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Question about tuna and heavy hors d'oeuvres

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
A few weeks ago, I e-mailed with a question about carving stations, and some one gave me what I thought was a WONDERFUL suggestion: sear tuna and carve it cold. That being said, here's my new question: given that the tuna would be served at a "heavy-hors-doeuvres-in-lieu-of-dinner" function for 150 people (many older), do you think that the "tuna-out-of-a-can" types would balk at fresh tuna prepared the way it's supposed to be prepared (i.e., rare and pink in the center)? Any one have a no-fail recipe for seared tuna? Am I better off with a poached salmon (obviously, can't be carved)?

Any other ideas for hearty stationery hors d'oeuvres that will make people forget about dinner (we're a Kosher caterer, so no pork, shellfish or dairy (this will be a meat meal))? I thought I'd do Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs and Polynesian Chicken Drumsticks with Pineapple in chafing dishes; an Asian Tapas station; a Mashed Potato Martini Bar (not my kind of thing, but lots of people seem to be into this these days); and a "salad bar" where a staffer stands behind a table loaded with bowls of salad stuff (greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, beets, beans, craisins, nuts, croutons, etc.) and makes salads to order (kinda like an omelette station, but with salad instead of eggs, if that makes any sense). Other thoughts???? I'd love a good vegetarian option that I can put side-by-side with the meatballs and drumsticks in a chafing dish, but I HATE mushy vegetables, and am not sure what kind of party-worthy dish would stand up to constant low heat.

Any and all advice is much appreciated -- I LOVE THIS BOARD!!!!

Dawn
post #2 of 16

Some more ideas

I'm a big fan of your poached salmon idea with an arresting display of thinly sliced cucumbers decorated with overlap to resemble scales. Then either carve from daikon seaweed vertical shapes or sea creature cut outs for garnishes. Daikon also lends itself to color changes with vegetable dye or food colorings.

Also the sauce you serve, typically horseradish sour cream or mayo, also dill onion, mayo/sour cream sauce but you want to add a signature spicy remoulade and watch the crowd go wild!!!

Regarding other veggie options, mediterranean influences are wonderful with grilled eggplant with a side of harissa (your audience will be amazed), dolma, a fab hummus platter served in a boule surrounded by tri-color pepper triangles and garnish the bottom of the boule with color coordinated gerbers. Smashing!!!
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La torche de l’amour est allumee dans la cuisine.
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post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
What great ideas,Saffron ! Did you see the poached salmon in the April issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine? Don't know how it tastes, but it looked absolutely GORGEOUS, with thin strips of cucumber (cut vertically) wrapped around it like a bow on a present. I have to say, though, your suggestion to create cucumber scales is even more intriguing to me, as are the daikon sea animal cut-outs.

How do you make the pepper triangles? I would imagine that you cut the pepper into quarters and then make triangles out of the quarters -- does this waste a lot of the pepper (they are so expensive, I like to use all that I can of them!). How large do you make the triangles?

Also, at the risk of sounding ignorant, what are gerbers?

Thanks again for your help!

Dawn
post #4 of 16
Action salad stations are a hit with the healthy crowd.
Just did a function outdoors for a fitness group. Did an
asian chicken salad and a Thai beef salad tossed to order.
Really colorful, really light, and really beautiful.
post #5 of 16
Sarada-
When you cook the salmon there are a few tricks that can help you out

Put a roll of crumpled aluminum foil in the fish's cavity to give it some support when you take it out of the pan.

You can give the salmon a gentle curve by tying a piece of butchers twine through the gills and at the tail.

After cooking the tail and head are easily broken off and no amount of repairs will make it look good.

If you don't have the equipment to do a full immersion poach you can "braise" the fish in the oven. Put the fish, the aromatics, about half an inch or so of liquid in a roasting pan, and cover it with foil. Cook it to temp in a med oven.

The cucumbers need to sliced thin and start layering them from the tail for a natural look. I've gotten the best result from "english seedless cucumbers (no wax)". It is important they're seedless or the slices will fall apart. You can also get a nice effect if you put some grooves on the cucumber before slicing. Typically I got 1 salmon per cucumber. Extra points if you coat the salmon in aspic. (Also important, don't forget to skin the salmon before cucumbering)

Wakame or other seaweeds make an awesome base for the salmon. When plating the salmon it has to look good from both sides because more often then not, you'll have to rotate the platter so people can get at the other side.

Allow at least 45 minutes to decorate your first salmon.
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Tin Cook:

I SOOOOOO appreciate this advice, and am printing out your reply for my file. Sarada's "signature" salmon dish is a mascarpone-spinach stuffed fillet with a panko crust (we usually serve it preceded by a Romaine-strawberry-Brie salad with a balsamic-poppy vinaigrette, and pair it with an haricot vert-wild mushroom saute and oven-roasted parsnips with fresh herb butter) -- I've never worked with a whole fish before, so your tips are most helpful (sounds like you're a seasoned salmon poacher! :)). Any particularly good poaching mixtures you can recommend (I'm thinking garlic, splash of white wine, fennel, carrots, onion????)?

In your opinion, how many whole salmon (and how big each) should we get for a 125-person affair, given that there will be passed hors d'ouevres and other stationery options (including Polynesian chicken drumsticks with pineapple, Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs, an Asian Tapas station, a Tuscan Table, an "action" salad bar and a Mashed Potato Martini Bar?)?

THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR HELP!!!!!

Dawn
post #7 of 16
how long is the food served? Who's your crowd? What does your contract say.....ie do you have enough food so that you won't run out of anything or do you state how many oz/piece pp your selling?

If I wanna control an expensive dish I have staff cut and serve it.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Shroomgirl:

We will definitely have some one serving the salmon -- almost all "buffet" events I cater are MANNED buffets for just that reason (that, and the fact that buffets look like you-know-what after the guests start converging on them -- I like to make sure that everything stays LOOKING as great as it tastes.

The buffet will run for approximately 1 hour, after which we will serve a plated dessert (lemon mousse in chocolate cups with mixed berries and white and dark chocolate curls).

I have never written (or even seen!) a contract that specifies exactly how much food is going to be served -- we just tell our clients what the menu is, and they assume that there will be enough food for every one We are very generous -- I NEVER want Sarada to develop a reputation as being "stingy, " so we always account for extra food when we give our proposal. I'm thinking, though, that at a large hor d'oeuvre buffet with lots of different options, does it matter if certain dishes run out -- or do the guests just figure that the dish that ran out must have been particularly good, and that they lost out by not getting to it fast enough?

We've been in business for a little under the year, and are still learning as we go -- and pricing and quantity is still my nemesis.

Dawn
post #9 of 16
SARADA,

I figure about 2 - 2.5oz As Purchased salmon per person depending on what else is on the menu and on the clients. We used to use atlantic salmon in the 8-10lb range, but you are realy only limited by the size of your equipment. We used these big "army" roasting pans to cook 2 salmon (a little snug) each in. These pans are very expensive though (>$300) so don't rush out to get buy one just for this.

If you are using hotel pans you will need at least a full 600 pan to due a deep poach, you can also use a full 200 for braising. If you are going the deep poach method invest in some cheese cloth, so you can hammock the salmon in and out. With hotel pans you will also need to buy smaller fish.

One of the big factors I have found with serving these salmon, is that they start to look bad after being 1/2 picked over (we served ours as self serve, and the tongs really tore up the fish). This is another reason buy smaller fish, so you can keepem fresh looking. I think a 4-6lb salmon is good size to go with (especially if its part of seafood/rawbar). This also depends on the serving area. If the table is huge, that little fish is going to look lost.

Without knowing about your clients, 3ea 4-6lb salmon should be enough with some comfort room. There are many factors involved that only you can assess.

Aromatics, you've got a good mix there. Its really a matter of personal taste. I like water, white wine, white wine vinegar, mirepoix(celery, onion, parsnip/carrot, fennel greens/bulb if you like), bay leaf (fresh is better), peppercorn, pickle spice, dill, lemons. (put your spices in a sachet to keep things neat). The list goes on depending on theme and clients. (If your clients like old bay seasoning, throw a little cardoman in the mix). When you're looking this stuff up the french guys call it court boullion.

As far a technique goes, IIRC this book had a pretty good step by step illustrated method.

Another note on equipment, if you don't have access to a sharp deli slicer, you'll need a madoline or v-slicer. If you are going to glaze the salmon with aspic, you'll need a cooling rack. If you've got a fish spatula for serving, bring that too, cause tongs tear the fish up.

Man this was a job ago, and I've got salmon on my mind!

I do like your signature salmon dish, I think I'll run it past the gf.

As for contracts, these are you first and last defense. You can add a clause that adds a per capita price if extra clients show up. You should also have a clause that provides for a minimum guest count (i.e. you book a party with a 100 min, only 50 show, but you bill for 100). Contracts that spec how many pieces or oz are especially good at events that you have little control over. In general, running out of food is a very bad thing. You probally know most of this though. Shroomgirl is a good person to talk catering contracts with.

Another tool that is very usefull is the end of event "survey." Its a one page thing you give to the host (before requesting final payment) to evaulate the service, food, etc. In addition to giving you valuable feedback, its an additional cya if they try to dispute the bill.

Always, always get a 50% deposit. (You know this I'm sure, but its so important I'm having it put on my tombstone) You also might want to get the ability to process credit cards.

Hope I didn't put you to sleep. Good luck with your event.
post #10 of 16
1 hour, 150 guests, stations......
Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs and Polynesian Chicken Drumsticks with Pineapple in chafing dishes;
an Asian Tapas station;
a Mashed Potato Martini Bar
"salad bar" where a staffer stands behind a table loaded with bowls of salad stuff (greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, beets, beans, craisins, nuts, croutons, etc.) and makes salads to order
Served Cold Salmon
Tuscan table

Kosher. So no dairy at this meal? Mashed are made with ? Cold Salmon served with a non-dairy sauce? Or do you have both meat and dairy and just let people choose which they'll have? And dessert is dairy or parve?
Just curious, I worked for orthodox Jews for several years, most parties were either/or not both.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Tin Cook:

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! This is EXTREMELY helpful to me. My one fear now is that the event is on a Sunday evening, and being a Kosher caterer, we are unable to cook on Shabbos (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) -- do you think the fish would be okay if we made it on Friday during the day? I can't STAND reheated fish, but figure that since we're serving the salmon cold, it should do fine in the fridge for two days, but since I have never poached a whole fish before, I don't know this FOR SURE.

We have a clause in our contracts that specifies a final head count must be given two weeks before the event, after which time the head count can go up, but not down. And I DID learn the hard way about the importance of a deposit -- I'm glad to hear you say 50%, because that's what we ask for, and I was concerned that it might be on the high side.

Out of curiousity, do you have a standard contract that you would be willing to share with me? I am a "recovering attorney," and my husband (Sarada's business manager par excelence) is a working attorney, but neither of us had ever worked on a catering contract before I opened up my business, and there's been a lot of "learning on the job." In fact, if you pm me, I'll trade you the Sarada Signature Salmon recipe for a sample contract -- your gf will be putty in your hands after you make it for her, I promise! :)

Thanks again, friend!

Best,

Dawn
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Shroomgirl:

Alas, Sarada's level of Kashrut (which is stratospheric -- much higher than my own personal standard) does not allow us to serve meat and dairy at the same meal and allow the guests to choose one or the other. In fact, I do not know of ANY "real" Kosher caterer who would serve meat and dairy together on the same menu (since this would give the "appearance of impropriety," and would doubtlessly lead to people eating both together -- the "sin" of which would then rest on our shoulders as caterers, and, more importantly, on the shoulders of our supervising rabbi. Talk about BAD KARMA!!!!! :):):)).

This event will be a MEAT meal.

While I admit to a weakness for traditonal butter-and-cream laden mashers, you can make wonderful pareve mashed potatoes using soy milk and margarine, or with non-dairy sour cream or with extra-virgin olive oil. You can also make "skinny mashed potatoes" for those watching their weight by boiling the potatoes in chicken broth of pareve chicken broth and then mashing the potatoes with some or all of the cooking liquid.

For this event, I'm actually thinking of making three different kinds of mashed potatoes -- one with wasabi (soy milk and margarine), one with shitake mushrooms (margarine and extra-virgin olive oil) and one mixed with mashed parsnips and turnips (non-dairy sour cream), and serving thinly-sliced deep-fried Idaho potato sprinkled with sesame seeds, deep-fried sweet potato ribbons and deep fried julienned ginger as accompaniments. Or maybe I'll just do one "regular" mashed potato dish (with non-dairy sour cream and margarine) and put the sauteed wild mushrooms out for an optional topping, too. The possibilities are as limitless as one's imagination!

For the salmon, I'm thinking of a sauce with mayonaise and dill, and another more "piquante" salsa-type sauce (per Saffron's suggestion). Eggs are considered pareve, not dairy, so mayo is fine to serve at a meat meal.

The dessert (another Sarada signature dish) can be made either pareve or dairy -- in this case, I will be making it pareve. Pretty much any dessert made with heavy cream can be made substituting Rich Whip (available at Kosher supermarkets) for the cream -- I am a "food snob" and a purist, and I have to say, I really enjoy Rich Whip desserts (one of the highest compliments you can pay me is to say that you had no idea the dessert was pareve -- and I get this compliment regularly!!!!)

My "mission" as a caterer (besides becoming filthy rich off my cooking -- yeah, RIGHT! :) ) is to show people that Kosher food can be not only as good, but BETTER than non-Kosher -- and take great pride in the fact that we have so many clients who don't keep Kosher (and who aren't even Jewish!). In fact, our very first event was a dessert buffet for an EASTER PARTY!

Feel free to ask me about Kashrut any time!

Best,

Dawn
post #13 of 16
That's the way to go......

My mashed potato bar is more about the toppings than the tatos....fresh rich mashed (butter/1/2 and 1/2) scooped by staff into the glass then the toppings....are self serve, bacon, cheese, scallions, mushrooms (many times morel duxelle), tomatoes, sour cream, sometimes a brasied meat....lamb or beef.....it's pretty substantial.

I taught private cooking classes for a couple of orthodox jews, one catered events at her synagog and had very limited ethnic food experience, the other was a weekly student who was getting a CSA bag of organic produce from a local farm and wanted me to teach him how to cook.....it was a blast.....3-4 years weekly going in and rifting. He had a gorgeous kitchen with 3 sets of pots and pans, etc.....we many cooked parve or dairy....meat was fairly seldom, though salmon was a regular, and he always wanted it overcooked bleck.....

At that time I was mainly personal cheffing and just getting into learning the rules that work for catering. I have 50% non-refundable deposit books your date (until I recieve your deposit you are not on the books) balance for a wedding is due now 1 week prior to the event.....any last minute charges are billed but I've pretty much covered what I want by the week before.
Keeping a cash flow is important and I don't wanna go hunting for money....not fun and it just takes too much time.

I don't accept credit cards....thought about it for years and if I got into corporate lunches I would but for socials/benefits checks work well......
a few customers have asked but none have walked away because of it.

I've got to hit the road to see my eldest cherub 2.5 hours away......
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #14 of 16

Sarada:

I'll offer a contract for the Stuffed Salmon with marscapone spinach. My contract like shroomgirl's is 50% non-refundable deposit which is required to secure the date with 25% due 30 days prior to event and final payment due 2 weeks prior to event. Any additions to guest count, staff hours or ala carte services due at the end of the event.

I recently added Paypal to my contracts to allow people to pay with a secure method. In the contract it adds that 3.25% is added to the balance for the convenience of using credit card. On the invoice it reads no refunds or cancellations for services provided.

Many more iron-clad details in contract, inclusive of client's responsibility for guests, alcohol, rentals.... We are in an age where we are caterers/paralegals, chefs/paralegals, owners/paralegals. I spent many hours reading many contracts and including experiences that were necessary to fully disclose to the customer.

email me at spectacularlife@snet.net if you would like to exchange info. Always happy to assist my colleagues.
La torche de l’amour est allumee dans la cuisine.
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La torche de l’amour est allumee dans la cuisine.
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post #15 of 16
dishwashers, pr guys, marketing guys, bookkeeper, schlepper, printer, menu designer, contract writer, shopper, ummmmmm I know there's gotta be more.....oh yeah cook/chef. :)
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 
You're on, Saffron! Will e-mail you with the recipe.
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