Secrets from a Caterer's Kitchen: The Indispensable Guide for Planning a Party

Overview

During almost two decades of catering everything from the Academy Awards to a fete for Queen Elizabeth to an intimate dinner for Julia Child to a ?Roller-Disco? Bat Mitzvah, Nicole Aloni has learned more than a few tricks-of-the-trade. And whether you?re planning your umpteenth dinner for twelve, or you?ve only just figured out that there?s a kitchen in your apartment, Secrets From a Caterer?s Kitchen is the manual on entertaining.

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Overview

During almost two decades of catering everything from the Academy Awards to a fete for Queen Elizabeth to an intimate dinner for Julia Child to a “Roller-Disco” Bat Mitzvah, Nicole Aloni has learned more than a few tricks-of-the-trade. And whether you’re planning your umpteenth dinner for twelve, or you’ve only just figured out that there’s a kitchen in your apartment, Secrets From a Caterer’s Kitchen is the manual on entertaining.

This comprehensive, accessible and easy-to-use book offers insider tips and guidance about:

Menu preparation for both large and small gatherings Finding special locations for events Decorating advice for “theme” festivities Creating invitations Maintaining a budget Over 125 tried-and-true party recipes

Whether it’s a candlelight dinner, a kid’s birthday party, or a holiday extravaganza, you can put on a show like a pro—and keep your guests guessing—with Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen!

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
After two decades of catering big events like the Academy Awards and small ones like an intimate dinner for Julia Child, Nicole Aloni knows a lot of short cuts.

Her book is a practical resource guide, packed with entertaining fundamentals like timetables, space planning, table setting, food quantity charts, checklists for outside services, budget-trimming suggestions, and more than 150 party-tested recipes. In addition to the nuts and bolts, Aloni likes to add the "wow" factor to her parties through the food and the decorations. For alternatives to traditional placecards, for example, she likes to use a bright pippin apple with a nametag tied to the stem, or a Chinese fan inscribed with the guest's name.

Time-stressed hosts will appreciate Aloni's suggestions for theme parties, where she recommends dishes to buy from a favorite restaurant, dishes to make, appropriate garnishes, and compatible wines or drinks. For a Mexican party, for example, Aloni suggests ordering a turkey in mole sauce; buying Mexican beer, chips, tortillas, and salsa; and making the Cadillac margaritas, salad, and guacamole. Fresh pineapple tossed with basil, mint, and Triple Sec over store-bought tropical sorbets round off the meal. (Ginger Curwen)

Publishers Weekly
lear and spirited guide..with easy, surefire recipes. A lifesaver for the novice...practical for even the most experienced party-giver.
Decor & Style Magazine
Aloni's book is funny, practical and creative..the bible on entertaining. All 150 recipes sound divine. Includes party themes.
From The Critics
The author's spent over twenty years catering major events: her experience lends to a guide which tells how to plan menus for both large and small gatherings, how to entertain under a variety of conditions, and how to create festive occasions. The party recipes here are packed with ideas and while dishes lack colorful photos, the advice is solid and the relatively simple dishes don't need much embellishment.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557883520
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 391,524
  • Product dimensions: 7.54 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicole Aloni, author of Secrets from a Caterer's Kitchen, is a 15-year catering pro whose sold-out cooking classes are held throughout the country. She's appeared on local and national television and radio, including the Food Network. She lives, cooks, and entertains in southern California.

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Table of Contents

Secrets from a Caterer's Kitchen Acknowledgments
Preface

Introduction
The Key Elements
The Symbols

Getting Started
Elements of a Party Plan
Solutions for Outdoor Entertaining
Organize Your Time
Cooperative Thanksgiving (14 Guests)
Cocktail Reception (50 Guests)
Sit-Down Dinner (8 Guests)

Space Planning

Invitations

Party Equipment

How to Plan the Menu
The Essentials of Menu Planning
Menu Problem Solving: Tying It All Together

Create Drama: The "Wow" Factor
Drama, Luxury, Surprise, and Beauty
Celebrate the Season

What Every Caterer Knows
Develop a Specialty
Purchased Menu Additions
Expand the Possibilities: Think Outside The Box
Interactive Cooking
The Sophisticated Potluck: Creativity and Graciousness
"Dressed Up" Takeout: Restaurant Favorites with Homemade Touches
Lists, Lists, and More Lists

Contractors and Outside Help
Caterers
Rental Companies
Valet Service
Florists
Wedding Coordinators
Other Services

The Fundamentals
How Much to Serve
Food Quantity Chart
Styles of Service: Seated, Buffet, or Both
How to Set the Table
Beverage Service
How to Equip a Kitchen
Hospitality on Hand: The Party Pantry

The Recipes
Appetizers, Hors d'oeuvres, and Beverages
Soups
Salads and Salad Dressings
Main Courses
Side Dishes
Sauces, Relishes, and Condiments
Desserts
Basics
Techniques

The Gourmet Network
Metric Chart
Index
About the Author

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Introduction

I don’t like to eat snails. I prefer fast food.” Graffiti from the Santa Monica freeway

An hors d’oeuvres is a welcoming nibble to wake up the appetite with an announcement of good things to come.

Because they are usually finger food, that is eaten without the use of utensils, there are some caveats you should consider for hors d’eouvres (especially if they are tray passed). Keep them bite size, and keep them tidy. Avoid even delicious recipes if the servings will be an awkward size, have a drippy sauce, or a crumbling texture. It is also important to be judicious with quantities. Don’t overwhelm people with too much food before a meal, guests should sit down to your beautiful table with an appetite. On the other hand, If the hors’doeuvres are to be the meal, make sure there are some more substantial items served from a buffet with small plates and salad forks if necessary. Finally make them beautiful little jolts of color and flavor.

Hors d’oeuvres I serve most often are just simple combinations of excellent ingredients.

Tortellini Skewers with Lemon-Parmesan Aioli Dipping Sauce

Purchased fresh tortellini quickly cooked then skewered, 2 to 3 per stick. Serve with a dipping sauce of lemon- parmesan aioli (prepared mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, a little minced garlic and freshly grated parmesan cheese whipped together). These can be tray passed or presented on a platter on a buffet.

Warm Brie and Pear Tartlets

Fill purchased mini-tart shells with a slice of Brie and finely diced ripe pear. Sprinkle a little minced fresh thyme or lavender on each and drizzle lightly with honey. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in 375° oven for 7-8 minutes until the cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Skewered Bocconcini with Prosciutto

Start this several hours before serving. Cut thick rosemary stems to 3” lengths. Use the rosemary to skewer one or two fresh mozzarella bocconcini. Wrap and set aside for an hour or two in refrigerator. Cut very good prosciutto into strips one inch by three inches. Lay out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar and fresh cracked pepper. Wrap and refrigerate for an hour or two before using. To serve-wrap each bocconcini with one marinated prosciutto strip.

Warm Figs with Gorgonzola

Cut ripe, fresh figs in half. Dust lightly with sugar, place on a lightly greased sheet pan and bake in a 400° oven for about 7 minutes until the sugar begins to color. Remove from the oven. Use the back of a spoon to press a hollow in the center of each half. Fill the hollow with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and top with a pecan half. When ready to serve, return to a 350° oven for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Rosettes

Mash a ripe avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper and a tablespoon or two of cream cheese or mascarpone. Set aside in refrigerator. Cut very good smoked salmon (not lox) into one inch by 4 inch strips. Cut firm dark bread, such as German rye, into small squares. Wrap each salmon strip around the end of your finger, then sit this roll, standing upright on the bread. Drop a spoon of avocado mousse in the middle and gently spread the edges of the salmon back to form a “rosette”. Garnish with a sprig of dill or a sprinkle of cumin seeds.

Corn Muffins with Smoked Turkey and Jalapeno Jelly

Purchase mini corn muffins. Slice in half and spread one side generously with jalapeno jelly and the other with butter. Fill with finely sliced, smoked turkey breast and some watercress leaves.

Artichoke Hearts with Seared Scallops

Purchase artichoke hearts packed in water and drain well. Prepare orange Dill Sauce (recipe pg 00). In a saute pan over medium high heat saute fresh bay scallops (the tiny ones) in butter with a little salt and pepper. Cook about 1-2 minutes, tossing to brown evenly. To serve - put a dollop of Orange Dill Sauce in each artichoke heart and top with 2 or 3 seared scallops and a sliver of orange peel.

Grilled Chicken Skewers with Tamarind-Chipotle Sauce

For dipping sauce, puree 1/2 cup tamarind paste (or pomegranate molasses), 1 teaspoon sugar, 2/3 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, 1/3 cup peanut oil, 2 cloves chopped garlic, salt and white pepper in a blender. Stir in 3-4 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo (incl some juice) to blend. Sauce will keep up to one week. Toss chicken tenders with peanut oil, garlic powder, kosher salt and black pepper. Grill or broil until cooked (2-3 minutes). Put on skewers and serve with sauce.

Olivada with Focaccia

In a food processor puree 2 to 3 cups of plump black olives such as Kalamata. When smooth, drizzle in 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add a splash of cognac and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with sliced focaccia or baguette.

Lemon-Basil Crostini

Slice a baguette into very thin rounds. Dry out on a sheet pan in a 300° oven for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree 2 tablespoons of cream cheese, 1/4 cup sweet butter, 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup lemon juice , pinch dried lemon peel, pinch sugar, pinch ground garlic, 1 tablespoon minced basil, salt and white pepper to taste. Spread generously on toasted baguette and bake in a 350° oven until bubbling and crispy (about 10 minutes ) .

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Drain purchased dolmades. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, minced cilantro, mint or parsley . Toss to coat. Serve garnished with roasted red peppers and pine nuts.

Caponata with Warm Basil Crostini

To good quality purchased caponata, add 1-2 tablespoon minced parsley, basil or oregano, a squeeze of lemon and some good good pitted olive and pine nuts. Serve on Warm Lemon Basil Crostini topped with a fresh herb leaf.

Grilled Chicken Skewers with Tamarind-Chipotle Sauce

For dipping sauce, puree 1/2 cup tamarind paste (or pomegranate molasses), 1 teaspoon sugar, 2/3 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, 1/3 cup peanut oil, 2 cloves chopped garlic, salt and white pepper in a blender. Stir in 3-4 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo (incl some juice) to blend. Sauce will keep up to one week. Toss chicken tenders with peanut oil, garlic powder, kosher salt and black pepper. Grill or broil until cooked (2-3 minutes). Put on skewers and serve with sauce.

Olivada with Focaccia

In a food processor puree 2 to 3 cups of plump black olives such as Kalamata. When smooth, drizzle in 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add a splash of cognac and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with sliced focaccia or baguette.

Lemon-Basil Crostini

Slice a baguette into very thin rounds. Dry out on a sheet pan in a 300° oven for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree 2 tablespoons of cream cheese, 1/4 cup sweet butter, 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup lemon juice , pinch dried lemon peel, pinch sugar, pinch ground garlic, 1 tablespoon minced basil, salt and white pepper to taste. Spread generously on toasted baguette and bake in a 350° oven until bubbling and crispy (about 10 minutes ) .

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Drain purchased dolmades. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, minced cilantro, mint or parsley . Toss to coat. Serve garnished with roasted red peppers and pine nuts.

Caponata with Warm Basil Crostini

To good quality purchased caponata, add 1-2 tablespoon minced parsley, basil or oregano, a squeeze of lemon and some good good pitted olive and pine nuts. Serve on Warm Lemon Basil Crostini topped with a fresh herb leaf.

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Recipe

Easy Hors d'oeuvres
The hors d'oeuvres I serve most often are simple combinations of excellent ingredients. The following suggestions are some of my favorites.

  • Warm Brie and Pear Tartlets
    Fill purchased mini tart shells with a slice of Brie and finely diced ripe pear. Sprinkle a little minced fresh thyme or lavender on each and drizzle lightly with honey. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a 375F (190C) oven for 7 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately.
  • Skewered Bocconcini with Prosciutto
    Start this several hours before serving. Cut thick rosemary stems into 3-inch lengths. Use the rosemary to skewer 1 to 2 bocconcini ([small] fresh mozzarella balls). Wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Cut very good prosciutto into 3 x 1-inch strips. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before using. To serve, wrap each bocconcini with a marinated prosciutto strip.
  • Corn Muffins with Smoked Turkey and Jalapeno Jelly
    Purchase mini corn muffins. Slice almost in half and spread one side generously with jalapeno jelly and the other with softened butter. Fill with finely sliced smoked turkey breast and some watercress leaves.

Quick Risotto Reggiano with Asparagus
Makes 8 servings

This wonderfully easy, luscious risotto was inspired by the risotto technique in Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet. The already simple preparation (for risotto) can be made even more party-friendly by completing all but the last step before guests arrive. This recipe is the only practical way to include risotto in a party menu.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
1-1/4 cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped dried mushroom (porcini, morel, or shiitake)
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1/2 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons minced chives
Kosher salt
Freshly ground coarse black pepper

Heat the butter and the oil in a microwave-safe, 3-quart casserole dish, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for 2-1/2 minutes.

Add the broth, dried mushroom, and vermouth and cook uncovered for 11 minutes. Stir well and cook 6 minutes more. Mix in the asparagus and thyme and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from the microwave and let stand, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and chives, add salt and pepper as desired, and serve immediately.

To make ahead for a party, prepare through cooking with the broth and set aside. When you are ready to serve diner, add the asparagus and thyme and finish preparation from there. Serve immediately.

Cocoa Roca Cloud Cake
Makes 8 to 10 servings

This is a family recipe from my friend and recipe tester Evan. It goes together in less than 10 minutes (not counting freezer time) and can be held in the freezer for up to a week before serving.

2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened cocoa mix
1 (7-ounce) can Almond Roca candy
1 (10-inch) angel food cake

Place the whipping cream in bowl of an electric mixer and whip on low speed. Slowly sprinkle in the cocoa mix and whip until stiff peaks form.

Unwrap the candy and place it in a heavy plastic or paper bag. Put the candy in the freezer for 15 minutes. Roughly crush the candy with a hammer or mallet.

Slice the cake in half to make 2 layers. Put about 3/4 inch of the cocoa cream on the cut layer and sprinkle generously with the crushed candy. Replace the top half and frost the cake with at least a 1/2-inch-thick coating of the cocoa cream. Press the remaining candy over the top and sides.

Wrap lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. For easier slicing, after this initial chilling, freeze the cake for at least 1 day. It will then slice like an ice cream cake.

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2009

    great reference for all party planners

    I found this to be a great reference for cost estimates, and overall planning. I actually ended up losing this book and felt lost without it that I need to go out and buy another one. It's a great book to help an intermediate hostess get into practice for catering and hosting larger events. The food chart is great and there is also a large quantity of party recipes that can be used as is or to inspire your own recipes for a party. Great all-in-one book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2001

    A fun book for people who cook for fun

    A must read if you like to have fun at your own parties. The prose is graceful, the stories are by turns hilarious and hair-raising, and the recipes are my favorite kind--they do you proud, but don't keep you slaving in the kitchen.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2001

    Don't Keep This Secret!!

    Secret's from a Caterers Kitchen is a comprehensive and accessible resource for the home hostess, as well as the professional event planner. In her Preface, author and professional caterer Nicole Aloni recalls a survey which concluded, 'that hosting a dinner party for eight causes more tension than undergoing an emergency root canal.' Experienced hostesses, no doubt, will find this unimaginable, but the rest of can relate. Full of tips, timelines and treasured recipes, this guide is a must-have for anyone who entertains or has hopes of doing so. The Food Quantity Chart is worth the (reasonable) price of the book alone.The volume is peppered with the wonderfully whimsical illustrations of Gary Hovland and the real-life (you couldn't make some of that stuff up) stories from Aloni's years on the line that inspire the confidence to send out invitations and remind us what being a host is all about.--Suzanne Schmalzer, food writer

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 27, 2008

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