Christmas is coming, I know this because stores are busy staging tinsel laden faux trees next to the horror masks for Halloween. It always happens just after my sandals are broke in and soon after I grow accustomed to stepping over school books.
Retailers are hard at work pounding innocent shoppers with mounds of candy corn, turkey platters and essential reindeer lawn decor. I wonder if it's possible that events in October, November and December morph into a single event we will call "Hallowthanksmas"?
Any who, the other clue that were rushing head long into long lines and empty wallets is my clients, they are already checking party dates! This led me to reminiss at some of last years festivities, so I'll share this little holiday event held for the boat parade in Yorba Linda.
First, yes, Yorba Linda has a small body of water they call a lake and the tiny houses on the tiny lake have tiny dinghies, which are neat when decorated with lights and parading around for Christmas. Second, 50 guests can fit into a bulging little house provided you hold it on an early Sunday evening, so guests can find parking and don't mind being cozy.
Holiday Boat Parade Catering Menu for 50 guests
tortellini martini, porcini mushroom sauce with caramelized onion
panini grilled Baby baguette sandwiches with artichoke,
prosciutto, capicola, genoa and provolone
lumpia with sweet chili sauce
spicy sausage stuffed mushroom caps
chicken negimaki with wasabi sauce
steak on a stick in bourbon barbecue sauce
baked brie in puff pastry with cranberry and walnuts
When planning a holiday gathering, in small quarters focus on food that won't need a knife and fork, is filling but manageable. Keep in mind that some dishes are best made on the spot. It takes at least one chef to prepare any fresh menu item like these "Tortellini Martinis" cooked at a pasta cooking station.
The tortelini is tossed in porcini mushroom sauce then topped with caramelized onions and parmesan cheese, (served in a martini glass, by the way, it is a great portable menu item). The same is true for Lumpia, crisp and delicious phillipine style eggrolls that do require last minute cooking.
Steak on a stick gets it's kick from the bourbon barbecue sauce, infused with fresh rosemary. The meat is marinated, cooks quickly and hold up well in a chafer, as do Spicy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms. Both the Stuffed Mushrooms and the Steak on a Stick are perfect at cocktail parties and they are great man food!
Panini grilled baby bagutte sandwiches are so delicious fresh off the griddle. Any filling is good but I especially like the combination of marinated artichokes, procuittio, cappicola, genoa and provolone cheese. I first spread zesty dijon mustard on a super skinny baguette, slip in the goodies then brush with seasoned olive oil before toasting. Cutting the sandwiches on a bias makes them easy for guests to handle at a stand up affair.
Chicken Negimaki is probably one of the best "cook ahead" dishes on the menu. Chicken breast is first rolled with green onion and peppers, then in toasted sesame seeds and seared in a hot pan. Once cooked, they are cooled and sliced into medallions, skewered and served with a wasabi ginger dipping sauce.
I am a huge fan of this brie made and perfectly flavored with cranberries and walnuts for the best seasonal flavor.
Going"pot luck" on the desserts is a great way to involve your guests and it helps shave some dollars from your bulging budget. Don't forget to hold some back for Santa, he likes mini cookies and milk from a shot glass (Santa has to watch his waist).
A final note, when dealing with 50 very hungry guests, remember how fast a kitchen can fill up (everyone is always in the kitchen), even in a larger home, it can be difficult to cook, stage and move about when everyone wants to be in the kitchen. If opening oven doors, cooking with hot oil and lifting trays over your head to refill the dining room isn't what you envisioned for your time, hire some help or look to items that can be made ahead and hold well for several hours.
Wishing you well this Hallowthankmas season, God bless us all, through hectic months ahead!
photo at top by Zayne Fontes