Buffet – Saving and Savoring

25Aug08

Save up on that buffet dinner

Buffet

Buffet

At home or in the restaurant, we see buffet dining everywhere. Let’s not limit it to buffets like Jogoya, the Japanese buffet that many of us feel its extrinsic and exquisite value. Today, we also consider things like buffet dinner at home, beefing up juices for the perfect buffet, controlling food flow and cost, measuring sustainability and binging success into cooking up that special buffet dinner that will tantalize not only your guest’s tastebud but also your pockets.

Many of us enjoy the fact that in buffet, it’s a eat-all-you-can thing; the greatest eater wins. It may be true at some point, but not many can eat a lot, unless your family has a good background of big eaters like: 1 cow to 1 meal. Could cooking for a large number of people blow your small budget? Not really – With proper planning, you can save them all up and re-use all of the ingredients that you’d want to trash out. Also, this is the time when creativity strikes, and experiments happen. Don’t be too sure of yourself though, one experiment screw up could take away two or more meals!

Cooking up a buffet meal at home can be a great way to serve kids: Especially when they’re at their growing up stage and requires a lot of food varieties. Let’s not take monster eaters into consideration (greedy farts). What stands out among all of the meal serving styles are buffets – They can clear your stock, reduce your cost, improve the quality of food, reduce heavy losses, give variety and volume, bring back fresher ingredients and impress many.

Buffet Planning and Control

Planning your Buffet Menu

Grab a pen and paper, your cookbooks and some brain cells. Leave your cookbooks first, then walk to your fridge and check your stock.

  • What do you have? Any leftovers or pre-cooked materials?
  • What fresh food items can I use for this buffet?
  • Will there be any complications on the next meal?
  • Is this raw ingredient enough to cook for that amount of people?
  • What food substitutes can I use for this particular food item?
  • Do I need extra storage for these foodstuff later?
  • What can I do with that cheese? Hmm..
  • Ice cream and sago, Grouper/Garoupa fish and beansprouts?? How?

Keep in mind that a food inventory checklist is NOT NEEDED, just an idea of what you have in your chiller and what you can do to clear them all out. Don’t worry about crazy ideas like rose syrup, sago seeds, sprite and vanilla ice-cream mix: These crazy mixes could be a killer. Make sure you’re serving the right crowd. Cleaning up is a way of reducing costs: What’s more, you can get them all out so that you don’t need anymore spoils in your fridge.

Drafting your Menu

Get back to your chair and start opening up your cookbooks FIRST. For your mind to be whacked into tinkles and ideas, you need to see something first. Always get some cookbooks and turn on your inspiring mode – You’ll get it if you do it. Later after, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have enough ingredients inside, or should I replace them with another?
  • What can I make of from these foods left in my fridge?
  • Who are the people I’m serving? How many pax?
  • What cuisine am I offering my guests? What about Ginseng in my Panna Cotta?
  • Can I use this chicken stock to boil this and make that later?
  • Are the processes complicated?
  • Do I need to goto the wet market to get more stuff?
  • How many items in the menu?
  • What am I trying to tell people with my food?
    This part is crucial as in the way your foods are going to be presented, produced and placed. Take into consideration the ambient, style and intimate details of the food presentation.

Preliminary Food Preparation

Before you even start touching your pans, make sure your ingredients are all ready. Cooking and having missed a particular ingredient can be terrible and daunting. On the positive side, it makes your brain think – And search for more suitable food alternatives. When you’re done, look at your menu again and check to see if anything on your menu can be done a day before, or should be kept one day ahead. For example: Basic tomato sauces, chicken stock, marinades, etc.

Post Mortem Foods

We all have this problem – What about unfinished food items. Questions arise when you start preparing too much or when your guests are not finishing them all, as expected. Here are a few tips to help you sort this case out:

  • Meat items: Wash and reuse/Refresh Use of Foods
    Most meat items can be reused, if you do them correctly. For example, Szechuan Beef stir fry. You can use them for your pot of stew next round, or wash them to use for another dish like Beef Soup.
  • Consider a quick stew
    This time, do not use salt, sugar, pepper, chicken powder or any sort of seasoning. Dump all of your ingredients into a pot, add in chicken stock (or water), heat and overcook them for a while, add in organic seasoning food items like olives, anchovies, pickles, etc.
  • Change the Dish Status
    Not all ingredients have longer lifespan after cooking them. For example, vegetables cannot be kept for long: 1 or 2 days and they will rot in taste. If you consider re-cooking/heating them, it’ll be overcooked. For meat stuff like roast chicken, you can use them for pasta tomorrow, or sandwiches. Lamb cutlets served with mint sauce can be washed and used for another dish tomorrow.
  • Freezer Frenzy
    Wash & Clean all of your items, those that can be frozen like potatoes or chunks of lamb stew (washed) into the freezer. Try to use them as soon as possible, as most of these meats will deteriorate in taste, texture and nutrients the longer you keep them. Especially for vegetables and/or meat items, don’t keep them. For sweet items like Panna Cotta and Cheesecakes, leave them in the chiller – Not freezer.
  • Give them to your neighbour
    This may sound bad, but you can try by re-garnishing these dishes that you have leftover. Consider a quick heat to the food item and nicely place it (with sauce or accompaniments). Then give it to your neighbour, friends, family or consider giving it to someone who has not enough food to go by for the day.
  • Conduct a potluck soon
    Conducting a potluck can help your fridge stay away from spoilt/quality-reduced foods. Consider a gathering for anything at all, or MAKE ONE OUT. It could be for your family (paternal or maternal), charity organizations, churches or temples – Everyone welcomes good, fresh food.

As you get along conducting more and more buffet sessions, you’ll learn that doing this often can actually make you save up more and get together more often. Make sure you serve different crowds and not commercialize it – This is all about the joy of Home Cooking.

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