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ELLEN'S KITCHEN

Festive Family Brunch for 100

In 2007, I helped Geri plan a festive brunch menu for 100 people. This meal, suitable for an holiday brunch, family gathering, baptismal or first communion party, was such a success that she wrote a long "how-to" guide with her thanks. Here, for your use, are her plans, recipes and suggestions. She made intelligent use of deli and other purchased items, but had a nice variety of freshly prepared recipes as well. I have put her quotes in colors.

Geri writes: "First the good news -- two people with only fair-to-middling cooking skills, and with only a smallish home kitchen can prepare a dazzling brunch/luncheon for 100 people.

Storage and reheating are another matter.
We required the loan of a neighbor's fridge and freezer as things were prepared ahead of time and accumulated.
And we re-heated on site in a commercial kitchen, where they had cafeteria sized ovens, so we could re-heat 8 steamer pans at a time.
If all this were being done at home, you might need to commandeer the kitchens of your two nearest neighbors for the morning of the party.
Ellen's note: An alternative would be to use crockpots and electric roasters, provided you have adequate wiring.

We used mostly 1/2 steamer pans, but most of the recipes were adapted from 13X9 pans, so liquid amounts, reheating times, had to be adjusted.

Ellen's note: A HALF STEAMER PAN is half size, 4 inches deep and holds 7 quarts (28 cups) capacity. For comparison, a typical 9x13 pan holds 2 1/2 to 3 quarts; an 18 quart electric roaster holds two "half steamer pans" or 4 to 5 9x13 pans worth of volume.

Geri continues: Everyone will tell you that you need to "balance" your menu, but the most important balancing may turn out to be between things that are served hot and served cold; things from scratch and things purchased ready made; or things that require last minute prep and things that are good to go. The foods that really went over big were the ones with very inexpensive ingredients, so the whole things could have been done WAAAAAY less expensively.

If we hadn't had so many family members to placate, it could also have been planned a lot more simply, with simpler menu. A couple of hints, do NOOOOOOOOT let people who don't know what they are talking about hover around and cast doubts on the amounts you are preparing and buying. We ended up with drastic amounts of extra food because certain family members (who shall remain nameless,) offered little advice beyond raised eyebrows and quizzical comments -- "that's all you're serving? "I wonder what will people who DON'T like carbohydrates will eat," "I don't think anyone will eat THAT dish..."

Have excess of non-perishable things, like disposable aluminum pans, (it is much cheaper to buy an enormous pack of them at Costco or GFS than buy in two-packs at the grocery store,), table settings, pop, champagne, etc., on hand.

Ellen's note: If you check ahead, you can buy liquor and non-perishables from places that allow you to return unopened, unused items. You can save time by calling ahead to check this out at place of purchase first.

And this was a big surprise -- if you scout around, you can often buy fabric tablecloths, even for banquet sized tables, and good plates for way less than rental and even a bit less than good quality paper. One of the reasons the party looked so dazzling (and we're told it did...) was the gorgeous blue damask tablecloths we bought on clearance at a big national chain linens store for less than $5 apiece (had to go to more than one outlet, but it's a big chain) and the glass buffet plates from IKEA (50 cents each.) If people are expecting paper and you can afford to use non-disposables, it's a lovely upgrade.

Ellen's note: Carefully selected sheets are another table-dressing option.

MENU PLANNING ..

This is the planned menu, and the actual amount consumed by 78 people, ranging in age for 2 to 82, including a dozen athletic teenagers and young 20-somethings, who ate like locusts. We had a number of pans of various food left over which went into various people's freezers, were made up in to "doggie bags," etc.

Ellen's note: Geri's quantities would be fine for 100 normal eaters.

Appetizers - (served for about 1 1/4 hours)
Meatballs (140 count)
B-B-Q sausage slices (3 pounds)(Geri notes she would increase to 6 pounds- Little smokies or cocktail sausages are another option)
Spirals (slices of lavash, wraps, whatever you call them, purchased from Costco) (60 pieces)
Mini-quiche lorraine (60 pieces)
Sausage balls (75) (Bisquick recipe, made at home)(could have used 150)
Mini muffins (3 dozen)
Fruit tray (small, the type the deli says is for 10-12 people)
Veggie tray (same, less than 4 pounds total)
Cheese cube tray (3 pounds total)
Deviled egg spread (1 gallon) w/ crackers (3 pounds)
Spinach dip (1 gallon) w/ party pumpernickel (2-3 pounds)
(There were also chips, pretzels, nuts, etc. around, virtually untouched)

Main table and entrees
Green beans almondine (1 3/4 # 10 cans, approximately 1 1/2 gallons)
Cold pea salad (4 pounds frozen peas)
Cream cheese date-pecan strata (tripled a 9x13 recipe, baked and served in 2 half-steamer pan- could have used more) Recipe follows!
Chicken tetrazini (3/4 of a half steamer pan) Recipe follows!
Impossible breakfast pie (spinach/cheddar) (a half-steamer pan) Recipe follows!
Impossible breakfast pie (sausage/cheddar) (a half-steamer pan) Recipe follows!
Hash brown Potato casserole (2 half-steamer pans full) Recipe follows!
Platter of various smoked, pepper, honey roasted, etc. turkey (this was virtually untouched)
Rolls and butter (also virtually untouched)

Ellen's note: If this had been a coffee cake or sweet rolls, more might have been eaten.

Beverages
Orange Juice (6 1/2 gallons)
Champagne (1 case, served mostly as mimosas in pitchers to adults, since we had two cases, we could have "pushed" it more)
One 2 liter bottle of each - cola, diet cola, sprite, ginger-ale
1 gallon iced tea (sweet tea)
Coffee (maybe 50 cups?)(1 pound)
Decaf coffee (maybe 15 cups)
(1/2 & 1/2, sugar, 3 varieties artificial sweeteners, shakers of cocoa and cinnamon, and a bottle of Italian flavoring syrup, can't recall the flavor)
Hot Tea (a dozen cups, tops, many varieties offered, English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Amaretto, plain old Lipton's)
Milk (1 1/2 qts)

Geri's Note -- this was winter, indoors, but it was Florida, and quite warm (though air-conditioned,) which I suppose affects the beverage consumption. In snow country, more hot coffee would have been served, we might have gone with hot cider as the main beverage (with rum? just a thought)

Dessert
Purchased sheet cakes (less than 1/2 sheet was actually eaten, but they were GREAT cakes, Costco, and we enjoyed them for the next week)
Also, cookies, brownie bites, etc. virtually untouched

This menu may seem redundant, with a lot of sausage, too many nuts, a lot of eggy-cheesy stuff, but the things offered for variety (veggies, fruit, lean meat,) were little used.

The items people would have eaten more of, or asked for the recipes for the most (although literally every recipe was requested by at least two people,) were the cream cheese and date strata, the B-B-Q sausage (embarrassingly easy,) and the sausage balls.

GERI'S RECIPES

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Stevie O'Mahoney's Amazing Maple-Date Strata with Streusel Topping

(MUST start the day before)
Ellen's notes: This makes ONE 9x13 pan. Make four (4) times the recipe as part of this brunch for 100, and cook it in 2 or three half steamer pans, or one electric roaster. IF THIS IS YOUR ONLY ENTREE FOR 100 PEOPLE, YOU NEED TEN (10) TIMES THIS RECIPE!!!
Also, it is essential that the bread cubes are covered with the egg mixture and completely soaked in it: weight it down overnight if necessary

15 slices (1 pound) firm quality white bread, cubed, crusts removed. A nice potato bread works well.
8 ounces cream cheese
NOTE: USE Full Fat cream cheese if freezing.
1 cup chopped dates*
1/2 cup chopped pecans
8 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup Half & Half
1/3 cup maple syrup
Large dash of cinnamon

For Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup flour

Geri's Directions

Place 2/3 of the bread cubes in a greased 13 X 9 pan, or for a a double recipe use a half steamer pan.
With two spoons, put small dabs of cream cheese over entire surface.
Sprinkle with dates and pecans.
Mix beaten eggs, milk, Half-and-Half, syrup and cinnamon. Pour over bread in pan. Top with remaining bread cubes. (Depending on size of pan, you may need to press it all down lightly at this point to make certain all the bread will be moistened. In a big pan, we even had to "weight" it a little with a second pan over the top.)
Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Remove from refrigerator, let sit 30 minutes.
Bake covered at 350 for 30 minutes (9x13) or 40-45 minutes (steamer pans).
Cut topping ingredients together.
Uncover pan, sprinkle with streusel and bake 30 minutes more, until center is set (you may need to lower temperature and bake a little longer to ensure this without burning edges.)
Can be frozen or refrigerated at this point and reheated, covered. Leftovers also warm up well in microwave.

Ellen's notes: the temperature in the center of the dish after baking or reheating should be 180 degrees.
*Chopping your own dates is much tastier than the little pre-chopped date pellets sold in the store.

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Chicken (or turkey, buy whatever's most cost-effective) Tetrazini

(13 X 9 pan, serves 12) For this brunch, make two (2) times the recipe

2 tablespoons dried minced onion
Ellen's note: you can use 1/2 cup diced fresh onion, sauteed with the mushrooms
2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 quart chicken broth (I use the water I've cooked the chicken in)
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup cream sherry
1 pound spaghetti, cooked and drained
2 to 3 pounds (4 to 6 cups) cooked chicken breast, diced
2 cups (1/2 pound) grated cheddar
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Geri's Directions

Rehydrate minced onion by pouring boiling water over it. After a few minutes,drain well.
Saute mushrooms in butter, gradually stir in flour to make a roux. Add onions, seasoning.
Gradually stir in liquids and cook stirring until thickened.
In greased pan, layer 1/2 spaghetti, all the chicken, 1/2 the sauce and half the cheese; then the remaining spaghetti and sauce (NOT cheese).
Cover and bake at 350 for 25 minutes (9x13 pan) or 35-40 minutes (steamer pan).
Uncover, top with remaining cheese and almonds, bake for 10 to 20 minutes more, until brown and bubbly.
(Can be frozen or refrigerated at this point and be reheated, covered.)
..

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Impossibly Rich Sausage, Sausage and Broccoli OR Spinach Breakfast Pie

This is MUCH heartier, denser, and more rich and filling than most quiches, you may want to use less meat, or all whole milk instead of Half and Half.

Geri made two recipes, one sausage and broccoli pie and one spinach pie, commenting that each recipe makes a half-steamer pan, serves 24 ("or 16 of my family...")

2 pounds browned and WELL drained, bulk sausage and 2 pounds frozen broccoli cuts, barely cooked and drained
OR
3 pounds browned (and WELL drained,) bulk sausage
OR
3 pounds frozen spinach, thawed and drained

AND

3 tablespoons dried minced onion, rehydrated
4 cups shredded cheddar
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups Half and Half
7 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups Bisquick-type baking mix
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 and 2/3 cup sour cream
(ADD 1/2 teaspoon salt if there is no sausage in the recipe)

Geri's Directions:

Blend sausage and/or vegetables and onion and spread in a lightly greased pan.
Sprinkle cheese over top.
Beat eggs lightly (I used a whisk,) then add liquids, seasonings and Bisquick till blended. Stir in sour cream.
Pour over pan.
Cover, bake 30 minutes at 350, uncover, bake 15 to 30 minutes more until browned and knife inserted in center comes out clean.

After baking, can be frozen or refrigerated and reheated, individual servings microwave pretty well.

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Hash Brown Casserole "Cheesy Potato Casserole"

The great thing about this dish is that you can modify it endlessly. Different cheese combinations with varying types of meats and vegetables create a customized dish for you and your family.

Ellen's notes: This is a frequently requested recipe. Make 5 times this recipe, using 10 pounds of hash browns, for this brunch- that will fill 5-6 9x13 pans, 2 half steamer pans, or 1 electric roaster. AS A SIDE DISH FOR DINNER FOR 100, you need to start with about 20 pounds of hash browns- 8 to 10 times this recipe- and cook in 2 electric roasters. See roaster directions at the end of the recipe.

2 pound bag shredded frozen Hash Browns, thawed in the refrigerator and drained
8 ounces Sour Cream
10.5 oz can of cream of chicken soup
10.5 oz can of cream of mushroom soup
8 ounce (2 cups) shredded cheese (your choice of flavors)
1/2 cup diced green onions
1 pound bacon, cooked, drained (ends and pieces) OR cubed ham, OR cooked, crumbled sausage
1/2 cup chopped Portobello Mushrooms
Salt and Pepper to taste

Geri's Directions:
Use whatever type of hash browns you want, I have found that the shredded work best. Cook your bacon, placing the renderings (grease) aside as you cook allowing the bacon to cook and drain at the same time. When completed use a little of the renderings to sauté your mushrooms and green onion for approximately two minutes on a medium heat, until wilted.

While those are cooking, place your sour cream, soups, and 3/4 of your cheese together and mix in a large bowl. When the bacon has cooled, dice into pieces. Mix in your cooled mushrooms and onion mixture.

Stir in the hash browns last. If your hash browns are frozen, you must allow them to defrost and drain well before mixing them together with everything else.

If desired, add a portion of the bacon grease to the mixture. While I know this isn't health conscious, it adds a great bacon flavor throughout the dish.

This amount will totally fill a 9 X 13 pan. Put your mixture into a greased pan and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the top has browned. When cooked, take out of oven and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
To speed up the process use a microwave/oven safe dish to microwave the mixture on high for 10-15 minute, then place in the oven until the top is brown, same delicious results.

If using a roaster, be sure to preheat the roaster for 20 minutes before starting the potatoes. Since the potato layer is about twice as deep as a 9x13 pan, use 350 degrees and allow 70-90 minutes baking time (takes longer if it has been refrigerated). It will not brown like the oven does.

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