In planning menus for a buffet meal, the first rule is to have plenty of what you offer, but there is no necessity for serving many different items. A baked glazed ham has come to be associated with this type of meal and for a number of reasons. Glazed and decorated, it makes an attractive center for the other dishes. It can be either hot or cold, and when well carved it makes many servings. Most important of all, practically everybody likes ham. If the group is large, you may like to offer a roast turkey also; or a boiled tongue with a piquant sauce is a good choice. Other good accompaniments are a pot of baked beans or a large dish of scalloped oysters. Hot dishes that are practical for service are casseroles of creamed or scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, or noodles. There should be a large bowl of tossed green salad with hot rolls or French bread. Some of the bread may be garlic flavored, but not all, as there are those who have a prejudice against this seasoning. There may be dishes of tart jelly or cranberry sauce, pickles and other relishes, if you like. A hot green vegetable may be offered but it is not necessary.
For a small or medium-sized group, other types of meat may be chosen instead of those mentioned above. Suggestions will be found in the accompanying menus. If you have developed some sort of a special meal that features a fine curry or a smorgasbord, or perhaps a regional menu, you need not hesitate to serve it more than once to the same group of guests. It will probably be a long time between your invitations.
Desserts should be chosen in reference to easy service. When there are men present, an apple, mince or pumpkin pie will always be received with acclaim. The nesselrode or chiffon fillings are also popular. Individual tarts, by the way, while they take longer to prepare than do pies, are easier to serve. Very good tarts may, of course, be purchased ready-made. Among other types of desserts are wine jelly, lemon cream or Bavarian cream, which can easily be made in the modern kitchen. At the height of their season, nothing will be more enjoyed nor look more attractive than a large glass bowl filled with strawberries accompanied by cream.
For a “ladies’ lunch,” a small buffet with lighter foods may be offered. If you have a chafing dish, you may choose a creamed meat or fish accompanied by potato chips and a salad and hot rolls. For warm weather, you may select a meat, fish or fruit salad accompanied by cream cheese and dainty sandwiches. For dessert, a fruit compote topped with orange, lemon or pineapple ice (unless, of course, fruit has been used in a salad) is suggested. If your guests are fond of sweets, you may offer angel food with a butterscotch or chocolate sauce.
Suggestions for preparation and service of pre-meal drinks will be found with “Cocktail Parties” and “Stag Parties.” White wine should be chilled and red wine should be served at room temperature. The wine glasses may be filled and passed to the guests or bottles and glasses may be arranged on the bar. Red wine with ham or beef, and white wine with veal, lamb, chicken, turkey or fish, or both types of wine may be offered. Accompaniments for before-dinner drinks should be simple. See “Cocktail Parties.”
The Sunday Brunch, often served buffet style, calls for a breakfast type menu. A variety of fruits may be offered with a pitcher of orange or tomato juice and prepared grapefruit, melon, peaches or berries, according to the season. Sausage, bacon or grilled ham will probably be chosen as a main dish. This may be supplemented by a chafing dish of kidney stew or creamy chicken hash. Scrambled eggs are always popular but are practical only if there is help in the kitchen.
Hot muffins, cornbread, or biscuits, soft rolls and perhaps sweet rolls or a coffee cake are good accompaniments. The electric toaster may be on a side table, with guests allowed to make their own hot toast and spread it with butter then and there. Dishes of marmalade and jam may be placed either on the toast table or on the buffet.
As a pre-brunch introduction, sherry is usually preferred to cocktails. Ingredients for other short or long drinks should be at hand, so that guests may do their own mixing, either before brunch or afterwards by those who linger on for cards or conversation.