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A 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.


Shortcuts

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 buffet plate.

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 suitable pairing.

For entertaining, don't be afraid to experiment by putting several bottles on the table and letting guests pick their favorite pairing.


Which Wine?

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.

Wine Selection

Peppered Squash Soup(recipe included)

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms (recipe included)
Tomato-Goat Cheese Spread (recipe included)
Crackers

Dilled Blanquette of Pork (recipe included)
Holiday Noodles (recipe included)
Snap Peas & Cashews
Romaine Spears, Cherry Tomatoes
Blue Ceeese Dressing
Fruit Salad
Jackson Beaten Biscuits

Cookie Tray
Coffee
Dessert Wine

Peppered Squash Soup

  • 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
1/2-cup servings.

Make-ahead tip: Soup can be prepared up to three days ahead of time, covered and refrigerated. Reheat gently, do not boil.

 

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 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 12 servings.

Make-ahead tip: Prepare up to three days ahead before baking, cover and refrigerate.

 

Tomato-Goat Cheese Spread

  • 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.

 

Holiday Noodles

  • 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.

 

Dilled 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 a dip.

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.

This Holiday Buffet plan was modified from the pages of the National Pork Producers Council

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Recipe for Country Ham

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