With hot items going cold, badly portioned and picked-through platters, nacho dip next to brownies, and unidentifiable entrees all sharing the same table, it’s no wonder that this random buffet will impugn all the work you’ve put into your dish.
To be a stand out in this noise of nourishment, this cafeteria of chaos, you need a plan. The best potluck party has home chefs that keep the following in mind:
1) Keep It Warm – If you’re donating a hot dish, you must find a way to keep it hot. Whether a chafing dish or crock pot, assure the safety and appeal of the food by keeping it warm. If you can’t assure that your hot dish will stay hot, prepare something that is appropriate either way.
2) Transportation – Don’t prepare anything with loose sauces or that is delicately assembled. During the ride to the potluck party, sauces will shift, garnishes will fall, fried items will get soggy. Prepare items that won’t degrade during transportation.
3) Disposables – You’re never going to see that serving bowl or tongs again, understand that. Why add the stress of stalking your bowl at the end of the party? Get attractive disposables at your local party store and you won’t have to call the next day to retrieve your items.
4) Signage – You can lead the expectations of your diners by telling them what they’re eating. Create small “tent” signage for your dish and people can avoid allergy issues, or gobble it up because they are attracted to your description.
5) Presentation, Presentation, Presentation – As I said, this random buffet will have cold salmon next to cookies, string beans next to cake, so how you present your potluck party dish can have great impact. A simple doily under your cake, or colorful napkin beneath the platter will present your dish in the best light.
6) Refresh, Replenish – Potluck buffets get picked-through very quickly, making your dish look unattractive. Be prepared to stir, re-portion, or replenish your item with fresh reserves. Rather than on large casserole, consider multiple smaller ones that you can replace.
7) Be Original – Yawn! Someone WILL bring a nacho dip. Someone WILL bring salsa and a string bean casserole. Someone WILL bring wings. Create something conversation worthy at your potluck dinner and you’re the star!
8) Don’t Over-Produce! – EVERYONE is going to bring an entire party’s amount of food. Everyone won’t eat an entire party’s amount of food. Your portions should be half of a traditional entrée portion because of the wide variety of food also on the buffet.
A holiday potluck party can be great fun. For me, it can be a culinary nightmare. Please help me awake from this bad dream by following some of the ideas above to keep your buffet contribution hot, attractive, identifiable, fresh, original, and in the appropriate quantity.