Christmas buffet dinners are a welcome relief for some holiday celebrants. Rather than a formal sit-down dinner featuring squirming children and uncomfortable dining room chairs, buffets let people move around and relax a bit. All the Christmas favorites have a place in a Christmas buffet, but need special preparation. In general, buffet foods need to be cut into bite-size pieces, or be fork-tender. Having to cut meats while balancing a plate on your new shantung silk sheath is no fun.
Christmas buffets let people mingle with one another and choose where they want to sit. They also provide a bit more flexibility for guests during busy holiday schedules. Sit-down dinners require diners to be on time and in place before service begins. Buffets are self-service, so those people arriving late still have food available.
Christmas buffets feature different meats, poultry and seafood. Ham is a traditional favorite, but include different meats for those guests who do not eat pork. Roast turkey slices are a good alternative. An opulent option for Christmas buffets is raw shucked oysters in their shells. Present the oysters on a bed of kosher salt to help stabilize them. Lemon wedges and a simple sauce made from champagne vinegar and chopped shallots works well with the oysters. Put out a bowl of small cornichon pickles and capers to accompany the display.
Vegetables on a Christmas buffet must please children and adults alike. Crusty topped, bechamel or cream-sauce based casseroles are delicious and festive.
Provide a simple salad option for a textural contrast and an alternative for people watching calories. Endive is attractive and has a crisp texture and interesting anise flavor.
Fruit compotes add color and flavor on the table. Pears, plums and apples are good fruits to use. Add a little brandy or rum to the compotes along with some raisins to add extra appeal.
Desserts need a table to themselves. Apple pies, strudels, nuts and dried fruits are among the many different types of sweets for traditional Christmas buffet tables.
Large hams or turkeys make striking centerpieces. Thinly slice the ham or turkey and cut into small equal pieces. Fan out the slices on a platter and intersperse them with fresh herbs, such as basil or rosemary. Fresh herbs might be scarce during the winter in some locations, so slices of orange or dark leafy lettuce makes an attractive substitute.
Arrange the buffet so that the foods are the same on each side of the table. Guests access all the food in one pass and have easier access to the dishes. Decorate the table with pears and apples mixed with clove-studded oranges. Flowers add color to the buffet table, but don’t use poinsettias, as their sap and leaves are toxic.
Keeping foods safe as well as presentable on the buffet table is a challenge. Basically, hot foods should remain hot and cold foods should stay cool. Leaving out mayonnaise-based salads at room temperature table is unwise. Use attractive shallow dishes and fill them with crushed ice. Set the bowls of salads in the containers, and decorate the ice with nasturtium or any other available edible flowers.