Be a guest at your own holiday party this year by hosting a buffet-style dinner. It is a great alternative to a formal sit-down dinner, which can often be stressful to manage. Alternately, buffet entertaining maximizes your time, budget and energy because it provides a variety of options when catering to a large group of people. According to cookbook author and professional home economist, Jennifer MacKenzie, buffets allow hosts to relax and enjoy their own party.
“I love to entertain during holidays and tend to favour buffets because they allow me to catch up with family and friends while indulging in great food and drink in the comfort of my home,” says MacKenzie. “With a little planning, delegating and preparation, a buffet-style meal sets the tone for a relaxed, informal celebration. As a host, you have time to focus on your guests and capture the true spirit of the holiday season.”
Mackenzie’s top 10 reasons for buffet entertaining:
- It’s a Team Effort: With a buffet-style dinner party, you can ask friends and family to contribute a dish. This reduces food costs and makes dinner a collective effort.
- Time is On Your Side: Choose buffet items that can be prepared in advance and later cooked or reheated in the oven prior to serving. When you’re ready to feed your guests, remove items from the oven, display and enjoy the party. For example, for those who like getting an early start on food preparation, the Korean Kalbi Beef Ribs can be marinated and frozen up to a month in advance.
- Variety for Guests: A buffet allows you to incorporate an array of ethnic cuisines as well as traditional favourites like Caesar salad, beef lasagne or homemade macaroni and cheese to appeal to the less adventurous.
- Convenience: Take advantage of slow cookers to prepare foods ahead of time and to keep food warm for an extended period.
- Less Clean Up: Biodegradable, disposable plates, cutlery and cups make clean up a breeze, especially when feeding a crowd.
- Family Friendly: Duplicate the traditional recipes that you prepared for the adults, like lasagne and macaroni and cheese, and serve them on a smaller scale to create a customized buffet for younger guests. This will make them feel special and in-charge, which may help to prevent meltdowns or temper tantrums.
- Elegant or Casual, Decorating is Simple: Create a “tablescape” using decorative accents, ornaments and accessories you own, grouping them by colour or theme, to add a festive splash to your buffet table. Now is the time to pull out those fabulous, showpiece platters you rarely get to use.
- Maximize Attendance: There is no need to worry about taking the time to set the table or to source additional seating when serving a buffet dinner. Guests will eat at varying times, which will free up seating. If guests are standing for most of the night, include dishes that involve little to no cutting.
- Space to Socialize: Informal seating allows guests to mix and mingle while they eat rather than staying parked in one seat. Hosts do not have to over think seating arrangements or lead the conversation at the dinner table.
- Flexibility: Guests do not have to feel guilty about arriving late to the party and can eat when it suits them. Just be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Now that you know the benefits associated with hosting a buffet-style holiday feast, it is time to think about what recipes you would like to prepare.
“Ontario Beef is an excellent ingredient to incorporate into your buffet; it’s versatile in an array of cuisines and cooking methods and is cost effective,” says MacKenzie. “When entertaining large groups, opt for the less expensive cuts such as outside round, inside round, rump or sirloin tip and then braise, stew or roast to perfection.”