Original recipes for crowd-Pleasing dishes that travel well
By Jane Marie
When hosting a dinner party, Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten has one rule: “The first thing I do is plan to make two things and then assemble the rest. I make something like risotto and maybe some wonderful roasted asparagus to go with it. Then I go out and buy a dessert. That way, I keep the focus on spending time with my friends.”
The real advice here is to prioritize. What’s really important? The same logic can be applied to attending a potluck: When someone asks you to bring a dish, what they’re really asking is for you to help them save on time and hassle, and a gracious host would never expect you to take that hassle on yourself. So they’re also asking that it be easy—for everyone involved. And that you not crowd their stove or oven!
Consider three things when deciding what to bring to a potluck: ease of preparation, amount of impact on the host’s kitchen space and time, and how well it travels in the car. Of course, your 2014 Traverse offers a class-leading 116.3 cu. ft.* of maximum cargo room and best-in-class space behind the third row, plus up to 12 cup holders—that’s a lot of potluck.
Before we get into some recipes—and some ideas on how to transport them—here’s a party tip you’ll want to forward to your family and friends: If possible, tote your offering in a dish that can be left as a gift to the host or hostess. Tape a little handwritten note they’ll find on the bottom when they go to wash it. They’ll appreciate the thoughtfulness and you’ll appreciate not having to cart home dirty dishes.
And now for the food! Here are three templates—for easy appetizers, a versatile side and a surefire dessert combo that are sure to move your household name to the top of any potluck invite list.
The best of these require no cooking—maybe just a few minutes in the microwave—and allow you that opportunity to gift the host a beautiful serving dish or chip-n-dip tray. They’re also super easy to travel with—everything in its original container straight from the store to your car to the party.
1 can crab meat
1 8oz. tub of whipped cream cheese
1 jar prepared cocktail sauce
1 box Carr’s Table Water Crackers
Load all three into a shopping bag along with a pretty little bowl. When you arrive, spread the cream cheese in the bottom of the bowl and top with a layer of crab and a layer of cocktail sauce. Surround the dip with crackers and watch it disappear!
1 15oz can refried beans
1 8oz package shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 8oz tub guacamole dip
Layer the beans and cheese in the bottom of a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for two minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with guacamole and serve with chips.
Warm Brie and Fruit
1 medium round of brie cheese
1 jar fruit compote or chutney
1 cup mixed unsalted nuts
When you arrive at the party, unwrap the brie, place on a plate and microwave for two or three minutes until just soft. (If there’s space in the oven, 20 minutes at 350 is even better.) Then top with the fruit and nuts. Serve with apple slices and crackers.
1 loaf of bread, cubed and toasted into croutons
1 cup cream
1 cup chicken stock
Mix your wet ingredients and toss with the croutons. Now it’s time to get creative by adding the flavors of your choice. Many combos of meats/vegetables/cheese will work depending on what main is on the menu. Try cooked Italian sausage, frozen broccoli florets and shredded fontina if the host is serving Italian. Mushrooms sauteed with garlic and crumbled goat cheese works well with French or American meat dishes. Roasted Brussels sprouts with dried cranberries is another option. Once you’ve chosen your fixins, spread in a greased 13x9 casserole dish—but not any old dish! This Pyrex set includes a lid and insulated carrier perfect for keeping dishes contained and warm during your drive. Bake at 350 (in your own oven before you leave!) for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown and set.
Admittedly, “shortcake” is a misnomer here, but the taste is reminiscent. Pick up one loaf of pound cake at the grocery store along with two cups of whatever fruit is in season—peaches, berries, melon—and a can of whipped cream. Before you leave your house, chop the fruit and mix with 1/4 cup sugar plus two tablespoons of cointreau or framboise in a Ziploc container. Carry to the party in a shopping bag. When it’s time for dessert, slice the loaf into half-inch pieces, arrange the slices in the bottom of soup plates, top with a generous spoonful of your sugared fruit and a dollop of whip. You’ll have no spills in the car and nothing to bake in the kitchen, but with this presentation, who could tell?
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Jane Marie is a former public radio producer, current writer and editor, and future coffee table book author.
Photo by Getty Images
*Cargo and load capacity limited by weight and distribution.