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Fall/Halloween entree that is good at room temp?

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So I signed up to bring an entree to my office's Halloween potluck, which will be at lunch time. I do not have a big crock pot, so whatever I make would need to be good at room temp. I also think it can still be appetizer-esque, as long as it's substantial. 4 other people are also bringing entrees, and about 7 bringing appetizers. I will have to prepare the night before.

I was thinking maybe some kind of wings? Or a more hearty pasta salad? That doesn't scream fall to me though.

So, what say you CHers? Any suggestions?

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  1. You could do a hearty pasta salad that uses, say, roasted butternut squash and pancetta... I'm getting excited thinking about such a thing! Let me know if you need a recipe.

    You could also make crostini using roasted pumpkin (or butternut squash)... roast them, blend them up with a little spice and perhaps a touch of cream. Toast your crostini. Then when you serve it, you spread on the puree and top with crumbled goat cheese.

    Roasted Root Veggies also do really well at room temp. Roast a couple of big trays of them the night before (I also could give you a recipe), let them cool in the fridge overnight. Then bring them the next day but let them come to room temp.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Tom P

      I would love a recipe for that first item. Doing roasted squash or veggies would be especially easy because I could do it well ahead of time.

      1. re: juliejulez

        Instead of pasta salad, I'd do a lentil salad - heartier, goes well with roasted squashes/root vegetables, and can be a truly substantial entree if you add meat. Google Saucisson aux lentilles for lots of ideas. I've posted my own version on Chowhound several times as well - I use roasted butternut squash, fennel and onions with kielbasa and plenty of fresh herbs, dressed with tangy vinagrette.

        1. re: biondanonima

          Agreed, lentil salad is wonderful! You could also do barley or farro, both wonderful as well. I love goat cheese with all of them.

        2. re: juliejulez

          Here is what I would do - although I agree Blondanonima that lentils (or farro or barley) would be even better.

          1) Roast your butternut squash, cubed into bite sized pieces, at 400. Toss it before hand in olive oil, salt, pepper and either sage or thyme or rosemary. About 25 to 30 minutes. Make sure you don't go too far, you want it to stay looking like a cube in the salad.

          2) Dice up some pancetta (if you have a Trader Joe's in your area, they sell it in a carton already diced, it is genius) and fry it over medium head until crisp. Drain on paper towels.

          3) Prepare your base: pasta, lentils, farro or barley. If you do any of the last three, use chicken broth, rather than water, to give it more flavor.

          4) Make your dressing (see below)

          5) Toss it all together (your base, the squash, the pancetta) with some diced red onion (adds a nice bite and a beautiful color) and, if you like, toasted pine nuts. I love crumbled goat cheese in this. I would bring the goat cheese on the side to work and re-toss one more time, with the goat cheese, before serving.

          DRESSING

          4 parts olive oil to one part sherry wine vinegar. (red wine will do if need be)... add the juice of a lemon, some thyme, salt and pepper, a few cloves of garlic minced, and a really healthy dollop of a good mustard. I like it with a grain but whatever is fine. Just no French's ;) I love French's mustard for certain things but not here. Shake it all up and use. Taste to see how much mustard you want in the dressing.

          1. re: Tom P

            Great thank you, this sounds very easy. I'm not a huge fan of lentils (legumes in general really) but the barley idea sounds good and seems more autumn-like than pasta for some reason.

          2. re: juliejulez

            This salad would also be great (I know the title says "warm" but it's lovely at room temp): http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/0...

        3. if it can be vegetarian, an orzo salad with roasted butternut squash might be nice. Maybe something like this: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/roa... ? I'd crumble some feta on top before serving.

          Another option might be something like a chili that you put in small enough containers that you can microwave them at work, then put into a larger container for serving. Maybe some cornbread on the side.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ninrn

            Chili was another item was considering but didn't think it would work since I didn't have a crockpot... didn't even occur to me to have it in smaller containers that I could reheat in the microwave... DUH!

          2. pasta salad isn't an "entree".

            sausage and peppers do fine room temp. some bread as a side.

            bastilla or spanakopita would work nicely too.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I think pasta salad could be an entree if it was substantial enough. Since I'm one of 4 entrees for maybe 30 people, it doesn't need to be a full size entree :)

              1. re: juliejulez

                I've done pasta salad as an entree, it had different kinds of meats in it, salami, pepperoni, charsiu. It all disappeared no complaints

            2. I made these for a potluck recently. I add shredded kale too. They were wonderful and were fine at room temp.

              http://ohmyveggies.com/recipe-buttern...

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodieX2

                I saved these to my Pinterest, even if I don't make them for this I want to make them for myself, thanks!

              2. A hearty salad I love for fall is a combo of blue potatoes, sweet potatoes and ham with dried cranberries and a chutney viniagrette; the colors are beautiful, and the addition of ham makes it substantial enough to offer as an entree as part of a pot luck buffet. I have also stirred in a chiffonade of spinach at the last minute for even more texture and color contrast.

                Here is a good jumping off point, but I do like a combo of not sweet potatoes along with the sweets, and then add a ham steak cut in slivers to bring it into the realm of 'entree'.

                http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                1 Reply
                1. re: gingershelley

                  this sounds wonderful!

                2. Quiche is good at room temp. You could do one with roasted butternut squash cubes and caramelized onions.

                  1. One of my favorite "pot-luck" dishes is Balsamic Glazed Chicken Breasts (based on Hearty Boys on the Food Network from several years ago). I'd add mushrooms and garlic to the recipe, which I think kind of fits with the Halloween/Fall theme. Easy to make and people love it. If you don't have a way to keep it warm, bring it in multiple casserole dishes and gently reheat in the microwave.

                    1. I once took baked potatoes to a potluck (baked an hour in my oven in the a.m. while I was getting ready), kept very warm in a "little tote" cooler that was never the same afterwards (warped) so perhaps instead use an insulated bag or a roaster wrapped in layers of newspaper and a cardboard box. Served with a small 10-servings tub of shredded BBQ beef (or your chil) that could reheat in the microwave, shredded cheese, butter and sour cream, salt & pepper.

                      You could also ask one of the appetizer folks to swap with you (they bring entree, you bring app), or ask whether anyone has a large crock pot they'd be willing to loan you the day before.

                      1. A bit of a departure from what I'm seeing (all great suggestions) but these can be assembled very quickly on a baking tray, popped in the oven while you get ready for work, foil & go. They keep fine @ room temp. Or assemble the night before and bake while you shower :)

                        And a great way to stretch the cost of ingredients.

                        Mini hot pastrami sandwiches on mini appetizer rye (the square loaf). Butter the breads, cut and layer the pastrami, swiss & sauerkraut, line them up on a foil lined tray; bake at 325 until the cheese melts; make a quick mustard dip. Wrap, pack & go.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: HillJ

                          I am loving the little sandwiches idea. I need to do these for a get together. You always have such great ideas HillJ.

                          1. re: Jerseygirl111

                            Thanks Jerseyg. I make these along with the hard salami coins (thin sliced, baked in the oven til crisp) and buffalo wings Thai style during football and hockey season :)

                        2. If you have a way to keep it level while carrying it, I'd buy and bake a Costco chicken pot pie. They are double crust, 12" in diameter. Bake it in the morning before leaving for work. They are very good. If you wrap it well it will still be a little warm by lunch. They have enough salt that I do not worry about food safety.

                          1. Thanks everyone, these are some great ideas! Part of me thinks I should just break down and buy a crock pot, it's not like they're expensive. I especially liked the baked potato idea and if I had a crockpot I could bake them at work in the morning. The crowd is not a "foodie" crowd so something like the potatoes, everyone could put what they want on them. I wish I knew what the other entree folks were bringing... once we're closer I'll have to ask.

                            I should have also said in my OP that cooking something the morning of would also be difficult. I have to be at work that day at 730am, and it's about a 40 minute drive so I'd have to get up super early to cook something that morning. It normally only takes me about 25 minutes to get ready.

                            Keep the ideas coming!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: juliejulez

                              A fun presentation for either the lentil/barley salad or chili would be to use a very well cleaned hollowed out pumpkin. I did that last year with a roasted pumpkin soup, just fill right before serving

                            2. Do you have access to a microwave at work? I've made both lasagna and macaroni and cheese for work pot lucks and have had success reheating them in the microwave.

                              If you do break down and buy a crock pot, I think the chili is a good idea, or pulled pork and also have buns available for sandwiches.

                              I had someone in my office bring chicken salad sandwiches on slider sized buns for a pot luck once, and they seemed to work out. You of course would need to be able to refrigerate these before serving, though.

                              Good luck! My office also does a Halloween potluck every year! :)

                              1. do you have a WIDE mouth thermos? (borrow?)

                                i say wide-mouth cuz the regular work-contractor big guy thermos' with narrow mouth are hard to fill and then more difficult to clean if used for more than tea or coffee

                                so - wide mouth thermos - heat your chili or soup - and go to work.

                                make something definitely in the fall / autumn - Hallowe'en harvest theme for sure. Do you grow pumpkin / squash in your garden? Do you live near farmstands? That would be great if you could grow and cook and take to your colleagues.

                                ps - this is what i mean by "wide mouth" - i think i have one of this brand as well as the traditional Thermos brand
                                http://www.amazon.com/Thermos-Nissan-...

                                lots of great ideas already suggested

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Georgia Strait

                                  No, no thermos like that :( Not sure it would be large enough anyway for the amount of people. No squash in my garden... my "garden" this year consisted of two potted pepper plants that only produced miniature sized peppers. I have a black thumb. There are some farmstands around here but they're starting to close up shop already... we had snow on Friday! I can usually get some good butternuts at the regular store though, at least I could last year.

                                2. wild and brown rice salad with cubed apples and/or dried cranberries, toasted pecans, goat or feta or bleu cheese, roasted squash chunks, in an apple cider vinaigrette (i like to include ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and a dash of allspice), with your choice of vinegar (balsamic, champagne, red wine, or apple cider vinegars all work wonders; throw in a dash of spiced cider, your seasonings, a little maple syrup or brown sugar whisked in thoroughly). can include browned off mild italian sausage or chunks of roasted chicken if you desire. it's filling, balanced, and yummy - warm, cold, OR hot. easily made veggie or vegan by subbing tempeh for meat and dropping the cheese if need be. easy to ensure gluten-free; can serve nuts on the side with a spoon as "croutons" to make sure it's safe for anyone with nut allergies.

                                  1. I ended up on this thread because I've got to do a "one dish" supper for about 12-15 people. Usually a large crock pot is just big enough for them, assuming I have a side dish as well, if its just that then I have to use both my large and medium crock pots (christmas gifts.) After reading this I'm probably going to do some kind of pot pie thing, but I can keep mine warm. I don't think it would be a good cold dish. I have great success with pasta dishes, pretty good with rice casseroles, and surprisingly with just a huge tray of various sandwiches. Not so much the fried rice. Right before the holidays everyone is watching their weight and don't want the carbs (but will eat the pasta, go figure.) I've even done the costco meatballs in grape jelly and bbq sauce, although they liked them better the time i did them in yoshida's gourmet sauce (basically a teriyaki sauce.) And there is nothing wrong with a tray of sliced ham or ham and turkey. Easy to prepare ahead, and can be served at any temperature. I've also done a mexican/chili casserole and a chicken enchilada casserole. Both were fine at room temperature, but would have been better warm. Don't plan on being able to use the office microwave. Everyone else has the same idea. Or if you do, heat things up really hot ahead of time (mid morning at the latest) and wrap it in towels to keep the heat in. Just when you thought it was safe to put away the beach towels for the season. And hey, you would be surprised how many people have a nostalgic fondness for mac and cheese.