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I've never thrown a pot luck / BIG party before

So I'm throwing a pot-luck BBQ for Labour Day Monday... I will be cooking at least two whole pork shoulders (pulled pork, in the oven) and a few beer can chickens, but what is realistic for me to ask people to bring? Substantial sides? Veggies? Apps? (stuff that doesn't need cooking since I only have one stove?!) I've never done this before, I'm a virgo and it's hard for me to relinquish control ;) and at the same time, don't want to end up with a party with just chips and dip...

Ok so if I have time I would also like to make a couple of sour-cream peach pies if I can find the recipe from the Food that Really Schmecks cookbook, a bunch of rum & coke grilled pineapple, and if I have time, twice-baked potatoes or Vermont corn spoon bread... see above about relinquishing control. Oh, and buttertarts.

Could anyone post a good / simple recipe for coleslaw - perhaps one with dairy and one sans dairy, I have a good friend who is no dairy, no soy, no wheat.

MANY thanks!!!

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  1. Here's one with dairy, to me it's just the right amount tangy/sweet--
    Of course you can just chop cabbage, carrot instead of using packaged coleslaw mix.
    This one without dairy
    is also very good--surprisingly good as I remember.

    1. Do an e-vite and have a "registry" of side dishes that folks can sign up to bring (be sure to include non-foodie items such as cups, plates, bottled soda, etc. , for the folks who dread cooking to bring).

      Also, take a deep breath and remember that control isn't all that it's cracked up to be. It might be the world's most perfect menu, but if you've exhausted yourself with prep and trying to get everything exactly right, you won't be able to enjoy your guests.

      1 Reply
      1. re: weezycom

        oh that's such a good idea! Nothing will be perfect about it but the bar WILL be stocked :) thanks!

      2. If it's a large enough party, which with 2 pork shoulders and some chickens sounds like it is, you don't have to tell anyone what to bring. By random chance, you'll end up with everything you need. Luck of the pot, and all that. Just tell your guests that you're providing meat, and to please bring something for the potluck. It's easier organizationally, and it allows more freedom for the other cooks.

        1. How many people? Probably quite a few since you're doing two pork shoulders.

          So you don't end up with just meat and desserts, you can ask people to bring certain things - veggie sides, salads, dessert, chips and dip, garlic bread, drinks... etc...

          Also, if you have a lot of people, I usually don't expect people to bring enough to everyone. I usually suggest 8-10 servings. There should be enough overlap where guest won't run out of food.

          As mentioned above, I like allrecipes.com, especially the feedback on recipes. I find it humorous that people post low ratings but admit they didn't follow the recipe, but that's another question. :-)

          1. I have found it easier to direct people in terms of what to bring; maybe you could create space for 3-4 different salads, side dishes, apps., and desserts and then just assign a category until all spots are filled. Doing this has spared me the curse of a meat-and-jello-salad extravaganza. This will allow you to have a modicum of control without asking for specific foods, and people can get creative while holding to a certain parameter. You may want to mention the lack of oven/stove to folks and ask them to bring dishes better served at room temperature, which is a good idea for a potluck where the food stays out for awhile. Most important; relax and enjoy your own shindig. Even if it did turn out to be meat-and-jello, y'all will have fun. Just stock the bar. : )

            1. I make a corn cobbie dish. Make your corn steamed or boiled. Then cut into about 2-3 inch pieces. Sautee in butter, garlic, lime juice, chile powder, cumin a little salt and topped with cilantro. I've added serrano chilies to the saute before also, serve with wedges of lime. Just throw them all in a huge pasta dish, cover with foil. Or a foil dish covered with foil to keep warm. Be sure to have little pick handy in a container for people to use.

              3 Replies
              1. re: chef chicklet

                This is a great idea and sounds delicious, but I'd hesitate to serve them at a cocktail party. Little picks are usually pretty flimsy, and pieces of cob corn are pretty heavy; I have the feeling people would end up needing to use fingers for a somewhat drippy food, which is never a good idea. There's also the social/aesthetic thing that has to do with a corn-loaded smile, somewhat akin to the spinach smile that we all try to avoid, right? i love this though, for picnics, family, totally casual situations with close friends. Just not in the context of a cocktail party.

                1. re: mamachef

                  so sorry. I got threads confused and responded. This is a great idea for this thread. Must get more sleep.

                2. re: chef chicklet

                  this sounds yummy. I was trying to think of a way of doing corn without having to cook whole ones, I think I will try this but cut them up first so I can fit more in the pot. thank you for sharing this.

                3. My non dairy coleslaw can go Mexican or Asian, I usually make the Mexican version.

                  I have a non mayonnaise friend. This is a coleslaw I usually throw it together and I taste as I go. Shred about half of a large cabbage. Cut one jalapeno pepper, no seeds, or leave this out. Chop about four scallions. In a very large non reactive bowl toss, the veggies.
                  Dressing is rice wine vinegar 1/3 cup, 2 tsp sugar or splenda, juice of 1 lime, and a little olive oil 1/8 cup - mix it well with salt and lots of pepper, add chopped cilantro to the salad, and toss adding a little dressing at a time. should be sweet and tart, little heat. Be careful not to overdress. I usually sit in the fridge, add more dressing if it needs it. Sometimes I add tiny tomatoes. Very refreshing.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    I make something similar and agree it is a great coleslaw.
                    So refreshing, the lime juice really makes, and I tend to add a lot.

                  2. You could ask people to bring sides that can be kept warm in crockpot/slow cookers. Sides like calico beans, mac and cheese or au gratin potatoes go well with pulled pork and roast chicken.

                    1. For a big party, ask people to bring salads or sides, and things should work out fine.

                      Personally, I really hate potlucks by registry unless it's for something really specific, like a shared Thanksgiving dinner - I figure the host either gets to ask people to bring stuff *or* to control exactly what is served, not both.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                        I totally agree that asking people to bring specifics ("Liz, can you bring potato salad? But no bacon or onions, please, remember Tom has allergies and Maria is vegetarian.") harks back to that awful T-day email that goes around every year -- you know the one I'm talking about? Hyper-controlling in-law dictates the specific ingredients of every dish her relatives have to bring, right down to the brand of cream of mushroom soup for the green bean casserole?



                        1. re: LauraGrace

                          Wow! Is that a real email?

                          All the more reason to make T-day dinner for one's own family and skip the large gatherings. However, it's mainly for the kids we get together with family that we would avoid most of the year. Cousin Jake who like punching kids. Aunt Edna and her hairy mole. Nothing wrong with sweet Aunt Edna. Just a little a little eccentric.

                          House brand vanilla ice cream is great for a gorge-fest. The kids don't care. It's all about the kids!

                      2. My group of friends does a pot-luck-type dinner at least quarterly, usually with a holiday meal thrown in there as well. The "registry" idea is a good one. You can use Facebook, an e-vite thing, or just email addresses.

                        This is super important if you're organizing by email (which I much prefer to FB or evites, incidentally, since everyone checks email anyway; that way they don't have to go to a separate site to do the arrangements) -- make sure that everyone hits "REPLY ALL" when they tell you what they're bringing. My emails usually look something like this:

                        (/begin sample) Hey all, the date of the party is _______ at the Joneses'. Sam and Jon are providing the grill, burgers, brats, and buns. Here's what else we need:

                        Non-alcoholic Drinks:
                        Grownup Drinks:

                        PLEASE HIT REPLY ALL and fill your name in on the above list with what you're bringing! Thanks!
                        (/end sample) ;)

                        Good luck! :)

                        1. I think the key is to have a good amount of everything on hand and everything that anyone else brings is supplemental. One thing I've found is that people arrive at different times and you may end up waiting a while for someone to bring the plates. Potluck implies a casualness of timing as opposed to where one person handles everything so keep that in mind. Be prepared that everyone may bring chips and dips. In fact you are halfway there with the food you are planning.

                          So make sure you have the essentials - plates, cups, napkins, and silverware as well as a decent but simple array of drinks (sparkling water, ice tea, and beer). That means people can bring a few six packs of their favorite beer to supplement and a nice bottle of wine. Or even the fixin's for a great mixed drink.

                          You've got the main course cover in spades. Add a green salad and a pasta/potato salad to feed the crew.

                          A BIG thing is to make sure there's a nominal amount of something ready for people to nibble on immediately - nuts, crudite, chips and dips. Then people aren't eyeing the chicken waiting for it to get cooked as everyone trickles in.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Dcfoodblog

                            Fair enough. I was planning on having the basics down and since I don't know who is coming when and how long this thing will go (BF said "you don't need backyard lighting it will be all in the daytime" LOL) I am planning on spreading out the cooking of the chickens (and ramping it up to 6, not 3 based on guest list now...) Thanks for the tips, and recipes!