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Help--I hate potlucks!

  • c

I need your guidance more than ever, hounds. You see, I have come to hate, despise, loathe potlucks. Did I mention that I hate potlucks? I love to cook but always feel deflated and restricted by the typical non-hound American potluck concept.

Anyhow, my husband's department is having their first group gathering since he started his job there in the fall. So, I'm meeting his colleagues for the FIRST time which adds a layer of pressure and anxiety. It's a Sat. late afternoon potluck hosted at someone's house. The mains (typical grilled food) will be provided and we're being asked to bring one dish around that--app, salad, side, or dessert.

As usual, I'm at a total loss for what to bring. I don't have a signature or default potluck dish and would like to bring either an app or side; salads seem well covered right now and there are always too many (bad)desserts at potlucks. Several of his colleagues are vegetarian, and sounds like people are into healthy stuff, organics, etc.

Any ideas for something tasty, veggie-friendly, and easy to moderate effort in the app or side dish category? I'm def. open to ideas, but was thinking about a zesty, garlicky artichoke dip (have a bag of frozen artichokes) served w/ toasted baguette slices and veggies (blanched asparagus and baby carrots from the farmer's market). Anyone have a good artichoke dip recipe? Thanks a bunch for any ideas and recipes!

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  1. I would suggest you bring Bonnie's Buffalo Chicken Dip, and I guar-AN-tee you'll be the hit of the party...I've posted the recipe on this board before but if you cannot locate it, I can re-post. I know you requested a veggie dip...others I know have brought this to cook-outs also and it is gone in a short while. Mostly the guys go crazy over it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Val

      Definitely make the Buffalo Chicken Dip. I made it for the first time in January for my husband's family gathering. Everyone loved it. A month later, we had the Chicken Dip again at another family gathering because everyone loved it so much.

      1. re: Cecilia

        Thanks for this suggestion. Found the recipe and linked below for those who are interested. While it sounds like it belongs in the CH annals of crowd-pleasing recipes along w/ GG's pear tart, I'm gonna pass for this event since it has chicken. Really want to keep it veggie-friendly this time.

        Thanks for everyone's suggestions so far! I'm now thinking grilled veggie platter OR pita crisps and veggies w/ baked artichoke or caramelized onion dip. So true about how people always flock to the guilty pleasure items first!

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. re: Carb Lover

          The rule of thumb for potlucks that I've found true is that if it contains cream cheese, it'll get eaten up fast, sweet or savory. You can process together just about any flavorful ingredient with it and it'll come out potluck-ready.

          I've had good results with smoked oysters/garlic/black olives with cream cheese but since you wanted a veggie option, how about adobo chipotle/minced shallots/artichoke hearts with cream cheese? I would hand chop the shallots and artichokes and then mix into the blended chipotle and cream cheese. Include a nice array of veggies and crackers and you're set.

          1. re: Carb Lover

            I don't know if the Buffalo Chicken Dip is for the Potluck you described but I have substituted the Boca 'Chicken' patties for the chicken in this dish and it worked just fine. (in fact I liked the meatless version better)

      2. LOL! I hate them too... To put so much time and effort into a dish and have it served along side super market fried chicken. I would rather just relax myself and buy some interesting things TJs and bring that...

        The artichoke idea sounds PERFECT! Also, based on my Potluck experience, the salads will most likely be of the potato and pasta type. Perhaps bring an interesting Veggie plate and dDip. Some toasted pita chips and hummus.

        On that same note, marinated roasted veggies are always a hit. As are sesame grilled tofu sticks (Which taste just as yummy cold as fresh off the grill!)

        Regardless of the potluck thing, I hope you do have fun with your get together! :D


        1. What about a big platter of roasted vegetables? They will hold for hours, taste great at room temp, can be dipped or eaten plain. You could even add goat cheese or feta. Olives. Starting to sound like antipasti.

          Artichoke dip is always a huge hit, too. People always say they are into healthy stuff, but get them near a potluck and they'll go straight for the cheesiest, creamiest, fried things they can find.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Jess

            Just had a potluck Saturday night where my dish was simple roasted vegetables. I used a color theme of purple, orange and green (purple fingerlings, maroon carrots, brocolli, zuchinni, regular carrots and orange peppers. Fresh garlic and rosemary. Was surprised how quickly the bowl emptied. Also didn't have to worry about the temperature. Just don't overcook!

            Another item that seems to go quickly is my artichoke rice salad (can be served room temp).

            1. re: Mickie

              Can you post the artichoke rice salad recipe, please? Thanks.

          2. I LOVE potlucks...it's practically a sport in the mennonite culture - and a full contact sport at that! I'm going to one on Sunday, with a lot of elderly folks that I have never met, so I am making my favorite dead easy everyone eats it thing...

            Smush a package of creamcheese and a log of goat cheese, mix in 2 cups of chopped grapes and a handful of chopped toasted almonds. Smear on a tortilla, add a little lettuce, roll and cut.

            I find that less is more at the potluck...too true that people will head for the cheesiest, fattiest deep fried battered overstuffed thing they can find :-)

            I love the grilled veggie idea and the artichoke dip...I may have to reconsider :-)

            1. I baked and brough galleygirl's much talked about pear tart to a potluck and it was a hit.

              1. I share your intense hatred of potlucks...you're getting off easy. Just bring a bowl of vegetables a la grecque. Califlower, carrots, broccoli, celery, asparagus, barely steamed and marinated several hours in vinaigrette. (Or vinegar-garet, as Emeril might say).

                1. Do a low-brow * high-brow mash up. Just make jello shots with Precis & exotic juices/flavours and be done with it. They'd never see that coming.

                  1. This mango salsa is always a huge hit. The first time I made it, I couldn't understand how these ingredients would go together (green onions and mango???). But it is truly delicious. Can be an appetizer with chips or a side.

                    Link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: valerie

                      On a similar note: people always go crazy over fruit salsas served with homemade sweet tortilla chips. Brush tortillas with butter, sprinle with cinnamon and sugar, cut into eighths and bake on a baking sheet at 350 for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. This is always a hit!

                    2. Did I mention that I've been on a polenta kick lately? :)

                      How's this? I don't have a recipe per se, just a general idea. This is a dish that my caterer will be making for my upcoming wedding. It is so incredibly good.

                      Polenta Tarts with Mushrooms...
                      Cook polenta in good vegetable stock. I use about 2.5X liquid to polenta. Cook until it gets dry and sticky. Stir in a whole lot of gruyere (and any other, if you wish) cheese. Line a large baking dish, or even just a wood cutting board, with parchment. Pour the polenta over the parchment and smooth out. You want it about 1-2 inches thick.

                      Meanwhile, saute up some wild mushrooms. Feel free to augment with herbs, spices, cream, whatever. A splash of sherry at the end is a nice touch. Just after you pour out the polenta, pour the mushroom mixture on top and press it into the polenta a bit so it'll stick. Let cool, then cut into small squares. Serve at room temp, or warmed if you like, with a fresh shaving of parmegiano or pecorino cheese.

                      If you have a lot of time... the caterer is actually going to pour the polenta into small tart pans, let them cool, and then grill them to crisp/char the exterior before topping with the mushrooms. That's a lot more work, and you'll also need to make sure your mushrooms are saucy enough to not fall off the tart since the polenta will be dry. They are a touch better this way, but the grill-less method above I've tried a few times and it is still delicious. Either way, they are very impressive to vegetarians and meat eaters alike.


                      3 Replies
                      1. re: nja

                        Nick, congrats on your upcoming wedding...sounds exciting w/ wedding food fit for a hound! As I expected, you sound *very* involved in the food planning. Glad to see you were able to squeeze polenta into the menu. :-)

                        Your dish sounds fabulous!! Def. on the gourmet end of potluck fare, but makes me realize that not all potluck stuff has to be boring or loaded w/ cream cheese (which I like sometimes too). I like how your dish can be made during any time of year, doesn't have to be served hot, and is pleasing to both vegetarians and non.

                        That said, I'm not sure if I will use the recipe for this occasion, but know I will make it one day. Was wondering if you've ever tried incorporating the sauteed mushrooms into the cooked polenta before spreading in the pan. Certainly a more rustic preparation, and wondering how this might affect flavor and texture. If I were to do this, I'd saute the cut-outs in some butter to brown before serving.

                        1. re: Carb Lover

                          Yeah, I've mixed mushrooms into the polenta. In fact I've done fresh mushrooms as well as dried (used the soaking liquid for the dried mushrooms as the stock, which is where all the flavor is in dried mushrooms anyway). The flavor is good, but what I don't like is that the mushrooms turn the polenta a sickly brown-yellow color. So I like to keep it separate with bright yellow polenta and brown on top.


                          1. re: nja

                            Great ideas Nick, we take our leftover creamy polenta and press it into 9x12 pans about 1/2 inch thick, chill then cut into squares and freeze. For quick apps, thaw, brown in a little butter, cut squares diagonally into trianges, top with a fresh tomato "spagetti" sauce with a variety of mushrooms (or a traditional marinara) and healthy dusting of parmesan reggiano or romano. Great as a side dish as well.

                      2. j
                        janet of reno

                        Here is a good recipe for potlucks...one of my fallbacks: easy (very easy!), tasty, colorful, different, low fat (no fat really), and veggie friendly: Kachumber (East Indian Salad): Peel and cut into thin slices three or four carrots (If I can get different sizes/colors from the farmer's market, so much the better). Add two ripe tomatoes, chopped (again, nothing wrong with combining different varieties, or using cherry tomatoes). Add about a half red onion, finely chopped, and a small handful of cilantro, also chopped. Toss in a Tbsp. sugar, about 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. coriander powder. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. You can double or triple easily for a big crowd. The nice thing is that its even better if its made an hour or so in advance and left to season. Perfect for a potluck!

                        1. Here's a really easy one, that never fails to win raves, & speculations about ingredients.
                          Stuffed Mushrooms
                          Simply fill stemmed mushroom caps with 1 Tsp+ of Boursin cheese. (I use Alouette or Rondele, cause they're less expensive... garlic type, of course).
                          I sprinkle the top with smoked paprika.... that's my tweak.. Bake in preheated 375 oven for about 10-12 minutes. That's IT! They're delicious!! Satisfies the vegetarians, and the cream cheese lovers!

                          1. I think I have what you are looking for..REALLY easy, lowfat, meatless...if you want you can make your own pesto but I don't bother when I know it won't be appreciated!
                            "Lowfat Pesto Dip"
                            8 oz neufchatel cheese softened
                            3 Tbs 1% milk
                            1/3 C prepared lowfat Basil Pesto Sauce
                            beat cheese and milk until well blended, add pesto, mix well.
                            cover and refrigerate for at least an hour

                            serve with raw veggies, pita chips and/or lowfat Triscuts

                            couldn't be easier!!!

                            1. I came up with this recipe when I was asked to bring a ‘fruit thing’ to a cookout and couldn’t find a fruit salad recipe that I felt like making. It’s really different and everyone loved it!

                              Tropical Salsa w/ Sweet Chips


                              12 kiwi
                              1 large papaya
                              ½ pineapple
                              3 mangos
                              1 c. coconut
                              the juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
                              1 pkg. Wonton skins
                              vegetable oil for frying

                              Peel and dice the fruits. Toss with the coconut and lime juice. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

                              Cut stacks of wonton skins in half. Brush one piece with water and put another piece on top of it so that you have 2 layers of wonton skins. You can twist them, if you like, to make a more interesting shape. Heat oil in a skillet to about 360 degrees. Fry the skins until golden, flipping once. Drain on towels. When dry, but not yet cool, dust with 10X.

                              Serves 8 – 12.

                              Serve the salsa in a big, ice cold glass bowl and the ‘chips’ beside the bowl for scooping.

                              1. b
                                Bride of the Juggler

                                I usually make mini-kugels in a muffin pan. Any basic kugel recipe will do (noodles and eggs), then add either roasted garlic, a selection of sauteed mushrooms, or spinach. It's good for vegetarians (not vegans) because it's filling and can be a main course for them if there isn't enough other vegetarian stuff. Thank you.

                                1. You probably wouldn't hate potlucks if the food served actually tasted good! (There will be a lot of tubs of this and that from Trader Joe's...not that that's bad...)

                                  Here are a few ideas:

                                  1.) Watermelon, Arugula, and Pine Nut Salad (Epicurious)

                                  2.) Apple Coleslaw (Foodtv, Wolfgang Puck)

                                  3.) Grilled Avocado, Tomato & Red Onion Salad (Foodtv Michael Chiarello)

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Funwithfood

                                    The watermelon salad reminds me of something I saw on here years ago and still make a few times every summer - it's so good. Cut seedless watermelon into cubes and toss with a little EVO a handful of basil (cut in thin strips) and a few ounces of crumbled feta cheese. Refrigerate for a few hours, mix again and serve. Really simple and really delicious.

                                    1. re: bryan

                                      That sounds delicious.

                                  2. Tran, I was poking around at Leites Culinaria today and there was a recipe for Empanadas de Hongos that looks fantastic and simple. It calls for a white mushroom filling, but I bet made with the wonderful morels that are just coming into season or other wild type mushrooms they would be wonderful. It makes 12 main course empanadas but you could make them cocktail size. They are on my list to do soon.

                                    1. Thanks to everyone who responded to my potluck plea...glad to hear that I'm not the only potluck hater.

                                      Many great ideas and, as is always the case, I waffled back and forth til the last minute and just yesterday decided to go w/ Candy's suggestion of the mushroom empanadas (see pic below and link for recipe). Thanks, Candy. They were veggie-friendly, and I liked the idea of having a little buttery package to nibble on and figured that they would hold and transport well.

                                      As usual, I altered the recipe little by little (to suit my tastes) til it became a rather different animal, so you can try the original recipe or my version. I used a 1.25 lb. mixture of crimini and button mushrooms, 3 large leeks, and gruyere and parmesan cheeses. I did use some bread crumbs, cream, sherry, parsley, nutmeg, S&P like the recipe called for.

                                      The process was very straightforward but def. more time consuming than I anticipated since I made 36 individual empanadas. Would be MUCH easier to make the larger versions, as suggested in the recipe, if this were served as a main.

                                      Taste was quite good; you can't really go wrong. Only complaint is that the ratio of filling to pastry was too little since the pastry puffs up alot. I would make this again if I were trying to impress, but might try to roll the dough out thinner. I was imagining how it would be great w/ a savory ground beef and cabbage mixture or sweet fruit filling.

                                      Final verdict: It completely disappeared at the potluck and I got a number of compliments. Had a really nice time meeting husband's colleagues and even though there was some decent food, it still stands: I HATE POTLUCKS! :-)

                                      Link: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

                                      Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                        Another yummy pic I had to include...

                                        Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                                        1. re: Carb Lover

                                          What a nice pic! I'm hungry right now, and I wish that I could reach through the screen and grab one......

                                          1. re: Carb Lover

                                            Oh my! They look soooo good! Now you've got me craving for empanadas.