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Proper way to prep side salads

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hello all,
I am planning a fundraiser and need a little help from some of you pros out there. Plan to do 3-course meal and want to start with a nice salad plate. Plan to serve a total of 100 plates (50 couples) and am wondering if it is better to plate up each individual salad in advance (w/o dressing so as lettuce does not wilt), saran wrap, and keep in cooler until ready to serve. Or should I make the salads on the spot when guests sit down to eat. Mind you, I have no formal culinary experience, I just love to entertain and cook! I also only have a "staff" of 4 to assist with plating. I do monthly themed dinners twice a month for adults and children, but this is my first go around with actual "restaurant" style service. I plan to have my co-workers and their wives act as waitresses and serve each plate and collect as guests finish. I will be doing all the plating as I am the only one who knows about garnishing and making the plates look appealing.
Sorry so long, just wanted you all to know exactly where I am coming from. Thanks in advance for any advice or feedback.
BTW, along with salad, plan to do broiled asparagus with hollandaise and baked potato with the fixins'. Anyone have any suggestions for easy prep main course? I am thinking along the lines of beef tenderloin, but not sure.

Respectfully,
Mr. Randy Niznick
US Navy Chief Petty Officer
post #2 of 20
as a non pro i would strongly suggest you plate your salads ahead of time, 1 hour ahead is not unreasonable. in fact a lot of hotels they will do them long before that. beef tenderloin is expensive, don't know what your budget is, and you might get a whole bunch of people asking for different temps, so get an understanding ahead of time, meaning, they all go out MR-M. i'm all for a nice braised piece of meat. maybe a short rib or oso bucco? all temps are the same, super tasty, reasonably priced and the braising liquid, when reduced, makes a fine base for a sauce.
post #3 of 20
Seeing as you're the one doing all of the plating for the meal, I would say definitely plate the salad in advance, wrap and put in the cooler. My friend and I used to do fundraisning dances and we would do as much prep as we could before the event and it was the best thing we could have ever done.
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post #4 of 20
I agree with the comment about the meat... you should go for something that is served all at the same temperature/level of doneness.
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post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
oso bucco...great idea, didn't think of that...definitely gonna keep that as an option, thanks!
post #6 of 20
You only have a staff of 4??? It only takes 2. Yes make them ahead (same day).
You can buy lettuce precut or mix and cut your own.( If you buy chopped try and mix in mesclun)
Greens on plate, tomato wedge or cherry tomatoes, sliced cuke. top with shredded carrot, olive. You dont have to wrap each one if you make same day 8 to 10 salads per sheet pan, stacked in fridge. Dressing can either be on tables ahead, or before going out dress salad, or souffle cup served with salad. Tenderloin if sliced do it to order not ahead, Steam the asparagus. Potato fixins already on the tables. It would be easier for you to do an individual filet or steak, no slicing needed. Good Luck
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post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
LOL....okay CHEFED, mind you that my "staff" are my fellow Navy Seabees (construction workers), we do fundraising events to raise money for our annual Seabee Birthday Ball. They are definitely not trained sous chefs by any means! :)
Surprised you suggest steamed asparagus over broiled, why is this? I would think it'd be more difficult to keep steamed asparagus from going to soft while in the steam table then broiled asparagus keeping warm in the oven?
post #8 of 20
One trick we used to do was pre-plate the salads and keep them in the fridge (of course) we would then mix the dressing and put it in a spay bottle and spay each salad as they getting ready to serve. Of course this only works if you are using a dressing such as oil and vinegar.

If you confident cooking the tenderloin slicing it and serving shouldn't be too bad. Another option is stuffed semi boneless quails.
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Nicko 
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post #9 of 20
Speaking from the experience of doing a dinner (in my home) for about 70, I have to disagree on the salads; if you prep and plate a day ahead, you will probably have wilting and brown edges, yuck. Assuming that you will have room to spread out a bunch of plates at one time in a line:
  1. Do all the lettuce prep (cutting, washing, drying very well; even if you buy bagged cut stuff, you'll still have to wash and dry it) a day ahead and store in the largest containers you have, lined with towels and with a layer of towels between layers of lettuce.
  2. If you will have a couple of garnishes on the salads, such as cherry tomatoes and shredded carrots, prep them ahead and store each separately. Keep the garnishes to a minimum, though, no more than two.
  3. Shortly before everyone is seated, set up an assembly line with you and your four helpers:
    • one person puts lettuce on each plate,
    • another adds the garnishes,
    • the other three put the plates on trays, take them out to the tables, and put them at each place setting (in something like a relay).
  4. Do not dress the salads, but have creamers or pitchers with dressing on the tables, so that people can take as little or as much as they like (and so that the dressing won't make the salads wilt as they sit out).
  5. Or if you really want to pre-dress, put the dressing in squeeze bottles and drizzle it over the whole plate, Zorro-style, as the last step before taking the trays out. Then there's no need to have the dressing on the tables.

Whichever you do, make sure that whoever is plating (and dressing, if done) knows how to measure exactly the same amount for each plate. I had three teenagers helping me plate and serve the dinner; I'm sure Seabees can learn to eyeball the portions and keep the right placement. :D All you have to do is show them a couple of sample plates.


I'm also going to hit on the asparagus: not broiled, not steamed (you're right, can get overcooked and mushy), but roasted. You can do this ahead, too. Just clean and trim as necessary; toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper; lay out on sheet pans and stick in a hot oven (like 450 degrees) until they start to brown. Remove, let cool, cover, and store under refrigeration. You could serve them at room temp, or reheat them, again on sheet pans. If you reheat, you can always sprinkle a little grated Parmesan on top, which is a tasty touch. And please, no hollandaise. It's a b**** to make for 100 people, and dangerous to keep at the right temperature. (I don't consider the powdered mix to be hollandaise. :mad:) Besides, if you have sour cream for the potatoes, a rich sauce on the veg will be too much.

If another green veg like broccoli or green beans is in season and available at a better price, those will hold okay on the steam table. After you trim them, blanch them in salted boiling water a couple of minutes to set the color, chill in ice water, and drain. You can store them in the fridge and dunk them in boiling water just to reheat, then drain and hold them on the steam table. Put a little melted butter in the hotel pans before you add the veg and/or pour a little on each filled pan.

And I agree with having the stuff for the potatoes on the tables when the guests sit, too, either for them to pass around the table or in little ramekins at each place.

As for the meat, as the others said, if you're okay with cooking and slicing tenderloin, go for it. Remember to let it rest before you slice, or you'll lose the juices. You can even slice it early and keep it in hotel pans with a little beef broth. Just don't let it get too hot or it will overcook.Tenderloin has almost no waste, so you'll only be paying for what you serve and people can eat. And you can make a separate wine-reduction sauce (sauté onions, add wine, boil down, add unsalted beef broth, boil down again, strain, season, add chopped herbs, and serve.

Osso buco is EXPENSIVE. :eek: There goes your fund donation. :cry: Short ribs are delicious, but you'll have to buy a lot because of all the waste, and cook them a few days ahead to be able to defat the cooking juices and make them into a nice sauce.

You'll do the plating for the main course in much the same way:
  1. Lay out a set of plates
  2. Place meat, potato, veg, and garnish
  3. Put plate on tray
  4. Sauce a trayful of plates
  5. Two people take out each tray: one to carry the tray, the other to put the plates on the table.

BTW: What's for dessert? :lips:
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post #10 of 20
Suzanne thanks for mentioning the holli... we HAVE To have it at work and OMG it is a mega pain in the backside to hold. We open at 6am and have to have holli in the off chance someone orders an egg benny but that 6am batch of holli is in the waste bucket before 10am as it separates and gets way gross on holding. I didn't event think of that until I saw your post about it.

I didn't think the salads would be done the day before.. I had thought earlier in the day before the service and pre plating them a few hours before has worked for me in the past. I'd never do it a day before for the reasons you mentioned.. yuck!

Another suggestion would be beef bourgignon or stroganoff.. but please use a good cut of meat for either if you choose to serve this. I'm not sure how it measures up cost wise or what the budget is for the event but it's just a suggestion.

Let us know how the event turns out!
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post #11 of 20
Just a side-comment on the salads. You keeping saying "salad," when, it seems, you mean a tossed or green salad. Might be easier to think outside that box.

For instance, a tomato/cucumber salad, dressed with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cumin seed can be made to look classy, can be laid out long ahead of time and dressed at the last minute, and is something the guests probably haven't seen at every dinner they've attended.

Or maybe a fruited salad? Orange & red onion with some olives and appropriate dressing?

I agree about roasting the asparagus rather than steaming or broiling. For some added punch, wrap a half-slice of serrano or prosciutto around the asparagus stem, and roast until the ham crisps up.

Like everyone else, I'm reluctant to suggest an entree without knowing what sort of budget you're working on. The protein will be the most costly part of the meal, but doesn't have to break the bank. Nothing wrong with fancied up pan-fried chicken, for instance.
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post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
Okay everyone, thank you all so much for the great feedback... I am luvin' this site already! Here are a little more details:
It will be a Sweetest Day dinner for couples only (no kids)...kind of a "date night" for the parents to get away from their kids for a little while and just enjoy each others' company. I am with the US Navy stationed in Germany and a lot of the families here just miss good ole' American cuisine in a restaurant setting and/or miss their fav' meal from mom/grandmom. We do monthly themed dinners to keep morale high, and bellies full!
Budget: Would like to stay under $600 if possible....wine is cheap here (price wise...not quality wise. :) ). I was gonna have bottle of white and red on tables but that'd hurt the budget, so, I decided on just red since it pairs well with more main dishes then white (correct me if I am wrong in saying that). I am sure that changes your suggestions a bit for main course. After thinking about it, I did realize that oso bucco would be too costly (veal in Germany is expensive). Now, I am switching gears to something Italian that can be wacked in oven and served easily.
As for salad, I am up for suggestions on that as well. I even thought of just a simple caprese salad, fairly easy prep with few ingredients. However, tomato in salad and then a tomato based sauce for main entree.....would that be overkill? I will eliminate the Holli sauce for asparagus, thanks to all for letting me know it is hard to keep on stovetop, never made in large batches before.
BTW, have I mentioned, thank you, thank you, thank you for all the ideas.
Dessert: Not sure yet, but that is the easy one as it is simple to make anything look "gourmet" with just a drizzle of choco syrup or raspberry sauce or something along those lines. Or maybe grilled peaches with just a dollup of creme fraiche and little cinnamon? I don't know, any suggestions?
Respectfully,
Randy
post #13 of 20
I think you need to think carefully about what kind of salad you are going to serve. Salads are fussy in that they need to be washed, dried, cut, dressed, and plated. If I were you I would choose to make a simple romaine and herb salad so that it can be assembled all together, dressed all at once, and plated one handful at a time. If you make an assembly line like Suzanne suggested then you'll have pretty salads but no one to focus on main course. Try this salad.

Romaine chiffonade
Finely chopped scallion
Thinly sliced radish
Chopped dill
Chopped Parsley

Dressing - olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt/pepper

Day before: Wash the ingredients and dry thoroughly. Make the dressing.
Morning of: Chop the ingredients and toss them together in large buckets, mixing well.
Plating time: Dress the salad in the buckets, toss thoroughly and plate one handful per plate. No garnishes, no fuss, out the door they go.

For main course why not try seared and roasted pork tenderloins? Super easy, no temperature problems, and cooks very quickly.

What's for dessert?

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post #14 of 20
Well, six bucks a plate including wine is kind of a tight budget. But it's certainly doable, depending on actual costs. I'm assuming there's a commissary and Class VI store available to you, rather than buying on the open market?

>However, tomato in salad and then a tomato based sauce for main entree.....would that be overkill?<

Where'd that come from? I haven't seen anything in this thread that suggested you were doing a tomato sauce-based main course.

I was going to suggest pork loins, before Koukouvagia beat me to the punch. For a dinner like this I'd go with loin, rather than tenderloin, for various reasons, not the least of which is you can plate it for about a buck & a quarter per. But personally, I don't think pork loin goes with baked potatoes, and that would mean changing that side dish as well. Perhaps a sweet potato mash instead?

I agree with you about chocolate or raspberry sauce dressing up any dessert. However, you might want to consider a panna cotta. A bit more expensive, true. But it can be made ahead of time. I often serve layered panna cotta to my guests, making it in throw-away plastic wine glasses, so it doesn't even have to be unmolded. And there's no crystal to be washed afterwards. ;)
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #15 of 20
First no one holds steamed asparagus in a steam table, at least not in a quality place. In fact NO vegetables are held in a steam table in any quality banquet setting, That was 20 years ago. Hollandaise if held correctly wont break >((Never in a steamtable) It is not supposed to be held that hot. Salads made same day.

Now Italian or a strogonoff would be less expensive and easier to dish out, plus no vege would be really reguired. You could serve egg noodles with strog. or beef burgundy, polenta or pasta with italian. Caccattorre, or Chix Parmagianna etc. I think they would even like it better. Dessert Pears Belle Helene 1/2 Pear topped with chocolate sauce, ice cream, whipped cream and shaved chocolate easy or peach melba. The sky is the limit and is only governed by your budget.
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post #16 of 20
6 bucks a person is kind of tight, especially with 3 courses. how about a nice veal blankette for your main. it's tasty, easy, very classic, easy to dish up, and reasonably priced.
post #17 of 20
With $6.00 as a budget, sounds like they want champagne at a beer price. Filet, steak, cant be done as it cost net weight about $1.20 an ounce or more dep. on location and market. stick with a chicken dish and pasta of some kind. Salad alone cost about $1 - 1.20 for anything nice.plus dessert, bread/rolls coffee etc. wine???:chef:
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post #18 of 20
Just a thought - do you need to provide a vegetarian option for mains?
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post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
Okay all, let's back up a little, this is just a fundraiser, yes I am raising the bar high but it is still just a fundraiser. I plan to charge between $20-30 per couple, I figure an average meal at any standard restaurant (not gourmet, just franchise) nowadays is around $15 per plate, so times 2 that is 30 bucks. With that charge and I am able to sell 50 tickets, that is 1,000-1,500 dollars in, do you guys really think I will spend over a grand on the menu? I need to go to the commissary and price everything out I guess to ensure I can buy everything for under $600. I was just going off all my past dinners whereas the most I have spent was 260 bucks. To give you an idea, this is what I've done before:
Spaghetti dinner w/salad, garlic bread and sodas
Cajun Red Beans and rice w/ soda
Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches with fries and soda
taco bar with spanish rice, black beans , homemade salsa (hot and mild) and soda
BBQ pulled pork sandwiches w/ slaw, french fries and soda

As far as vegan option, again this is a fundraiser not a catering event so the people will know the menu, it is their choice to buy ticket or not, no vegan options available.
post #20 of 20
You started talking about sliced filet, asparagus, baked with all the trimmins, salad and dessert, wine What you posted later is a lot different Good Luck.
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