When you think potluck dinner does it conjure images of church basements filled with blue-haired grannies and an assortment of Jello salads? Well, strike that image from your mind. Potluck dinners are making a comeback in neighborhoods all over the country.
With the economy taking a downturn many of us are trying to entertain on a budget. Gone are the expensive dinners out with friends. Gone are the catered dinner parties. More and more of us are turning to casual entertaining, the sort where we can wear our flip flops and bring the children along. What better time than to revive the potluck dinner.
In my neighborhood we have impromptu potluck dinners almost every weekend. The food is completely random, often leftovers we have had from the previous week remade into a new dish. We put all of the food out and let the kids run around and graze whenever they feel like it. The adults kick back with adult drinks and just relax. You, however, might want to be more formal and organized than us and do a bit of advance planning.
The best potluck dinners have some sort of organization by the host. That is unless you want five pans of brownies. Because isn't that usually the default dish that everyone bring to parties -- brownies. Run out of time? Brownies. Run out of ideas? Brownies. Just plain lazy? Brownies.
Some ideas for organizing a potluck dinner at your home:
1) You supply the meat for the grill. Have everyone else bring a side dish, salad, or dessert. Don't forget about drinks. I always like to ask people to bring a six-pack of their favorite beer or a bottle of wine to share.
2) Have everyone bring a different main dish to share. You supply the salad, bread, and drinks.
3) Pick a theme for potluck. A theme could be the ethnicity of the food, foods from a different color of the rainbow, comfort foods, finger foods, 1970's favorites. The list of themes is bound only by your imagination and the culinary prowess of your friends.
4) It is perfectly acceptable to assign your friends different types of dishes -- salad, main dish, dessert, appetizer, etc. No need for them to tell you exactly what they are making.
5) Request that your friends bring a copy of their recipe to share. This also helps people with allergies navigate the buffet table without having to track down the cook of each dish.
What about you? Has the economy caused you to get more creative about how you eat out or entertain? Are you a potluck pro and have some great tips? We'd love to hear from you in comments!