Lazy Hostess: Potluck Chic
From Notes on a Party
With cooler days ahead and tougher financial times to come, it’s no surprise that potluck dinners are making a swift comeback.
With the chicest social types embracing the concept of hosting a party where their guests get a hand in the entertaining, the potluck dinner has been elevated from its simple bring-your-own-dish status to a creative group dining experience. Of course, The Lazy Hostess loves the idea of easy home cooking with any army of sous chefs in tow.
Here are some fresh ideas and tips for hosting the modern day potluck:
Divide and Conquer
With so many (literal) cooks in the kitchen, you, as the host of the party, need to give some clear direction to make the night run smoothly. The more you plan your group menu in advance, the better the final outcome. Break the food and drinks into categories like appetizers, entrees, dessert and bar so that guests can tell you what they’d like to bring. Make sure you have enough guests in each category so that you don’t end up with just wine and pie for dinner!
Take the Lead
As the dinner host, you need to provide the foundation for the meal. This means that you should prepare and serve an entree dish that will anchor the night’s menu and provide a significant amount of food for your guests. Don’t forget that it’s your responsibility to provide the basic supplies for the party including dinnerware and cutlery, napkins and serving utensils. If you need more supplies, try ordering eco-friendly items from Sustainable Party, which carries cups, plates, forks and more. For the bar, you will need glassware, ice, garnishes, mixers and bar tools.
Style Your Food
With food arriving throughout the night and in a variety of containers, you need to have a system to organize everything. If you have extra serving platters, transfer the food from the plastic containers they arrive in to more aesthetically pleasing options, like the porcelain collection at Crate & Barrel Designate food stations for appetizers and salads, entrees and desserts to keep access to the buffet less congested. Set up a separate bar so that guests may help themselves.
Select a Theme
To avoid a hodgepodge of dishes and to simplify the assignment for guests, select a theme for the night. Some of the more popular themes are Italian or Indian night and Chili Cook-Off (where various guests bring their best pots of chili for guests to taste). For something more original, use a favorite film (Like Water for Chocolate) or a specific cookbook (Julia Child) for your event and menu inspiration.
Don’t Slave, Slow Cook
Potlucks call for hearty food that can be easily prepared, shared and served. A true Lazy Hostess short-cut, we like to use a slow cooker to create savory food with less time in the kitchen. Whether you are making soup, stew, cassoulet or chili, a slow cooker will let you quickly prep your ingredients, throw them into the pot and then leave for up to 8 hours while it does everything else (which means perfectly cook and meld together all those delicious flavors!) Our absolute favorite is All Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker which has a non-stick interior pot that can be removed for stove top cooking as well as for serving at your table.
To get you started, here is one of our tried and true recipes, originally from Real Simple and adapted for preparation in a slow cooker.
Turkey Red Bean Chili
2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 can diced tomatoes (14 ½ ounce)
2 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained (15 ½ ounce)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
Place a non-stick pot over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, stirring well, and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Transfer the pot back into the slow cooker (if using the All Clad) or transfer contents of pot into the slow cooker. Add the broth, chili powder, cumin, tomatoes, beans, salt, and vinegar. Still well. Close lid on slow cooker, set on lowest heat and leave for up to 8 hours.
When ready to serve, offer your guests garnishes including shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped jalapeno and chives as well as sides like corn bread or crunchy tortilla chips.