TO MAKE A WEDDING LUNCH
FOR SIXTY GOURMET GUESTS
home wedding, like summer weather, is only romantically lovely when its
elements are kept below the boiling point. Delighted that your best friend
is getting married, you impulsively promise to make a "simple and
intimate" wedding lunch for the new couple. After the initial glow
passes, when you are moved at your friend's happiness, and she and the
groom by your generosity, suddenly you must face: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The next stage
is bumpier. The grim moment arrives when you hear yourself wearily muttering
to the bridal couple that the Metropolitan Museum's Temple of Dendur might
be more in keeping for what they seem to have in mind. After a bad spell
filled with misunderstandings and hurt feelings, magically, calm and reason
is restored. The number of guests becomes reasonable. You close down
shop at sixty, and you mean it.
I agreed to make a wedding luncheon for a close friend I knew I would
need to overcome some severe limitations. My Manhattan apartment has
neither the space nor atmosphere of a country inn. My friend was on a
tight budget, I was short on time, and the guests we planned to invite
had sophisticated food tastes. This is how I went about it.
soon as we decided on our basic direction -- the type of wedding and number
of guests -- I embarked on my next task. I immediately delegated to others
all areas that didn't need my direct supervision. When I was a child
my father warned me that my mind was not meant to be a garbage pail stuffed
with stray facts, but an instrument for clear thinking. To delegate means
to delegate. Don't fuss over the parts of the wedding other
people are doing. Don't bother to bone up on wedding-ology. You needn't
rehash the minutiae of your best friend's third cousin's wedding in order
to give one. Remember, your time is valuable. You are only almost
a super woman.
- All details involving the
actual marriage ceremony
- Flower Arrangements
A WORD ABOUT NUMBERS:
thorniest issue in planning a wedding is who gets asked, who is left out.
No matter how firmly you impress on the bride and groom that your house
or apartment isn't infinitely expandable, you still will end up with a
guest list at least ten per cent higher than the number initially agreed
upon. Leave a little leeway for a ballooning invitation list. It's prudent
in these times of flexible living arrangements to decide in advance whether
guests may bring their roomie, casual date, or significant other. Children
who are old enough to gobble a portion of wedding cake are old enough
to be counted as a guest.
BASIC PLAN IS NOW IN ORDER
HERE'S HOW TO IMPLEMENT IT:
MIXING HOME MADE AND
contemporary woman has neither the time to prepare an entire wedding lunch
nor the money to hand over entirely the event to a professional caterer.
The BIG SECRET is knowing what to make yourself and what
to order, and how to successfully combine these two approaches. By making
a few of the simpler dishes yourself you can drastically cut the costs
of a stunning event.
my years of living in France I learned that French women, contrary to
our assumption that they are naturally great cooks, are adept at knowing
what to buy as well as what to make. Parisian women, used to cramped
living quarters and inadequate kitchens, habitually have had their goose,
turkey or lamb roasted for them in a good baker's oven. Though we do
not have at our disposal either the toston of the Spanish inn or
a French baker's oven, we do have equivalents. Do as French women do,
and have the main meat or fish dish professionally prepared.
SECOND BIG SECRET is not to serve hors d'eouvre. Bowls of nuts conviently
placed are adequate. Passed hor d'oeuvre greatly increases the numbers
of help needed, and are redundant with an ample lunch. The basic principle
is to make sure every dish is delicious, including the meat
or fish main dish, thus no "fillers" are needed. Uninspired
"extras" which are meant to stretch a meal fool no one, and
pile up amazingly the cost.
Before lunch: Pass California
Piper Sonoma Champagne and sparkling water (Pelligreno or Perrier with
chunks of limes and lemons.) Bowls of nuts on tables.
amounts: 1 case of
champagne and 1 case of sparkling water
Spanish string beans
Segovian roast baby lamb
salmon with aïoli sauce
strawberries served with chocolate
or crystallized pear and orange slices
Succes au chocolat au coulis de framboises
extra dry champagne (l0 bottles)
or cream, sugar, equal)
a good brand
of decaf tea (optional)
with lamb: Petite Chateau Red Bordeau (10 bottles)
Macon Villages Louis Jadot (10 bottles)
or Benziger Chardonnay (10 bottles)
WHICH FOODS YOU SHOULD
ORDER ALREADY PREPARED:
makes sense to order the lamb or salmon and the wedding cake from a caterer
or professional cook, and to make the marinated string beans, puree of
turnips and the saffron rice yourself. I've had good luck in working
with a local Greek restaurant for my roasted lamb. When my husband was
a professor at the University of Texas in Austin we ordered grilled roasts
from a nearby German Smoke House. Poached salmon should be prepared by
a first rate fish store, or a cook or caterer specializing in fish. Have
the fish store prepare a quart of a¬oli sauce to accompany the
salmon. This delicious garlic mayonnaise, which must always be made with
fresh homemade mayonnaise, is the favorite fish sauce in the south of
France, where it is also known as beurre de Provence and in Spain,
where it is called ali-oli. Unless it is a speciality of yours
I wouldn't suggest the eve of the wedding as practice time. It's very
tricky and it can, at the last minute, curdle. Leave this item to your
you use fish or lamb, aïoli or an equivalent sauce, insist
on a sample taste of what you are ordering. An attractive presentation
is crucial in creating an inviting buffet. Design with the chef with
whom you are working how you want the platters to look. Decide how the
meat or salmon should be garnished and served. If you are supplying your
own platters, arrange the pickup in advance. Be adamant in insisting
that the lamb arrive at your home at the last minute, and piping hot.
And if you are serving salmon insist that the fish is well chilled. Remember,
a restauranter has a certain flexibility in keeping costs down for items
not on the regular menu, but ordered in bulk. Ask him/her to provide
you with baskets of attractive breads at no extra cost.
THE WEDDING CAKE:
THIRD BIG SECRET is to order a wedding cake that is truly serendipitous.
It should be the desert. The days of dry-as-dust chalky wedding
cakes as a sentimental preamble to Vienna tables of patisserie are over.
Contemporary couples have a very distinct ideas of what a wedding cake
should be. My younger daughter and her husband chose as a wedding cake
a Succes au Chocolat au Coulis de Framboises from Tentation, Potel
& Chabot. The three layered confection of almond meringues filled
with dark chocolate mousse was served with a raspberry coulis and decorated
in dark chocolate and white powdered sugar with sprigs of real wild flowers.
The guests swooned over it. If your cake happens to be chocolate, in
place of bowls of chocolate coffee beans accompanying the platter of fresh
stemmed strawberries, edge the platter in a pastel border of crystallized
pear and orange slices.
NEGOTIATING STAFF AND
preparations tend to take on a dramatic edge. Nervous tension will be
sensed by the professionals with whom you are dealing. My tendency, whenever
possible, when I am negotiating for services, is to omit the word "wedding".
It makes the prices go up! I rather more coolly refer to the "event
for sixty." Instead of stressing that one wants superlative service
because this is a once-in-a-life time occasion, I do just the opposite:
a once-in-a-lifetime event in the supplier's mind translates into your
being a once-in-a-lifetime customer. The professionals you are using
for the wedding hope to increase their roister of steady customers. You
might casually say you are interested in their work because you and your
friends give many events. And, indeed, the easier party giving becomes
to you, the more parties you will give.
agency I chose as most expedient supplied all rental goods, the ice and
ice tubs for the wines and champagne, plus the waiters. Check out the
agency's references. Selecting the right one can use up an enormous amount
of your time -- don't forget, your time is costly. One short cut is to
pick the brains of your smartest party-giving friends, and act on their
advice without dilly-dallying. Provisioners for small museums and savvy
foundations tend to be another good choice. Institutions are more cost
conscious and demanding of excellent service than the average party giver.
Don't think you are automatically getting a bargain by hiring arts and
craftsy moonlighters who are doing this work on the side. In my experience
amateurs can end up charging you double of a seemingly posh service --
partly because they don't know the ropes, and partly because their turnover
may be too small for them to be efficient. Just because people act virtuous,
doesn't mean that their services come cheap. You can't afford bumblers.
One practiced waiter is worth more than three fumblers. Make sure the
agency comes to your home, and understands your kitchen and party space.
Map out a game plan for the bar, where the tables should be set up, and
where the buffet should be located.
USING YOUR OWN RESOURCES:
the luncheon I gave I persuaded my once-a-week housekeeper to work full
time the day before the wedding and the day of the wedding. She knows
me, my foibles, and she knows the house. She was essential. The day
of the luncheon I had four professional waiters plus Anna.
a cool, calm morning several weeks before the wedding the two of us went
over what had to be done in the house. I made a list of all provisions,
and ordered them. In addition to the food supplies, I had added soaps,
toilet paper, a few bottles of summery lilac cologne, and guest towels.
Anna was in charge of the last minute dressing up of the guest bathrooms.
Extra hangers for the two coat racks also went on the master list. We
picked a good place to stack wedding presents. Anna suggested that I
ask one of my friends to be in charge of borrowing and filling enough
pepper and salt shakers so that a pair could be placed at each table.
We walked through the apartment, making careful decisions on excesses
and breakables to be removed and locked in one of the back bedrooms.
The next item is sticky, but let's face it head on: things at parties
do disappear. On our list of things to be locked up we included
nick knacks and things with an irresistible appeal to the nosy, such as
word processor disks and address books. I made sure I had a good cake
knife for the wedding cake, as well as other serving utensils. I took
out my platters that needed polishing. My plan was to use what I had,
which is a mixture of silver and ceramic. That same morning I also ordered
the wines, sparkling water, and champagne.
THE DAY BEFORE THE
the provisions including the wines and champagne now were in the house.
The agency had delivered the dinner ware and tables, which they set up
according to our prior plan. A friend, a theatrical designer, had made
pale floaty apricot colored tablecloths out of scrim. Had she not so
cleverly made these I would have ordered white tablecloths from the agency.
In a crowded room I like tables to look uniform -- it gives a spacious
air. The friend in charge of flowers arrived with small baskets of purple
African violets. Their deep green leaves worked perfectly with the apricot
colored cloths. They don't wilt in the heat and don't require last minute
attention. My friend also brought a massive arrangement of dogwood, laurel,
lilacs, peonies and wild flowers. We placed it in a deep, wide copper
tub, which allowed the branches to spread in a thick luxurious way.
I spent 3 hours with Anna
making the saffron rice, chilled Spanish string beans and Hebbie's turnip
purée. The burned yellow, deep green and sunlit orange Mediterranean
colors go well with both the barbecued spring lamb and the rosy poached
salmon. To do this efficiently you should have, or borrow, extra large
pots. Marinated string beans are wonderful because they eliminate the
necessity for a separate salad, which requires too much last minute fussing,
extra plates and forks.
WEDDING MORNING TASKS:
marinated string beans were already refrigerated and ready to go and the
cheese platter was put out to breathe. Anna needed only to heat the saffron
and the turnip purée in a 250 degree oven and make the coffee. Our system
was to put all food on double platters, when one platter is emptying it
can be whisked off and another immediately set in its place. Nothing
is less appetizing then seeing extra food dished onto a wilted buffet
before the wedding ceremony Anna attended to the last minute details.
She placed a few bowls of nuts in the living and dining room. She washed
the strawberries, leaving on the stems, and arranged them on a silver
platter bordered in crystallized pear and orange slices. The agency staff,
the wedding cake, and the Greek restauranter, who had done himself proud
on the lamb and elaborate bread baskets, arrived on schedule.
CHILLED SPANISH STRING BEANS
l5 pounds fresh green
9 cloves of garlic
4 cups of diced smoked
ham or proscuitto
3 cups of Italian or
Spanish virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons thyme
4 teaspoons regular
pepper, kosher salt
is a speciality of my friend, the Barcelona novelist, Rosa Regas. Her
friends delight in visiting her in her home in Lliofriu, on the Costa
Brava, where she serves us her fabulous cooking, and good Spanish wines,
and delights us with her inimitable way of seeing the world and telling
us about it.
you've snapped off the ends of the beans, the preparation for this dish
is swift. Cooking in quantity needs a slightly different approach. I
find my Demeyere steamcooker, which has a 9 quart stock pot, and two steamers
on top of it, each l0 inches in diameter and 5 inches high, indispensable.
Divide string beans into three batches. Bring 7 quarts of salted water
to a boil in stock pot. Add a 5 pound batch of beans to the vigorously
boiling water and continue boiling. At the same time steam the remaining
2 batches of beans in the two steamers stacked above the stock pot.
When the beans in the stock pot are firm but not mushy (about 12-15 minutes)
remove them from pot. Continue the steaming of the remaining two batches
until those are also finished. Do not rinse string beans in cold water.
ham into small pieces. Cut the cloves of garlic into tiny pieces -- do
not mash or grate the garlic. Heat 1 cup of olive oil in large skillet.
When oil starts to bubble add the garlic. When the garlic turns golden
and crusty, push to one side. Heat pieces of ham and thyme in same oil
skillet. Remove from heat.
hot oil, garlic, ham and thyme with warm string beans. I usually do this
in two oversized salad bowls. Add kosher salt and grated fresh black
pepper to taste. Correct seasoning. The best way to distribute evenly
the garlic, ham, seasoning and oil with the string beans is to toss mixture
with your hands. If more oil is needed, heat it first in the skillet.
The hot oil seasoned with crusty cooked garlic and ham permeates the hot
beans, giving them a more pungent taste than the traditional cold marinade.
Cool. Decorate with parsley shavings. Cover with foil and refrigerate.
l4 pounds young turnips
3/4 cup of butter
5 lemon rinds
l tablespoon of lemon
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 quarts heavy cream
freshly ground nutmeg,
thyme, salt, ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons gin
my German nanny, made this for us when I was a child. She served it with
spring lamb or roasted veal. I hung about the kitchen, sniffing up its
warm nutmeg-and-cream odor. Sometimes Hebbie would add mashed potatoes
or carrots, she never made it the same way twice. When she was in a good
mood she would add a splash of gin at the end, saying: "it brings
out the flavor." And so it does.
and discard any fibrous or "horsy" turnips. Cut them in coarse
pieces and put them in a heavy wide-bottomed pot of boiling lightly salted
water -- the water should amply cover the turnips. When the turnips are
tender, drain and purée them in a food processor. Return them to wide-bottomed
pot. Grate into the purée the rind of 5 lemons, and add a tablespoon of
lemon juice. Melt butter in a skillet and stir into purée. Gently
heat cream (keep under boiling point) in a separate pot, and slowly stir
in the sugar. Remove pot from heat. In a thin stream add cream and sugar
to turnip purée stirring constantly. Add freshly ground nutmeg, thyme,
salt and grated black pepper to taste. Drizzle mixture with a splash
of gin. Cool. Cover with foil and refrigerate. Remove turnip purée
from refrigerator several hours before reheating it in stove.
DOMINGO'S LAMB SEPULVEDA
leg of lamb split in
salt pork lard
chef or caterer will have his own ideas on how to grill or roast lamb,
but Xavier Domingo's recipe for lamb is my favorite. It's a version of
the lamb that my friend Marisol served at her daughter Teresa's wedding
in Segovia, where it is a popular dish. When I first knew Xavier he was
a runty kid, a Spanish exiled anarchist adrift in post World War II Paris.
Villa Milo, his first novel, is about a young man, the son of a
Madam, raised by whores in a Barcelona brothel, who dreams of better days.
Maybe escaping to Paris. Which he did. After Franco died Xavier returned
to Spain and became one of the main editors of the newsweekly Cambio
16, and the top food and wine critic in Spain.
French lamb, which is basted on a rack, and has herbal seasoning, as does
most American lamb, Spanish lamb, which is very young and tender, is frequently
prepared by a sort of "sweating" process closer to the North
African style of cooking meat. A leg of lamb cut in two is placed directly
in a large earthenware shallow dish filled with water. It's only seasoning
is lots of coarse salt rubbed into its skin and underside. The lamb is
cooked in a preheated 350 degree oven skin side down for one hour (in
North Africa the lamb is cooked on an even lower and longer heat.) The
pieces of meat then are turned over and brushed with melted salt pork
lard. The lamb is cooked on the second side for an additional 45 minutes.
7 1/2 pounds of arborio
4 teaspoons of ground
imported saffron threads
virgin Italian or Spanish
of the first things I learned when I was living in Spain was how to make
was good rice. Goya Chueca, the wife of the architect Fernando Chueca,
taught me. Once you get the hang of doing it right, it's a blessed aromatic
never-fail staple that will see you through your daily and partying life.
With or without the saffron.
basic principle is that by sealing the grains of rice in a skillet of
hot olive oil, your rice will remain fluffy and separate. It can be refrigerated
and reheated and never stick or become mushy. This is as true for Carolina
long-grained rice as it is for arborio, the Italian rice used in risotto
can't get the type of rice used in Spain for paella, so I use Italian
arborio rice. Grind the saffron threads into a powder with a mortar and
pestle. Anything heavy, even the bottom of a glass will do. As you will
need to make this amount in two batches prepare two large pots with boiling
water. The rice needs 3 parts water to 1 part rice. Add 2 teaspoons
of the ground saffron threads and 1 teaspoon of salt to each pot. Cover
your largest skillet with 1/2 inch of olive oil. It is important that
the oil be of a fine quality, as the oil and saffron will give the rice
its rich, suggestive-of-the-Mediterranean flavor. Divide the rice in
two equal batches. When the oil starts to bubble put in one batch, and,
much as though you were popping corn, shake the rice in the skillet until
the grains start to turn from translucent to opaque. This signals that
the grains of rice are sealed. Don't let the grains turn brown or burn.
Add the batch of sealed rice grains to the first pot of boiling water.
Cover. Slightly lower the heat. Cook unopened for l5 minutes. The water
should be completely absorbed. Check after 13 minutes, as rice can suddenly
burn. Repeat the same process with second batch of rice and second pot
of water. When cool, cover the rice with silver foil. Leave it in its
cooking pot and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator two hours before
using. Add a little water to the rice, just enough to keep it from burning,
cover and reheat in a 250 degree stove.
AND CRACKER PLATTER
l 1/2 pound Stilton
1 1/2 Saint Andre
l 1/2 pound Coach Tomme
(or Tomme Fleur Verte) goat cheese
1 1/2 pound aged Gouda
idea of paradise is a piece of Stilton with fruit. Its nutty intensity
makes it an excellent rite of passage between the main course and desert.
The four cheeses I've selected are distinctly different from one another
in appearance and taste. The Saint Andre is velvety and sweet. The goudas
and Manchego are hard, moderately sharp cheeses, and the tomme has the
light taste particular to the goat family. We Americans are now making
excellent domestic goat cheese, the Coach tommes are superb. If you're
a stickler for French goat cheese the Tomme Fleur Verte or Le
Grand Caprin works well with this platter. I've not chosen a runny
cheeses such as Brie. It's use is overdone. Brie is awful when served
hard as a brick, and looks messy on the buffet when gorgeously runny enough
to be divine in your mouth. Six pounds of cheese is more than enough
for sixty guests. People are consuming considerably less of it these
days, preferring to splurge their calories on fantastic deserts. Give
the cheeses time to breathe and serve on a platter decorated with a variety
of biscuits and breads and a few strawberries or grapes.
10 top quality fresh
2 tablespoons of freshly
squeezed lemon juice
3 egg yolks
1/3 teaspoon of salt
1 pint of virgin olive
(makes slightly over
or Ali-oli, a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, is really homemade
mayonnaise blended with fresh garlic. When my daughters Carla and Maria
were children, Harold (my husband), and I, spent many summers with our
friends Teresa and Josep Pallach in Collioure on the French side of the
Spanish border. Carla and Maria's happiest memories are of swimming off
the great conch-shaped Collioure beach so adored by the Fauves
and Matisse. After splashing in the Mediterranean the children would
buy chocolate biscuits from a beach vendor, later our two families settled
into a late afternoon main meal of seafood and fish in the same beach
restaurants frequented by Picasso and Matisse. Ali-oli was served
on the side in colorful Mediterranean bowls.
good fresh garlic that has a nice snap when touched, and mash cloves (already
peeled and chopped) with a pestle. Keep mashing until mixture has a velvety
consistency. Now transfer mixture into a non-metal bowl. Very slowly
add juice of fresh lemons and keep mashing. Add very, very slowly egg
yolks and a pinch of salt to the mixture. Keep pounding and mashing the
mixture. After it thickens very slowly blend in virgin olive oil. Now,
the basic secret of the sauce, indeed, of all homemade mayonnaise, it
that the olive oil must be added drop by drop. Keep pounding and mashing.
In the final stages use a whisk. All homemade mayonnaise can be thinned
out by drizzling in minute amounts of cold water. Use the same day. Remember,
a¬oli is tricky. So if you want to make it yourself experiment
with it a few times before the big day. Consult the fish caterer for the
amount of sauce needed.