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Potluck Showstopper Needed

Family reunion is coming up. Typical fare is delicious, but nothing too surprising. There are always doubles (at least) of 9 Bean Salad, BBQ Meatballs, Chicken Wings, Hye Rollers, chili and too many desserts to mention.

Last year I brought summer rolls and they were well received. This year I'm not coming up with anything stellar. I just want it to be something a little different.

Considering the Lox dip with sliced bagels from
(sounds very yummy


Any other suggestions?

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  1. Are you leaning towards hot or cold?

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Leaning toward cold, but hot is also doable.

      1. re: WhatThePho

        Oops, forgot: how many people? Any budget?????? (I always have a budget!)

        1. re: c oliver

          Weellll the number of people is thus far a rough estimate. Probably around 50. But Grandpa has 11 siblings so the sky's the limit. Either way, there is ALWAYS way too much food. :) I made 25 rolls last year. They were cut in half but all disappeared. Could make more food this year I guess...

          Budget is around 30 or 40 bucks. About what I'd spend on meat and cheese platters.

    2. heh :) i grew up on bagels, lox (actually nova) & cream cheese so of course that sounds wonderful to me...but it seems like it would be out of place with the other dishes you mentioned.

      how about a charred corn salad inspired by elote (Mexican grilled corn)? or a really killer guac? or a nice & vinegary German potato salad?

      14 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Out of place I don't so much mind. I get the feeling I'm not the only one who gets a little bored with the food at these things. :)

        Guac is on my mental list too. Thanks!

        1. re: WhatThePho

          well, if you want to do something unexpected or non-traditional with the guac, look at the varieties on the menu at Momocho restaurant in Cleveland. Guy Fieri featured it on an episode of DDD, and i wanted to get on a plane *immediately* and try EVERYTHING...


          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            guacamole / smoked trout / bacon / chile poblano

          2. re: WhatThePho

            Ah, so you've got some non-weinie eaters? What about $30-40 of steak tartare?

            1. re: c oliver

              Tartare? Ah! I have never had tartare. Carpaccio, yes.

              Beef source?
              How do I keep it cool?
              What happens when great aunt Judy stuffs herself sick of potato salad and blames my tartare?

              c, stop being more adventurous than me!! :) No, don't.

              1. re: WhatThePho

                I'm struggling to find a recent recipe. I'll check with some Chow-friends and get back to you. I'm older than most, therefore more adventurous.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Well that's really why I came here to ask. It's not a complaint. :)

                  There is a three hour drive between me and reunion, but I have a kitchen at my disposal when I arrive. If I keep the beef uncut and on ice till I arrive it should be doable. Yes?

                  I am looking at the chow.com recipe right now. Not so frightening.


                  I wonder what the old folks will say about raw beef at a potluck? Heehee, I am giddy in a terrified sort of way.

                  1. re: WhatThePho

                    I can't remember if I've actually fixed this or only talked to people who have :)


                    Yeah, I'd definitely assemble just ahead of time and serve in a bowl on a bed of ice.

                    They're not ALL old, are they? Wait! I'm 63. What do you consider old?

                    1. re: c oliver

                      The members of the Dozen that are still with us are all 85+, and their spouses. Actually the kids of that generation are the ones I worry about. Early retirees who mostly eat at family style restaurants. Grandpa's younger at heart than they are. They will probably not let him eat this as they feel he is fragile. (he stopped cutting his own firewood last year..draw your own conclusions)

                      If you were making this yourself, would you do the cutting of the sirloin yourself or ask your butcher to do it?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        And many many many more people with common sense will be there, which is why I'm considering this at all. :)

                        1. re: WhatThePho


                          I hope this opens alright. I had to take a circuitous route to it :) alanbarnes is one of my main go-to's when it comes to meat. I wouldn't have the butcher do it but that's just me.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            the link works, and nice sleuthing! sounds good to me :) i'm definitely for adding fresh parsley at the end - Italian flat leaf, minced *very* finely.

                  2. re: WhatThePho

                    Keep it cool: place it in a bowl in a bowl of ice.

            2. I just made this red cabbage cole slaw with apple, mint, and cinnamon tonight, and it was fantastic.


              Actually, I didn't even make the pickled carrot & daikon part, which would make the dish even more interesting. The sweet/sour dressing with red wine vinegar, sugar, zippy mustard, cinnamon, and mayo is killer. I left the peel on the green apple which was very pretty mixed with the red cabbage, as was the green mint. I didn't include the raisins (guest pref) but I think they would be great too.

              I found the sweet/sour dressing utterly addictive! Yum.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                That sounds like it could be just the ticket to top a pulled pork sandwich. Maybe with a sesame ginger barbecue sauce?

              2. What about a terrine? I like this one from Nigella. It's much better than you'd think, great when the flavors have had a chance to meld and very pretty. Serve with crackers or bagel slices if you're into the bagel idea.


                1 Reply
                1. re: chowser

                  I bet that looks gorgeous when it's done.

                2. just had a random thought...since you were considering the salmon spread first, and now the discussion has turned to steak tartare, how about a compromise...tuna tartare? i had an *unbelievable* rendition at Gotham Bar & Grill in NYC with miso, ginger, shiso leaf and a cucumber salad.

                  ooh, you could do an escabeche!

                  i know, i get way too excited about these projects :)

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I also love salmon tartare seasoned with a wee bit of sesame oil, soy, lemon juice, toasted black sesame seeds (I've gotten overly fond of those. Paired with small cubes of avocado seasoned pretty much the same way.

                    ETA: I make the salmon tartare with smoked salmon not raw but that would be fine also for me.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Ah.. that MIGHT just be the perfect happy medium. Smoked salmon might tempt this group a bit more than tartare. Just safe enough.

                      So now, do we serve it with toasts? What kind? Would wasabi fries be over the top?

                      I'm thinking tartare gets moved to one of my vino parties with the girls. You're all effing brilliant.

                      1. re: WhatThePho

                        I think smoked salmon would be great. I'm not sure about tartare sitting around at a potluck for hours, especially in the summer. You could serve smoked salmon on endive leaves or even cucumber rounds, peeled like zebra stripes. Or, maybe on crostini. If you're thinking wasabi and smoked salmon, you could do deviled eggs w/ that, although I have done a smoked salmon capers deviled egg for a potluck that disappeared in a second. Second to a bacon, tomato and cheese deviled egg.

                        1. re: chowser

                          I'm liking cucumber rounds. I'm gonna think more today.

                          1. re: WhatThePho

                            I hate cucumber so I'm resigning from your family :) I've recently been using some crackers (there are a number of brands) that I describe as having the thinness and mild flavor of a communion wafer :) Not everyone here will know what I'm referring to.

                            I think if whatever the salmon is being served from is sitting on a bed of ice, it will be fine. I'd just have the cucumbers (blech ) or crackers or whatever in a bowl or something beside it with tiny spoons or spreaders (Crate & Barrel has them cheap)

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I'm away from home for a few days but this MIGHT be a recipe I've fixed. The "tartare" is put into little new potatoes.


                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Not quite tuna tartare, but close - how about ahi poke?

                      It's a traditional Hawai'ian dish made with raw (or occasionally seared) yellowfin tuna marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil. Ono grindz!

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        i was thinking poke as well...or ceviche. but i decided to try and exercise some restraint before Pho's head started spinning with all the additional possibilities!

                        but forget that idea now. suddenly i'm also thinking about gazpacho...tomato gazpacho, white gazpacho with grapes & almonds, gazpacho with avocado...

                    3. I think that veggies are under represented and missed at most potlucks. At least that is the way it seems when I bring my ratatouie. I cook the summer veggies; zuccini, summer squash, egg plant, tomatoes, onions, and anything else that strikes my fancy without water, first sauteed in a touch of olive oil, and then simmered covered until they are almost a mush. I also throw in fresh herbs, basil for sure and whatever else looks good in the garden. It looks terrible and tastes divine. I put the whole thing in a cassarole dish and melt in some cream cheese and top with some gruyere, which I melt in the oven. I've seen huge dishes of it disappear in moments at fairly small potluck gatherings. It even tastes good cold. I think maybe we crave those nutrients. In any case, it is cheap enough to make in the summer especially if you've hit the farmers market and bought local and organic like you should.

                      1. I often fall back on Nigella's easy watermelon, feta, and black olive salad. It's unexpected and just delicious. I'm finding fabulous seedless watermelons here in NY and if you use one of those it will be even easier.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Pat Hammond

                          I love this salad as well, but after the first time I made it for a gathering, I learned not to combine the feta & black olives until the very last moment before serving. The salts in them make the watermelon bleed out if added earlier.

                          1. re: weezycom

                            Excellent. Thanks. I do the same thing!

                        2. my 2 cents: I love to take Ratatouille to an event like this. It's easy to make a hugh amount ahead of time, carries well, tastes better the next day, won't spoil sitting out on a picnic table all day, and it's delicious.

                          I would NOT be taking/making tartare anything (or carpaccio) foran outdoor meal in hot weather, and especially where elderly people are present. Too many possibilities for problems.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: ChefJune

                            I don't see where the OP indicated that the meal would be outdoors...

                            I recently made a roasted green & yellow wax bean salad that is delicious and can be made ahead; if you can't find yellow wax beans, just use all green beans.... you can find the recipe and pic of the dish here http://www.inspiredbymarzetti.com/Sid...

                            1. re: Cherylptw

                              Recipe sounds good. But link does not work.

                              1. re: karykat

                                Not sure what happened but here's the recipe:

                                Roasted Green & Yellow Bean Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, Crispy Country Ham, & Cornbread Croutons

                                ¼ pound country ham, very thinly sliced
                                1 ½ cups prepared cornbread, diced
                                Non stick cooking spray
                                1 cup water
                                1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
                                3/4 pound fresh green beans, ends removed & halved
                                3/4 pound fresh wax (yellow) beans, ends removed & halved
                                1 tablespoon vegetable oil
                                ¾ cup Marzetti Roasted Garlic Italian Vinaigrette
                                1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
                                ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
                                1/8 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed
                                Pinch black pepper
                                ¼ cup red onion, shaved or thinly sliced
                                1 cup cherry tomato halves

                                Preheat oven to 375F. Degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or baking paper; lay the pieces of ham onto one of the baking sheets. Spread the diced cornbread on the second baking sheet in a single layer; lightly spray with non stick baking spray and place in the oven for 3-5 minutes, turning croutons over or until lightly golden and dry. Allow the ham to dry out until crispy like a potato chip or about 10 minutes. Remove both baking sheets as they cook and set aside to cool.

                                Meanwhile, add the water and salt to a large oven proof skillet; bring to a simmer and stir in the beans. Bring to a simmer, stirring for three minutes then drain liquid from skillet. Toss in the oil, coating the beans well then put skillet in oven, cooking for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

                                In a large bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette, Dijon mustard, rosemary, mustard seeds and pepper. Stir in the beans, onions and cherry tomatoes. Just before serving, crumble the ham and fold into the salad. Spoon into a serving dish and garnish with cornbread croutons. Can be chilled prior to serving or served at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.

                            2. re: ChefJune

                              I agree: Ratatouille. On the Chocolate and Zucchini website, she has a recipe for roasted vegetable ratatouille which could not be easier, and is fabulous. You throw the vegs into the oven rather than saute them -- this method really brings out the sweetness of the vegs and uses less oil.

                            3. How about some form of chaat - an Indian category of snack/street food that can contain a variety of ingredients. A nearby Indian restaurant often has chaat on its buffet. My favorite has chickpeas, sweet onion, yogurt, cucumber, mildly spiced, with grapes and crunchy bits like crumbled Triscuits. Here's one for fruit chaat: http://hubpages.com/hub/Fruit-Chaat-R...
                              This reminds me that a long-gone Indian place I loved had one that was a mix of grapes,diced apples, onion, cucumber, canteloupe, and watermelon in what I think was sweetened rice vinegar. Sounds odd but was refreshing and addictive.

                              1. How about a nice Mexican Shrimp Cocktail? Here's a link for a similar version I have enjoyed at restaurants. Some may balk at the use of Ketchup but I prefer mine that way. Serve in goblets or martini glasses with saltines and fresh avocado once you arrive to your destination. A nice Modelo beer would be a nice side too :)

                                1. If you want to do vegetables, how about Ina Garten's Roasted Vegetable Torte? It has been really well received when I have made it for guests. There are pictures and reviews here: http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/Ina-... The beauty is that it is served cold, can be made ahead and is really quite attractive. I have never tried it with goat cheese [as suggested on above site] but think it would be good and expand the number it would serve.

                                  1. I really like to bring Indian-inspired marinated tandoori chicken legs by making a paste out of yogurt, garlic, cayenne and a little garam; they can be stored and grilled on-site and served with a good dipping raita of yogurt, garlic, lemon, cucumber, tomato, cilantro and onion. These are great served up with grilled pita and a pilaf-style chilled rice salad, maybe with some cubed zucchini, currants and pinenuts tossed in? Or raisins and almonds? i do like the poke and tartare ideas, but I've got to tell you that the age of the crowd concerned; I'd save those for a younger, more cocktail crowd and serve the tartare with fresh homeade potato crisps for a showstopper of an appetizer. Cubed pork marinated in teriyaki and then grilled with a peanut/coconut sauce would also be delicious served in pita with some spinach, or on rice which you could also prep. in advance and bring to the site. Last off, bbq briskets that you start the day before at home, slice into the sauce, wrap and transport; great with a good slaw (we add peanuts and crushed pineapple to ours sometimes) and halved, herbed grilled potatoes.