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Bojana

Help – amateur catering for friends' wedding

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Something I would add, personally, is something I've cooked (in modified form) from the Alinea cookbook for a group of ~40: the pork belly dish. I suggest not so much the particular dish but the idea of it. The pork belly I cooked sous vide. It came to my workplace still in the bag. The 'salad' element of the dish (apples and cucumber, from memory) I'd sealed in a bag the previous night to protect from oxygen. The sauce I'd already bottled in a squeezy-bottle. I intentionally purchased twice as many Chinese soup spoons (a cliche, yeah, but easy to work with) as I figured I'd need. Serving was simple. I cut the pork belly into cubes before reheating in the microwave. This was very fast. We all know how easy it is to cut cold pork as opposed to hot meat. ~40 portions took all of 5 minutes to knock together by myself. One element of the dish that would've involved some risky last minute work was scribbled altogether, the flavour added into the sauce (yeah, I lost a textural component but I'm not running the Alinea kitchen with a team of lackeys backing me up). I wasn't rushing, even tho' I had a clear (and close) deadline. That's what the 'last few minutes' should look like: not you fussing over a deep-fryer, as that's when you'll have an accident. The efficiency only came about through a great deal of trial and error.

Chris, I have made this dish, the full version including the sugar coating and polenta, and it was amazing, but I would not dare make and serve this for more than 12ish people, it is the keep it warm element that I do not think I can handle without proper help for bigger numbers or more experience under my belt.

Thank you for taking time to help me. Lots of good points.

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I hope this isn't too basic but, you should finalize the menu then break it down into component parts then into tasks. So, say you're making bruschetta. Your components are bruschetta breads and the topping. Tasks for the topping would include dicing veg then maybe slicing olives, measuring seasonings, then combining everything. The tasks don't have to be done on the same day -chopped olives will hold for a long time. You then make a work schedule for every day you have available to work. So, you wind up with a master list of tasks (pair with recipes and a provisions list) and a schedule for each day. As I complete tasks on a day, I check them off on the that day's schedule and the master list. This way, you are less likely to forget something.

The provisions list will save you time because you go out to shop once.

The day of the event should also have a packing list so that nothing gets left behind accidentally. That list should include your sanitation supplies: sani buckets, bleach, lots of towels, gloves to fit you and the assistant (wearing black? use powder free gloves), aprons (more than one, just in case), extra piping bags & tips, ice packs, and backups of things like chafing fuel. Don't forget tubs to bring back your dirty serving trays and utensils, etc.

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I will make finger food for my friend's wedding end of August. While I am very comfortable in tke kitchen with both sweet and savoury side, I have questions on how to ensure that food will stay crispy and in optimal condition, and there you could maybe advise if changes of components are necessary. Also, I'd like to prepare anything I can upfront and store in the freezer, there will be questions there too.

It will be post dinner elegant finger food and the bride has requested that no plates shoud be used, really pick it up with hand and eat. There will be ~80 guests. I will make about 40-50 pieces of each dish.

This is the list with my preliminary ideas:

  1. Panko breaded deep fried fish segments with wasabi mayonnaise and sweet soy fluid gel
  2. Deep fried polenta triangles with tomato basil sauce and parmesan shavings
  3. Spinach cheese roll
  4. Chorizo madelaines
  5. Sun dried tomato madelaines
  6. Kroepoek/rice crackers with asian salad topping (carrot salad a la green papaya spiced, with and without peanuts)
  7. Lemon meringue tartlets
  8. Macarons (raspberry)
  9. Eclairs or choux buns with flavoured pastry cream (spices, asian maybe, passion fruit..)

Questions:

  1. What is good sort of white fish to use, that will not fall apart while deep fired. I have easy access to Tilapia, pangasius but could search for more if those are not optimal. This will be served cold, with probably a skewer through the fish. Any issues here? Will it be ok served luke warm/cold?
  2. Chorizo and sun dried tomato madelaines, can I bake and freeze them, then just refresh on the wedding day? Alternatively, can I make and freeze the batter?
  3. Rice crackers and carrot salad (dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, chilli, peanuts, dried shrim floss and coriander). Will the rice crackers go soggy from the salad? Can I brush them with a thin layer of mayonnaise? Can you suggest some alternative vessels for this salad?
  4. Lemon meringue tartlets I will bake and freeze, then refresh in the oven. I will assemble them on location, including the blowtorching of the swiss meringue.
  5. Choux buns I am planning to freeze dough and bake on the day, fill on location. Will they stay crisp for a couple of hours? Any tips there?

Also, if you have some additional ideas for me, I'd love to hear.

Thanks!

I've done a couple of weddings for friends and here's my critique.

1.) You've got a ton of frying to do and will you have the equipment?

2.) You've got a lot of baking an pastry going on....torching 80 tartets?

3.) Frozen and reheated Madeleines? What's the point of making delicate Madeleines?

4.) Rice Crackers with anything moist are going to go limp.

You should probably write your prep list and figure the timing.

I would...pick a theme, Asian, Italian, etc...one flavor profile.

Then figure what can be held at temp, rent a hot box and lots of cutting boards.

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Just for the sake of brainstorming... some little puff pastry cups could play a few roles. Stamp a bunch of 1" diameter discs out of puff pastry. Then stamp a 1/2" hole in two-thirds of them ('donuts'). Stack two 'donuts' on top of one 'disk' (some egg wash 'glue' might help but is not required - a pre-test is recommended, of course). Put these all on an oiled sheet pan. Make four spacers by stacking some pennies to the proper height and wrapping in aluminum foil. Place in each corner of the pan Set another sheet pan on top (with the bottom oiled). Bake. The top will keep the cups constrained to a uniform height and limit their tendency to curve. Repeat until you have enough.

Carefully package and freeze these. They'll thaw quickly and can accept savory or sweet fillings - piped in with a bag. You could replenish trays quickly just by grabbing the bag with whatever filling is most in demand at the moment (or progress from savory to sweet).

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I'd only count on piping MAYBE one thing on site. Even that may be too much with all the setup you will need to do.

You have to consider the numbers. Even I, with a lot of piping experience, can only pipe about 90 things an hour, if I don't have to pick them up. If I have to pick them up, like a cream puff or eclair, the number goes down to maybe 55 an hour. You're going to be slower, a lot slower. So is your assistant. You also need to factor in time to re-load bags, because most of the things you are talking about piping aren't 3m dots, they are 1-2oz shots of pastry cream, mousse, etc. If you have 3 things to pipe and you want 80+ each, you're going to need at least 5 hours to do it. If you want to dip the eclairs in ganache of some sort, double the production time on those.

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Bojana, where are you located? If you have access to good tomatoes, gazpacho is easily made ahead of time and can be served, for lack of a better term, in little disposable cups.


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I'd only count on piping MAYBE one thing on site. Even that may be too much with all the setup you will need to do.

You have to consider the numbers. Even I, with a lot of piping experience, can only pipe about 90 things an hour, if I don't have to pick them up. If I have to pick them up, like a cream puff or eclair, the number goes down to maybe 55 an hour. You're going to be slower, a lot slower. So is your assistant. You also need to factor in time to re-load bags, because most of the things you are talking about piping aren't 3m dots, they are 1-2oz shots of pastry cream, mousse, etc. If you have 3 things to pipe and you want 80+ each, you're going to need at least 5 hours to do it. If you want to dip the eclairs in ganache of some sort, double the production time on those.

I'm wondering what I'm missing here. I'm assuming that you're referring to my last post, since prior to that, piping has only been mentioned twice (including once by you with regards to packing multiple piping tips).

I'll admit that I haven't done 80 of these things, but I have done 10. And even at my amateur level, having pieces fly across the room because the filling didn't release, and/or constantly admonishing myself against licking my fingers, I think I could manage somewhat better than 40 seconds per piece. More like 5 or 10 seconds. For confirmation, I've just looked at a few Youtube videos of pro's doing it at well over twice that clip.

I'm not talking about piping fleur de lis, or roses here. Just fill a small cup. A tray of thirty pieces should be done in about 5 minutes.

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The OP mentioned eclairs in his original message. To finish an eclair, one picks it up, jabs a hole with a thick skewer, puts the skewer down, picks up the piping bag, pipes the pastry cream, puts down the piping bag, flips the eclair so the bottom is facing downwards, dips the top in warm ganache, flips it back up then places it carefully onto a tray. He was already planning on doing 80+ of these on location. I don't think adding to this workload is very wise.

That said, I usually fill small cups, shells, etc., where the filling will be seen, with piped rosettes. They take longer than dumping blobs with a plain tip, but that's often what separates fine catering from ordinary food. That and the fact that I am very aware that the 'pile of dog poop' shape is not a real piping figure no matter how many cheap cupcake places insist on using it on their wares. -Whenever I see that shape I cringe.

If all you want is a lump of stuff on something, there are manual depositors that hold more than a piping bag, are faster to use, and, more accurate in measuring out portions. Some things might be done best with a mechanical, ice cream-style scoop.

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Ok, I have to admit that some of the things have made me a bit nervous, which is good. I will make adjustments to my menu to reflect what I can do and deliver on the day and not to forget, I also want to have some fun there.

The general expectation was more BYO food style, so if I offered to bring two 8 person quiches that would have been appreciated as well.

Reading the comments, I do not think that I can handle 80 items of each, as much as I would like to. First decisions:

  • do only 30-40 of more tricky items that need last minute piping & torching (lemon meringue pies, choux buns, no eclairs and no ganache dipping).
  • 80 - 100 macarons (have done 200 macarons for a wedding before)
  • will talk to the bride to consider use of disposable cups and if fine, will serve carrot salad in it, if not, will ditch the salad
  • fried fish will change to smoked fish + mayo spread for crostini, decorated with sweet soy piped fluid gel
  • love gazpacho, if disposable cups are allowed, will do that too
  • madelaines 48 chorizo and 48 tomato, frozen and refreshed on the day. I think they will still taste good enough and it is something easy to make and serve. I can bake 24 at the time. May even consider upping the numbers here or adding extra flavours, this will be my easy filler
  • I'll add some more on the stick items

Someone asked about the spinach roll. It is the cake type of dough coloured with spinach, just not sweet. Filling is fairly firm goat cheese based with some veggies and ham. It should be firm enough so I do not see much leakage and staining risk here. I'll put it some 15-20 mins in the freezer before slicing, expect to get 30ish units.

Someone else is doing the cured meats platter (groom is Italian, hams will be good)

As said, nobody will come hungry and other people will bring food too. Everyone will do what they can and even if some things turn out sub optimal or fail, we are among friends and there will be no cross faces.

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If 80 people are coming, I'd think you'd need at least 80 of each item, even if it means making fewer different items, unless you're absolutely sure that half the people attending won't want to eat half of what you're serving. Even if other people are bringing food, I'd still say you'd be better off scaling back the variety and upping the quantity. It's a case of 40+40 not equaling 80.


Reading the comments, I do not think that I can handle 80 items of each, as much as I would like to.


MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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If 80 people are coming, I'd think you'd need at least 80 of each item, even if it means making fewer different items, unless you're absolutely sure that half the people attending won't want to eat half of what you're serving. Even if other people are bringing food, I'd still say you'd be better off scaling back the variety and upping the quantity. It's a case of 40+40 not equaling 80.

Reading the comments, I do not think that I can handle 80 items of each, as much as I would like to.

This.

Consider catered events you've attended before. How when word gets around that <item x> is good, everyone wants one. It sucks if there's only enough for half of the group, right? I don't know for sure but I'm guessing Lisa and others, if there are 80 guests, would serve at least 80 portions of each item.

3 * 80 > 6 * 40, in this case. I suspect it's far easier, too, to make 80 portions of one thing than 40 portions each of two things. You can get into the machine-like rhythym of banging out the same thing again and again and again without change.


Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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I was at a friend's garden wedding.

There was flying insects, bees, mosquitoes.

The sun was burning everyone. Then in the middle it started to rain, pouring rain.

Sorry I hope this is not too off topic. Contingency plans are important. Wedding party is not to be rescheduled last minute.

dcarch

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Anyone looked into tent rental?

Yeah, I'd make at least 1.5 times the guest list of each item. (this is for fashinista, model-skinny, movie-star people who don't eat much) So, for 80 guests at a fancy event where don't want to be caught chewing, I'd make at least 120 pcs of each item.

Too many types of offerings is a typical mistake for beginning caterers, you'll get wiped out early and not know why. There's an old adage in catering that out of politeness people (even those who do not actually eat) will take one of every flavor/type of thing. -And go back for seconds on what they like. (thus the 1.5 number) So, if you serve 3 items to 100 people, you'll need an absolute minimum total of 450 pcs -150 of each type. But, if you decide to serve 5 different things, you'll need a minimum of 750pcs -again 150 of each type. Making more types or flavors of food doesn't help you, it will sink your ship. -You'll run out of food early, spend a lot more time making things, and spend a ton of money on ingredients. And, then, no one is happy: you're tired, the guests want more food, the host is angry, and you're still waiting to get the balance owed you. (ok in this case, I know there's no payment involved)

If the group is comprised of people who actually eat, and maybe weigh more than 99.5lbs when wet, I'd make 2-3 pcs per person. If kids are present, go quadruple on the cookies.

Chris Taylor is absolutely correct that it's a LOT easier to make large numbers of one thing than to switch gears and make another flavor or type of food. If anything, it means you don't have to clean the mixer between batches of say, madelines, just keep cranking out more dough.

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If the bride is ok with nice disposable glasses.. you could always go with the crudite in shot or small glasses with the dip at the bottom..

lots of google images to give you ideas here.

http://www.google.ca/search?q=crudite+in+shot+glasses&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=n2jWUez8IoivqAHO4YGgCw&ved=0CCoQsAQ&biw=1887&bih=932

pretty much anybody can be pressed into doing it and it can be done fast.


Edited by Ashen (log)

"Why is the rum always gone?"

Captain Jack Sparrow

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We are in Amsterdam, so high probability of rain but luckily no other nasty flying things. Backup plan is to go back in house, large livingroom so no issues there.

I did a test batch of mini chorizo madelaines and I can easily make 100 of that. Will test gougeres soon. All the other items I'll go one by one to see how much I can handle on the day. I got another helper in the mean time, and with all the great advice I got here, I am confident we'll pull something good off.

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Hi!

With respect to white fish, you can try:

Monk Fish

King Fish

Blue Cod from New Zealand

These all hold together really well. Great for making fish curries and that sort of thing too.

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