestle in colored candles for colorful
decor. Wrap the table in oversized holiday or birthday gift wrap for a special touch. For
a party remembrance, buy inexpensive tree ornaments like colored balls and silver bells
and write each guest's name on one.
Have A Feast, Forget the Fuss
Entertaining can be easy when you follow these steps:
Beat the Rush -- Make detailed shopping lists the week before and prepare most of
the food in the days before the party. To avoid being pressed for time on the big day, set
the buffet table the night before.
Keep It Simple -- Be sure to plan easy-to-prepare dishes,
and keep in mind what will be easiest for guests to serve -- and eat -- without being
messy and awkward.
Location, Location, Location -- Keep traffic moving by setting the
items of the buffet in logical order, so guests can start with plates and the main dish.
Put sides and salads second and silverware and napkins last. Dessert and coffee can be
served in the kitchen or on a coffee table.
Stick a Fork in It -- Prepare stews and "one-dish
meals" that are easy to eat, preferably with a fork or spoon. Serve finger foods or
cut meats like boneless pork loin or ham into bite-sized cubes and serve on Jackson Beaten
Biscuits. Your guests will be glad they don't have to slice into a roast as they balance a
Extra Space Makes Serving Simple -- Place buffet items
about a foot away from the edge of the table, so guests can put their plate down in front
of each station while serving themselves.
Matchmaker, Make Me a Match -- Don't worry if bowls and dishes don't match. An
eclectic mix can add variety and charm to the table. Be creative -- a basket or mixing
bowl can double as a serving dish.
Let It Flow -- If possible, keep the buffet table away
from the wall to maximize serving space. Also, arrange furniture so the guests can move
and mingle freely.
Raise Your Glass -- Keep a supply of seltzer water, soft
drinks and fruit juices on hand to make refreshing holiday spritzers. Also, include
affordable varietal wines like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and White Zinfandel to give
guests a choice.
Wine and Dine
As the old rules for pairing food and wine change, emphasis now
is on the seasonings flavoring the foods rather than the foods themselves, and more is
left to individual taste. While this new freedom can seem intimidating, there are a few
simple guidelines to follow.
When pairing food and wine, don't dwell on the red with red, white with white rules. Think
about the `flavor profile' of the meal and choose a wine according to flavors. The most
important rule is to always pick food and wine that you'd enjoy individually, and you'll
usually like the combination.
The Perfect Pair
If a meal features strong flavors, choose a sturdy wine like a Chardonnay, a Zinfandel or
a Cabernet Sauvignon. A meal with more delicate seasonings calls for a subtle wine like a
Sauvignon Blanc or a White Zinfandel.
It's also important to balance the weight, as well as the flavors, between the wine and
food. If a meal has rich, dense foods, then pair it with a full-bodied red or white wine.
But if food is light tasting, then a crisp white or light-bodied red wine would make a
For entertaining, don't be afraid to experiment by putting
several bottles on the table and letting guests pick their favorite pairing.
Following are five varietals -- specific types of grapes -- suitable for many occasions
and tastes, along with easy recommendations for what meals go well with each varietal.
- Chardonnay -- A complex white wine that is generally
buttery, fruity and dry with a light hint of oak. Best with grilled or roasted pork
and other white meats, as well as a variety of pasta dishes. Its complexity balances
creamy sauces and heavier foods that call for a white wine.
- Sauvignon Blanc -- A crisp, citrus-flavored, dry white wine
that tends to be lighter in body than a Chardonnay. Best with fish and white meat
with fruit sauces.
- White Zinfandel (pink in color) -- A go-with-anything
sipping wine with a crisp raspberry fruit flavor. Best with before-dinner
appetizers or to complement Mexican and Asian dishes. For a pleasant surprise, try a White
Zinfandel with flavorful cheeses.
- Cabernet Sauvignon -- A rich, dry, full-bodied red wine
that mellows with age. Best with full-bodied meals like hearty pastas and robust
meat and stews.
- Zinfandel -- Made from a red grape that's believed to be
indigenous to California. Less complex than Cabernet Sauvignon, it's fresh and fruity with
a peppery and raspberry flavor. Best with almost any food, but goes especially well
with spicy sauces and flavorful meat.
Recipes for a Holiday Buffet
As guests arrive, serve the squash soup (in small cups for
sipping) along with the mushrooms and cheese spread with crackers on a sidebar buffet or
on a coffee table; reserve the buffet table for the main meal; serve the dessert cookie
selection and coffee in the kitchen or on the coffee table.
Peppered Squash Soup(recipe
Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms (recipe included)
Tomato-Goat Cheese Spread
Dilled Blanquette of Pork (recipe included)
Holiday Noodles (recipe
Snap Peas & Cashews
Romaine Spears, Cherry Tomatoes
Blue Ceeese Dressing
Jackson Beaten Biscuits
- 2 lb. butternut or acorn squash
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground white pepper2 cups milk
- 3 cups water
Halve squash lengthwise; discard seeds; place squash halves face
down on a shallow baking sheet. Bake in a 400° F. oven until squash is
very tender, about 40-45 minutes. Let squash cool. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large
saucepan over medium-high heat; saute jalapenos (use rubber gloves when handling peppers)
and onion until tender but not brown. Scoop flesh from squash shells, add to saucepan with
remaining ingredients, stir to blend. Blend soup in a food processor or a food mill;
return to saucepan; reheat until hot. Makes 12
Make-ahead tip: Soup can be prepared up to three days ahead of time, covered
and refrigerated. Reheat gently, do not boil.
- 24 large mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 ounces bulk pork sausage
- 1/3 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
Remove stems from mushrooms. Chop stems and saute with garlic in
butter in large heavy skillet until mushrooms are wilted, about 3 minutes. Add sausage and
cook, stirring, until brown. Stir in remaining ingredients, stir to mix well; taste to
adjust seasoning. Stuff each mushroom cap with about 1 tablespoon of sausage mixture. Bake
in hot oven, 400-450 °F., about 5 minutes. Makes
Make-ahead tip: Prepare up to three days ahead before baking, cover and
- 2 8-ounce logs of plain goat cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup dried tomatoes, packed in oil, minced
- 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
In a medium bowl, mash goat cheese with other ingredients; blend
well. Pack into a serving bowl or crock. Cover and refrigerate (can be made up to four
days ahead); bring to room temperature before serving with crackers or Jackson Beaten
Biscuits. Makes 12 servings.
- 1 12-ounce package wide egg noodles
- 1 12-ounce package spinach noodles
- 1 12-ounce package red pepper OR tomato noodles
Boil a large kettle of water and cook noodles according to
package directions. Toss noodles together in a large serving bowl. Serve with Dilled
Blanquette of Pork. Makes 12 servings.
Tip: Boil noodles before guests arrive, let noodles "rest" in hot
water before draining to serve. Toss noodles with a little oil or butter.
Blanquette of Pork
- 3 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 8 tablespoons butter, divided
- 8 tablespoons flour, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups peeled carrots, sliced on the diagonal
- 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
- 6 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup evaporated skimmed milk
Heat oven to 350 ° F.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a heavy Dutch oven. Add the pork and cook over medium-low
heat, turning frequently, until lightly browned, 10-15 minutes.
Stir 4 tablespoons of flour together with the nutmeg, salt and pepper; sprinkle over the
pork. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Add the carrots, onions, 4 tablespoons of the dill and enough broth to just cover the meat
and vegetables. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from oven, remove solids from stew with a slotted spoon, set aside. Carefully
remove liquid to a large bowl, set aside. Return pot to medium heat and melt remaining 4
tablespoons butter in it. Sprinkle in the remaining 4 tablespoons flour, and cook over low
heat, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Whisk in the reserved cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Cook
slowly, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, for 5 minutes. Whisk in the
evaporated milk, remaining 2 tablespoons dill, and season with additional salt, pepper and
nutmeg to taste. Return the pork and vegetables to the casserole and simmer to heat
through, about 5 minutes. Serve with Jackson Beaten Biscuits. Makes 12 servings.
Cover, refrigerate up to three days. Reheat gently before serving.
The Rest of the Menu:
Cook 2 16-ounce packages frozen snap peas in the microwave; toss with 2 6-ounce packages
salted cashew halves.
Serve romaine spears and cherry tomatoes with a creamy blue-cheese dressing (purchased) as
Make a fresh fruit salad or pick up a fresh fruit mixture at the supermarket deli.
Jackson Beaten Biscuits make the perfect finishing touches for the Holiday Buffet Array.
Present a homemade, purchased or "traded" (from a holiday cookie exchange)
holiday cookie array with coffee and a sweet wine, like Gewurztraminer, for dessert.