Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DIY-Catering, Insanity, Loooong Read...

Now that all the craftiness and decorations are sort of under control, or at least started, I can move on to the minor detail of catering for my own wedding. A lot of people tried to discourage me from doing this, and that’s fine-they can be negative I’ll be over here staying positive. Let me say for the record that I have NO IDEA WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT here, all I know is what is working for me. Hopefully my way produces good results, if they don’t I’ll be the first to tell you to hire a damn caterer.

First step for this process is lists, lots of lists. I’ve got myself a food list for each dish, plus a supplies list. There is also a list for drinks and drink supplies. Out of financial necessity we have scrapped the idea of using all disposable dinnerware, and will instead use the nice white dishes the B&B supplies.

The Classic-ware I was planning to buy is pretty damn expensive for something you throw out. $80 for 125 dinner plates. That is no joke in the budget, and cutting out the super high quality stuff has given us over $150 back to spend on more important things like booze.

The menu reads thusly:
Fruit & Cheese trays
Cracker and spread trays
Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce
Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
Stuffed Shells in Marinara Sauce
Tossed Salad with various dressings
Local bread/rolls

My maid of honor suggested that we make the appetizer trays ourselves because they really mark that crap up at the store. I was convinced this would be too much day-before work until my successful recipe test last weekend.

I tested my rib recipe for the second time last weekend with a MUCH better wine. The first trial tasted like good beef in crap sauce, the cheap burgundy wine was overpowering and just plain bad. That wine had a date with the drain later that evening. This time I tried a nice Argentinean malbec, changed the ratio to more stock and less wine, and was very pleased. This was just delicious, rich and beefy sauce with a subtle wine taste. Awesome.

Great, but do I want to slow cook 50 lbs of ribs the day before the wedding? Even with 10 helpers and 2 kitchens the answer is ‘hell no.’ Enter: the freezer. After this most successful batch, I pulled 2 ribs aside, put them in a tall, narrow container, covered with the braising liquid, and froze for 1 week. The following Sunday we defrosted and heated the ribs in a pot on the stove. Reduced the sauce a bit while warming up the meat didn’t hurt things. They were delicious again. I honestly can’t tell the difference between fresh and frozen. If we had them side by side maybe I could think of something, but they were great, so the freezer wins. We will make 50 lbs of ribs with less helpers, and 1 kitchen the weekend before, and freeze. The stuffed shells are perfect out of the freezer as well, so those will be made ahead also. Potatoes are still up for discussion.

So that will free up the day before-my sister will make our wonderful tiramisu cake, and me and the maid of honor will make fruit trays. Yay!

The braised ribs are fantastic because they offer the luxury associated with beef for a chicken price. I can get those puppies fresh from a local farm for $2.60/lb. Since they are braised they hold up extraordinarily well in warming dishes, the longer they simmer the better they get.

Recipe testing is an absolute must. Make that stuff 10 times if you have to, until there are no surprises and you have exact quantities of ingredients. Also choose recipes that hold up well over time, especially if you are doing the buffet route, as I am.

Any other crazy girl out there catering her own wedding?  Did people give you the "your're crazy" look?

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