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Main Dish without heating for potluck

Need to bring main dish for 10-12 on Thursday for office potluck lunch. We have a small refrigerator that will be packed with everyone (90 people!) stuff. There is only a small microwave, so no heating possibility. I could keep a salad or some such dish cold in my car (it's 20-30 F here). The only think I can think of is a cesar salad with grilled chicken. Would like something a little more interesting and unusuual. Any thoughts? Thanks!

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  1. One of my favorite prepared food establishments makes a great pasta salad they call Chicken ceasar pasta salad. They use fusili or penne, and toss it will shredded grilled chicken, red and yellow peppers, green onions, cherry tomatoes, perhaps some fresh arugula, and a garlic-y ceasar salad dressing, topped with lots of fresh grated parmesan.

    I have copied this recipe many times, varying the ingredients based on what was looking good in the market and every time I serve it every drop is gone. It is fresh, tastey, filling and different.

    I have also served Ina Garten's roasted vegetable pasta salad with shrimp and feta cold, at room temp, or warm and it also gets eaten up quickly.

    1. How about one of those hollowed-out bread rounds, inside lid and bottom slathered with pesta and/or tapenade, then layered with mortadella, genoa salami, roasted red peppers, ham, deli chicken or turkey, provolone, sliced mozzarella, whatever combo you like. Put the lid back on, wrap in plastic wrap, weight it overnight in the fridge. It's great at room temp. Easier to cut if you have an electric knife.

      I've used long loaves before, but the round seems to hold together better. Stick a small skewer in each slice if necessary.

      Or how about something in a crockpot? Corn/potato/bacon chowder. You could take containers of cold soup, but them in the crockpot on low in the morning, and by lunchtime it should be warmed up. Check at 11:00-ish and turn up a bit if it's not quite there yet. I bet folks would appreciate something warm. Don't forget to take a ladle. I hope the office is supplying plates, flatware, and in this case styrofoam cups.

      2 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          great idea and doesn't even need the fridge - the flavors meld so nicely and since there is no mayo - ok at room temp. We do this for camping trips, just wrap tightly in saran wrap.

      1. Do you have a crock pot? I've brought mine into work and used it to reheat chili, swedish meatballs, stew and sausage and peppers for potlucks.

        1. Braided bread stuffed with antipasti, or whatever cold cuts you want. It looks like this:


          You can be as creative as you want, use tapenade, different cold cuts, cheeses. It's good with whole hard boiled eggs.

          1. What about a Thai-style beef salad? A little more unusual than chicken Caesar.

            1. I frequently bring a Thai noodle salad with peanut sauce. It's mostly pasta with some chopped napa cabbage, red pepper, shredded carrots and crushed peanuts. It's OK to keep this at room temperature.

              1. Do you have a toaster oven? It could do a bunch of satay skewered meats.

                1. hubby just had a potluck at work and brought in pulled pork, done in teh crock pot the night before (we pulled it in the am) - mixed in bbq sauce, then put on serve to keep warm til lunch - brought several bags of little buns so everyone could make a little sandwich.

                  1. How about a quiche-like object? (crustless quiches are easier and quite popular lately, which could make it even easier!) My personal go-to variant for potlucks where I'll have to transport to the office is a spinach-ricotta pie, with spinach, eggs, ricotta, parmesan/feta, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Instead of phyllo or pastry dough, I use pizza dough (trader joe's, even, if I'm in a rush), roll out a round of it and put in the bottom of a 8" or 9" cake round, fill it up with filling, top with more dough and crimp together, bake in a nice hot oven so the dough gets nice and brown and crusty. If you're assiduous about squeezing out all the liquid in the spinach, it rests well without soaking through the crust, and can be enjoyed at room temperature. Very easy and looks impressive!

                    1. Thanks for the suggestions so far. Not to sound like a wimp, but I park in an outlying parking garage and would have to schlep everything for 10-15 min walk to large office tower and up to my floor. Not going to bring crock pot, toaster oven or anything else as shopping bag with stuff and laptop bag will be plenty.

                      The Thai beef salad sounded interesting - is there a recipe? The Chicken pasta cesar salad sounded a little better than just boring cesar with chicken. Please keep your suggestions coming, thanks!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                        Diane - I will try to send you the recipe for the Thai beef salad this evening, Basic ingredients are flank steak, lime juice, fish sauce, green cabbage, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, and cracked black pepper (maybe also some rice vinegar, cannot remember).

                        1. re: masha

                          Thai-Style Beef Salad

                          A. Dressing

                          3 cloves garlic, minced
                          1 1-in. piece of fresh ginger, minced
                          1/2 cup lime juice
                          3 TBS fish sauce (or vegetable oil)
                          3 TBS sugar (optional - I leave out)
                          2 TBS finely chopped roasted peanuts (optional - I usually omit)

                          Wisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.

                          B. Steak
                          1 Flank Steak
                          1 fresh chili pepper, chopped finely
                          1/4 cup cracked or coarsely ground pepper
                          3 tbs Kosher salt.

                          1. Combine chili pepper, black pepper and salt thoroughly.
                          2. Score steak and rub pepper/salt mixture into both sides, pressing down so that it adheres to steak.
                          3. Grill or broil steak until medium rare. Rest.
                          4. Slice steak on bias into thin strips, and then cut each strip into bite size pieces.

                          C. Salad
                          1/2 head medium green cabbage, coarsely chopped
                          1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
                          1/2 cup basil leaves
                          1/2 cup cilantro leaves
                          1/3 cup mint leaves

                          Combine cabbage, red pepper, basil, cilantro, and mint in large serving bowl. Add steak. Add dressing and toss to coat.

                          If you are making this ahead, you probably will want wait to dress the salad until you are ready to serve the salad. I usually serve this when the meat is still tepid but I am sure it would work at room temperature too.

                          1. re: masha

                            Sounds great masha, i'm going to have to make this soon!

                          2. re: Diane in Bexley

                            My favorite picnic pasta dish:
                            1 lb. gemelli or penne pasta, cooked
                            1 28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
                            3 cloves garlic, crushed
                            olive oil
                            salt and pepper
                            grated parm. cheese
                            Handful of sweet basil chiffonade

                            Add all to pasta that has cooled slightly, adding the cheese and basil at the end. This dish will take more salt, pepper, oil and cheese than you might think. Add and taste. It's delish, and can be made the day before. You can also add shredded cooked chicken (even store-bought rotisserie chicken).