Hi Home Cooks!
I have been asked by a group of friends to prepare food for a surprise party next weekend for 25 people. The catch is that the guest of honor is my sister and house mate. If geography helps set the menu, the party takes place in Florida so we don't have crazy cold weather to consider.
Here are the parameters that are FREAKING me out:
1. I can not really cook all the dishes in my own kitchen (she would notice) so I will cook at the host's home in an unfamiliar kitchen. I can do prep and storage at his home in the days before the event so dishes that improve with a day or two head start are ideal.
2. The party is a few days before Christmas so the crowd will be expecting upscale seasonal food. The guests are not impossible foodies but definitely will smell panic if I can't do this with a good deal of style. I am thinking simple, hearty, classics.
3. I have to leave the party site at LEAST an hour before the "surprise" to go home, act natural and dress for the FAKE plan I have with the birthday girl before ZERO hour. I have to deliver her back to the party or she will definitely know something is up. The host can bartend but does not cook...
I need help with the logistics of a buffet-style dinner party that has to be tasty and hot without the cook on site during that last crucial hour of power. I'd also like to be AT the party and not feel like the wanna-be-caterer-Cinderella-sister melting down in some guy's kitchen.
My game plan so far is a buffet of ambient temp antipasti like toasts with bruschetta and caponata, shrimp cocktail on ice and an imported cheese/ cured meat platter for guests to nibble during that hour of cocktails while we bring over the birthday girl. THEN I can roll out a lasagne, a sliced pork tenderloin and/or a beef tenderloin and a turkey breast to set up and carve buffet style once I am back on the scene. Roasted meats seemed "holiday" to me and could be timed to serve after I get back. A good side dish veggie idea would be helpful.
I thought to do a big buffet that sort of grows as the night progresses.
Anyone got some insight for me - besides "ARE YOU NUTS?!"
Thanks for your thoughts (and prayers)!