I'm a 20 year old student, and I'm heading to a potluck for a girl's birthday tomorrow. I want to bring something that everybody will LOVE, not necessarily anything extravagant or expensive either. The key is, I want it to be portable, crowd pleasing, and interesting.
Well, it was a roaring success!
I went for something along the lines of the cheesy potato casserole actually, but I was thinking of doing something totally homemade. The whole baking dish thing appealed to me, because I ended having to carry the damn thing a long ways between subway rides. Here's what I made (approximately... I didn't use a recipe)
Mac and Cheese with Sage and Mushrooms
I started out by making a nice roux, and adding a mixture of milk and chicken stock, to make a sort of half bechamel, half veloute sauce. Then to that I added a whole bunch of shredded Parmesan and nice orange english cheese. (I really don't remember what it was called, I basically took what the cheese guy suggested at the cheese store haha) Then, in a saute pan, I softened some sliced shallots and garlic. To that, I added a whole whack of chopped shitake and cremini mushrooms. It probably ended up being well over a pound. When the shrooms were nice and soft, I added a bunch of chopped sage and italian parsley, and dumped it into the sauce, along with a bunch of cooked macaroni. I promptly spread the works into a buttered baking dish. Then, I ripped up a couple of nice crusty buns into bite sized pieces, and toasted them up. I spread the toasty bits over the top, then topped it with more herbs and finally a nice grating of parm. The whole thing didn't even get all the way cold while I traveled over, and I just popped it in the oven for 20 mins when I got there.
I have to say, the thing that separates this from a lot of good mac and cheese is the croutons on the top. I've never been a fan of dusty, powdery bread crumbs on something creamy, I prefer smallish pieces of fresh breadcrumbs which are toasted. Then, its crispy on the outside, still a little soft and chewy on the inside, and not hard/tooth killing...
For next time:
Stuffed pasta shells.
Ground beef or Italian sausage on the bottom.
Tomato sauce in the middle.
Mozzarella on top.
Bake until bubbly.
As long as you don't overcook the shells before stuffing, they hold very well.
You can also add sliced black olives, mushrooms, spinach, Parm, etc, etc, etc.
Looks like you slaved all day, but ... nah.
It's a challenge to make protein/main dish-y things that don't have to be kept hot, so there aren't usually enough of those at a potluck. That's why I like to bring this. It's really tasty, and very portable. Using a grocery store rotisserie chicken makes it even easier to prepare. I usually kick up the cayenne a good bit more than 1/4 tsp!
Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing
1 cup white rice, uncooked
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
2 Tbl. soy sauce
1 Tbl. sugar
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp. cayenne
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, cut into thin strips
Cook rice as directed on package. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk together peanut butter, vinegar, oil, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, and cayenne. Add peanut sauce, chicken, cucumber and onion to rice and mix well. Chill. Just before serving, stir in spinach. Serves 6.
Deviled eggs - depending on clime and how far you have to go. Lots of interesting toppings to change it up. Our back up is homemade salsa w/ good chips cuz' we're heading into home grown tomato season here. Since it's a birthday consider cookies or cupcakes if you know they won't have dessert.
Look at the Ore-Ida website for "cheesy potato casserole". Full of processed foods, but, sadly, a winner at potlucks. Also, expect the cooking time to be almost doubled than what the recipes calls out (90 minutes vs 45 minutes).
Portable??? Do you mena easy for you carry to the potluck or easy for people to walk around and eat?
+ 1 - make more than you think you need... it always goes FAST. when i make it, i don't stir in the celery anymore, and serve it on the side with bread and other veggies for scooping. most often i use ranch dressing, and cheddar/jack blend of cheese, but depending upon the crowd, you may prefer to use blue cheese dressing, or blue cheese to stir in. happy birthday to your friend!