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Entertaining 411

The number one question we get from our clients during the event planning process is how much food and beverages they need to serve their guests. The most important factor you need to consider is the type of event; formal (sit down), buffet (self served) or passed (Hors D’oeuvres).

For formal or sit down events, the amount of food is pretty much determined by the number of place settings. However, if you are planning a self served buffet or passed Hors D’oeuvres, there some other basic factors you need to consider.

  • Day of the week – as a general rule; people are more relax during the weekend so they tend to eat more and try new things.
  • Time of the event – the closer to a meal time, the more people will expect.
  • Length of the event – the longer the event, the more you will need.
  • Age group of people – this is a very important one and one most people over look. Single and young people will always eat more. Married couples (especially with kids) are on a daily schedule and they always plan for the “what if”; so there’s a very good chance they will have a snack before showing to your event. The same with the elders; they are on the clock and have a daily plan for their meals and snacks.
  • Type of food – this is a critical one. Themed events, as well as ethic food can turn into a disaster. You know your guests more than anyone else so run down the list to get an idea if a themed event will be a good idea. If so, try to stay within the most popular ones; like Mexican, Italian, Caribbean or American. Combining a couple of them is not a bad idea.

Here are some other tips,

  • Always round-up your estimates.
  • Anticipate which food selections will be most popular and serve more of them than the general portion guidelines suggest.
  • The more choices you offer, the smaller your calculation of individual portion size should be.
  • Assume your guests will taste everything on a buffet, but the tastes will be small. However, overall consumption per individual will be greater than if there were fewer choices.
  • Add “bulk” items to your menu such as bread, crackers, nuts, olives, cheese, etc.

What about individual serving size? Here is basic guidelines caterers use for various foods. Multiply these estimates by your number of guests and, once again, always round-up your estimates.

Portion Size Per Person

Hors d’oeuvre

  • 6 bites when preceding a meal.
  • 4 – 6 bites per hour when hors d’oeuvre are the meal.
  • The longer your party and the larger your guest list, the greater the number of selections you should offer.

The Main Meal

  • Poultry, meat or fish – 6 ounces when you have one main dish, 4 ounces when you offer two or more main courses.
  • Rice, grains – 1.5 ounces as a side dish, 2 ounces in a main dish such as risotto.
  • Potatoes – 5 ounces
  • Vegetables – 4 ounces
  • Beans – 2 ounces as a side dish
  • Pasta – 2 ounces for a side dish, 3 ounces for a first course, 4 ounces for a main dish
  • Green Salad – 1 ounce undressed weight


  • 1 slice cake, tart or pastry
  • 4 ounces creamy dessert such as pudding or mousse
  • 5 ounces ice cream
  • When serving two of the above, reduce each by half.


  • 1 drink per person every ½ hour for the first hour, then 1 drink per hour for each additional hour.

General Beverages (coffee, tea, juice, water) – 1 gallon = 128 oz or 16– 8 oz cups in a gallon (2 cups per person)


  • 1 case beer serves 24-12 oz bottles
  • 1 keg beer serves 165.3 –12 oz beers or 15.5 gallons
  • 1 keg = 7 cases of beer
  • 1 pony keg (1/2 keg) serves 83-12 oz beers or 7.5 gallons


  • 1 bottle of wine serves 5 (5 oz glasses)
  • 1 case of wine = 12 bottles of wine serves (60-5 oz glasses)
  • 1 bottle champagne serves 6 (4 oz glasses)

A Few Other Menu Planning Tips

  • Don’t repeat a main ingredient. For example, don’t serve a shrimp appetizer and shrimp main dish.
  • Consider the colors of the food that will be served together and make sure there is variety.
  • Offer both hot and cold foods on a buffet.

Tips when hiring a caterer,

  • Big is not always better. Some big companies sub contract their work to smaller ones. Verify this is not the case with yours.
  • Ensure they have a cancellation policy.
  • Find out when is the last day to provide a final count.
  • If they are serving the food, ask them about their left-over policy.
  • Ask for references.

We hope these tips have been helpful. For more information, please visit us at http://www.piscolabiscatering.com.


Latin Pepper Steak

A variation of the Chinese dish with a latin twist.

Total time – 20 min

Yield – 4 servings

Serving suggestion – with white rice and tostones or ripped fried plantains on the side.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1lb. boneless sirloin or flank steak, cut into thin strips
  • 2 medium red and/or green bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tsp. finely chopped seeded jalapeno pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 package Brown gravy mix
  • 1/2 tbsp cilantro


Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown beef.

Remove beef and set aside.

Add red peppers, onion and jalapeno pepper and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in water, lime juice and Brown gravy mix.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes.

Stir in beef and cilantro and simmer for about 5 min.

Buen Provecho!

For great party trays and dinners packages ideas visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

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Ropa Vieja Cubana

The Ropa Vieja (shredded beef in a tomato sauce base) is a Cuban dish from Spanish origin. Very popular in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela.  In some countries is known as carne mechada or pabellon.

Total time –  This recipe uses a slow cooking technique so it can take from 4-10 hrs depending on the cut of meat you use. In this case, we are using flank steak for easy shredding.

Yields – 6 servings

Serving suggestions – with white rice and red kidney or pink beans (stewed Caribbean style) and fried plantains on the side.


  • tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds beef flank steak
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar


Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the flank steak on each side, about 4 minutes per side.

Transfer the flank steak to a slow cooker. Pour in the beef broth and tomato sauce, then add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, cilantro, olive oil and vinegar. Stir until well blended. Cover, and cook on High for 4 hours, or on Low for up to 10 hours.  At this point, the steak should have shredded by itself; if not, use two forks to shred steak apart.

Buen Provecho!

For great party trays and dinner packages ideas visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

Nidito de yuca con Salmorejo de jueyes

This weekend one of my regular customers put me out to a real test. American but married to a Puerto Rican, she called me with a last minute request for a small gathering she was hosting for a a small group of friends. “I want something traditional with a twist but accompanied with something really authentic”, she said. “How authentic you want the other thing to be?” I asked her. “Something that screams Puerto Rico”, she said. And for some reason and out of the blue, crabs came to mind.

In my opinion, no other dish screams Puerto Rico lauder than Salmorejo de jueyes (crabmeat salmorejo). It is all, traditional, authentic and very popular; from the mountains down to the beach kiosks all over the island. It is served in different ways, as an appetizer, as a main dish served with root vegetables or as the preferred filling for fritters. It is like comfort food. In the mountains they use land crab and in the coast they use blue crab. They both come from the same family of crabs and are harvested locally; even in the backyards of private homes.

The name Salmorejo comes from a Spanish dish made from a very tasty and thick tomato paste based stew. So thick that you can eat it with a a fork. The most popular Salmorejo in Spain is the Salmorejo de Conejo, (rabbit salmorejo). How or when the crabmeat was incorporated into this dish is unknown; however, whom ever came out with the idea is considered a genius in my books.

For her order, I incorporated the Salmorejo de jueyes with yucca (cassava); another traditional root vegetable, into an appetizer I called it Nidito de yucca con Salmorejo de jueyes. (Cassava nest with crabmeat salmorejo). Here is the recipe for that appetizer.

Total time – about 1 hr.

Yield – 4-6 servings

Serving suggestion – as an appetizer or side dish.


  • 12 ounces crabmeat, which may be fresh, canned (drained) or frozen (thawed)
  • 1 teaspoonful of ground garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls of chopped onion
  • 2 or 3 olives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoonful chopped green peppers
  • 1/2 tablespoonful chopped red peppers
  • two drops ofTabascosauce
  • 1 tablespoonful of olive or cooking oil
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water (or substitute with 1/2 cup white wine!)
  • 1/3 teaspoonful of salt
  • 1 lbs of yucca
  • Chicken broth
  • Butter
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese


For the cassava nest

The cassava nest is made from mashed cassava. Wash and peel the cassava using a potato peeler. Then cut into chunks, put them in a saucepan with salted water enough to cover them. Bring it to a boil and cook until tender; about 30 min. Drain and remove the wick-like core from the cassava. In a mixing bowl, mash the cassava the same way you would mash potatoes; with butter and adding the chicken broth little by little until you reach the right consistency. Not too dry, not too wet. Set aside.

Note: you can also use frozen cassava.

For the Salmorejo de jueyes

Sauté all ingredients except the crabmeat over medium heat for about two minutes, stirring continuously. Add the crabmeat, stir, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes over low heat. Stir and let stand for a few minutes, covered.

Putting it all together

You are going to need 4-6 ramekins or similar kind.

Grease the bottom and sides of each ramekin with butter.

Make the cassava nest by pouring in enough of the mashed cassava to cover the bottom and around the ramekin; pressing firmly with a spoon.

Pour in the Salmorejo de jueyes and leave some space on top.

Cover that space with more of the mashed cassava.

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan Cheese

Bake at 375 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until  golden brown. Serve hot.

Buen provecho!

Later that evening my client called to thank me for the memories. It happened that all of her guests were Puerto Ricans and the Salmorejo de jueyes triggered a long night of anecdotes and stories among her friends. What a coincidence, it had the same effect on me while I was preparing me. A lot of good memories ran through my mind. And that’s what comfort food it’s all about.

For great party trays and dinner packages ideas visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

Grilled Sirloin Steak Marinated in Sun-Dried Tomato Chimichurri

Another great grilled steak recipe with a twist on the Chimichurri sauce.

Total time – about 1 hr 45 min including marinate and grilling time.

Yield – 4 servings

Serving suggestion – your favorite steak sides.


  • 4 boneless sirloin steaks (each about 8 oz. and 3/4 to 1 inch thick), trimmed of fat seasoned to taste.

For chimichurri:

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced


Season steaks on both sides with salt and pepper, and place in large glass or ceramic baking dish.

To make chimichurri: In blender or food processor combine all ingredients and blend until well mixed.

Cover both sides of steaks with chimichurri, spreading it evenly with spoon. Set aside remaining chimichurri. Cover dish with plastic wrap and let marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.

On very hot grill cook steaks until both sides are well browned, about 4 to 6 minutes per side. Remove and let them rest covered with foil paper.

Use the remaining chimuchurri as a side sauce for the steaks.

Buen provecho!

For great party trays and dinner packages visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

Churrasco con Garbanzos con chorizo

This recipe takes me to my youth when my dad used to grill steaks every Wednesday night. The Churrasco (skirt or fajita steak) was one of his favorite cuts and somehow he found out that the Garbanzos (chickpeas) con Chorizo mix very well with them.

Total time – about 30 min for the garbanzos and about 10 min for the steaks. Tip – prepare the garbanzos first and then grill the steaks

Yield – 4 servings


  • 4 well-trimmed outer cut skirt steaks (about 2″ thick each)

For the garbanzos

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces Spanish-style chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 ounces bacon or Serrano ham, coarsely chopped (optional)*
  • 1 small potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can chick peas, with liquid (16 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup water


For the Garbanzos

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the chorizo, bacon or ham, potato, onion, garlic, and bell pepper, and sauté and stir for 2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir for approximately 30 seconds; then stir in the chick peas and liquid.

Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the water and cover again. Continue to cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and break easily when pierced with a fork.

* If omitting bacon or ham, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt or season to taste.

For the steaks

Season steaks to taste. Skirt steaks are very flavorful so salt and pepper should be enough.

Pre-heat your grill to at least 375 degrees

Place steaks on the grill. Remember, we are grilling 2″ thick steaks so for medium to medium rare, grill them about 5 minutes each side turning them only once. Grilling them to above medium will result on a tough piece of meat.

Remove, cover with foil paper and let them rest.

Serving suggestion – pour the Garbanzos con Chorizo over the skirt steak and serve with white rice and fried ripped plantains on the side.

Buen Provecho!

For great party tray and dinner packages visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

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