Potluck is not a dirty word, so why do we feel guilty even saying it? Potluck parties are not cheap, nor lazy. I mean, Lady Gaga potlucks, so clearly it's hip and happenin'. Potlucks rule for the following reasons:
We’re busy!! Though we’d LIKE to make the entire meal ourselves, from scratch, our hectic lifestyles kind of make this impossible.
The last time I looked in my wallet I found a maxed out credit card, two quarters, gum and some lint. Entertaining is a luxury not everyone can afford.
With some direction, most guests don’t mind bringing something—as long as it’s not terribly time consuming or too expensive.
It’s fun to get everyone involved—it’s a real community party when everyone injects a bit of themselves into the festivities.
In the case of the classic potluck dinner, there can never be too many cooks in the kitchen. Potluck parties take the pressure off the host. Not a confident cook? No problem, it’s a group effort.
Now that we’ve established that potlucks parties are fabulous, how do you go about asking guests to bring something? And furthermore, what should you ask them to bring??
You'll feel more confident asking people to participate in a potluck when you have a theme, so here are a few suggestions:
Music To Your Mouth – a perfect potluck theme for music lovers. Ask guests to bring one dish that is like music in their mouths (this would be their favourite dish, something so yummy it makes them want to sing!) You may suggest that guests contribute something they love to make or a dish they’re known for. Decorate the buffet table with sheet music, record albums, CDs for coasters, etc.
Fondue – this menu works for pretty much any theme. For example, a black and white movie night...call it a “Henry Fondue” Party (Henry Fonda). Or for laughs, ask each guest to bring the cheesiest photo of themselves from decades gone by to adorn the fondue table and call the party “Extreme Cheese.” Click here to read more about how to host a fondue potluck.
Soup and Salad Potluck – The host provides the soup —a chowder or bisque perhaps. Assign each guest a salad item or two i.e. romaine, cooked bacon, gourmet croutons and olives, grated cheese, shrimp, diced chicken, seeds or toasted nuts, bread and butter, roasted red peppers and baby corn, etc.
A “Stick it” Potluck or Satay or Shish-kabob Soiree - advise guests how many guests are coming and ask them to bring 1-2 skewers of a tasty food on a stick per person. Cooked chicken satay with a savoury dip, fruit kabobs and a yogurt dip, etc. Click here for more shish kabob ideas.
Chili Bar - An easy meal for a casual get-together. Assign guests sides and toppings for your yummiest chili.
Panini Bar - Assign each guest a sandwich filling. Cheese, meats, roasted veggies, Panini buns, etc. Assemble on a table with condiments and a grill. Guests put together their sandwiches and grill ‘em up themselves. Provide a few salads or a soup on the side (make these yourself or assign these items to guests).
Decade Potluck – Perfect for a milestone birthday party. Ask guests to bring something reminiscent of the era when the host was born. If the 1960’s is your decade of choice, simply Google “1960s menu ideas” or “1960s appetizers” and you’ll find lots of great ideas! Here’s a good place to start -> foodtimeline.org
Mexi Fiesta – Assign each guest a component or two for a fajita or taco buffet i.e. refried beans, Spanish rice, chips and salad, tortillas, sour cream, shredded jack cheese, grilled diced chicken, guacamole. Serve Corona and margaritas! Here’s a great idea for a buffet friendly, Mexican dessert --> allrecipes.com
Memory Lane - Blast-From-The-Past foods like traditional Mac and Cheese, apple pie, "Hungry Man Dinners," chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes and gravy, etc. make this comfort food party a winner.
What does the host provide? A welcome drink, prepared ahead and ready to pour and one-two hot offerings premade, ready to pop into the oven and serve. Hot cheese dip, cheesy garlic bread, puff pastries or spring rolls are easy and tasty options. You might also provide something more substantial like lasagne or beef sliders or any main course to compliment your theme choice. Be sure to tell your guests that their dish is welcome whether it’s homemade or store bought. *See point #1.
Party On Mother Potluckers!