The secret to making the perfect buffet — from Honey & Co
Maybe you already know exactly how many people you’re going to have around your party table, and maybe you have enough room and enough chairs to accommodate them easily. Or you could take the more cavalier approach of invite first and think later.
Readers of our column can guess where we are on this spectrum. We’re never quite sure until the last minute, thanks to our instinctive tendency to invite whoever we meet as we approach. We never run out of chairs, but our table only seats 10 people at a time, and that’s if both extensions are deployed.
As a result, more often than not, we’ll find ourselves with a spread laid out on the kitchen counter and a stack of plates nearby. In truth, life is always better when it’s a buffet. The friends decide themselves to sit down, perch on the chairs, the stools, the sofa and, on several occasions, the stairs. We have no shame in taking out the stepladder.
So what is the secret of a good buffet? It may seem counter-intuitive, but in our experience, the key is to limit the selection. You only need three or four dishes which work very well together and can be made in abundance. Something fresh and crunchy is non-negotiable, plus a punchy dressing, sauce or chutney to tie it all together.
The turkey is the go-to this time of year, but there are a few hard truths about this bird that need to be acknowledged if you want delicious results. The first is that a whole turkey will never be cooked to perfection. The tradeoff for well-done legs is overcooked breasts, and no amount of brining or basting will change that.
For best results, pick one thing and commit. You’ll be surprised how good turkey thighs taste when slowly roasted for hours with nothing more than salt and pepper, and you’ll definitely be surprised how good a turkey breast can be. tender if not overcooked. If you go for the breast, there’s another inevitable problem – even with the best turkeys, breast meat can be bland and wooly. We counter this by pre-salting it, to allow for deep seasoning, and using a supercharged blend of chili paste and spices. And, just in case that’s not enough, we serve a zesty, flavorful quince and chilli sauce on the side.
The selection here will make a fantastic celebratory meal, but you can also choose a unique dish to complement your regular repertoire. It is a buffet after all. Joy is feasting your eyes, picking and choosing. And, inevitably, come back for more.
Pastrami style turkey
This recipe is for a whole boneless turkey breast. You can cook anything from a 1kg half breast to a full 7kg double breast like we did for this specific spread. Preparation is simple and remains the same regardless of the size of your turkey. The only thing to adjust is the amount of salt you use to marinate the brisket and, of course, the cooking time.
Salt marinade (per kilogram of turkey)
Mix all the marinade ingredients together to form a paste and rub it all over the turkey, wrap it well and place it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to cook, preheat your oven to 150°C (assisted ventilation).
Remove packaging and place turkey on a roasting pan with a roasting rack. Do not remove any of the marinade. Carefully cover with foil and seal the turkey in the tray. Bake for 30 minutes per kilogram of turkey (for example, a 5 kg turkey will take 2.5 hours; our 7 kg turkey will take 3.5 hours).
No need to uncover until the time is up, at which point remove the tray from the oven, uncover and baste the turkey a little with the juices from the bottom of the tray. If no liquid has formed, brush lightly with boiling water, being careful not to remove the red marinade. Increase the oven temperature to 180°C (assisted ventilation) and turn the turkey for 15 minutes to form a nice red crust.
You can check if the turkey is fully cooked using a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should be just above 60C. Remove from oven, re-cover and let rest 20-30 minutes before carving and serving.
Spicy quince sauce
To make 2 jars of about 300ml each
Blend the quince, chillies and garlic in a small food processor into small rice-like pieces and place them in a small saucepan, cover with a liter of water and add the four lemon halves.
Bring to a boil and skim off the foam that comes to the top. Boil for 10 minutes, skim again and add mustard seeds, sugar and a pinch of salt. Keep boiling, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to extract the juice from the lemon halves, then discard the zest. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for the last 10 minutes, before removing and transferring to a serving platter or a few jars.
Colorful cabbage and pear salad
To serve 8-10
Grate red and white cabbage and keep both colors in separate bowls. Add a teaspoon of salt to each bowl and mix well.
Cut the unpeeled pears into nice slices and sprinkle them with all the lemon juice, also add the lime zest and wedges.
Just before serving, transfer the red and white cabbage to a large mixing bowl, leaving the liquid that has formed, add the pear and citrus mixture, pomegranate seeds and olive oil. Mix once and serve.
Roasted orange vegetables
To serve 8-10
In another tray
Toss sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash and quince wedges with oil, salt and pepper and place on two baking sheets, in a single layer.
In a second tray, place all the onion wedges face up and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat your oven to 200°C (assisted ventilation). Roast the sweet potato and squash pan for 30 minutes. Open the oven, stir well to baste, then add the orange wedges and coriander seeds. Roast another 20 minutes, remove and drizzle with honey.
The onions can go in the same oven as the turkey, or simply lower the heat after roasting the vegetables at 160°C (assisted ventilation) and roast them for about 30 minutes or until tender. Transfer the vegetables and onions to a serving platter.
Email Sarit and Itamar at [email protected] and follow them on Instagram @Honeyandco
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