Not Your Mother' Potluck Dish

Christine Dalziel

5 Stars

October 7, 2016

Whether it’s a family picnic, a church supper, or a work potluck you want the dish you bring to be easy to prepare, healthy, inexpensive, and most of all memorable.  You want people to ask for the recipe.  You want people to come back for seconds.  You don’t want to have any leftovers to bring home.  Leftovers at a potluck are public rejection.  You want them fighting over the last serving, not passing it by for the dish next to it.

I was at a church potluck last year that really shocked me.  I was in the city.  We’d spent all day travelling to get there.  We brought a chocolate bundt cake for the dessert table.  Our dish may have been the only homemade dish at the potluck.  A pot of white rice was made in the church kitchen.  The other dishes were bought at the store on the way to the potluck.  Noodle salad, broccoli and beef stir fry, green salad, fruit plate, veggie plate, pastries, and cookies, all still in their Costco wrappers, lined up on the long tables. It was a new experience to see a potluck made up of store bought prepared food.  Plus it was expensive for the people who stopped by the store on their way to the potluck.  No one would be asking for the recipes at this potluck.  Anyone could pick the same dish up at Costco next week.  There was no uniqueness; no surprises.

Yes, it was quick, and convenient.  But was it tasty? Memorable? Inexpensive? Healthy?  What if there was a book that would give you creative potluck ideas so you didn’t need to spend all day searching the internet for the perfect potluck recipe.  What if the recipes in the book were easy to make so you didn’t have to spend all day cooking? What if they were guaranteed to be beautiful, tasty, and memorable so that your friends would ask you for the recipe?  What if they were better than your mother’s best potluck dish?  That’s what I thought as I was reading Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly. 

What are the hallmarks of the “Modern Potluck”?

  • More vegetables and plant based foods
  • Meat, dairy, and eggs from humanely and sustainably raised animals
  • World cuisine flavours
  • Whole food not processed food
  • Less fat and cream, but not faux healthy versions


What makes a great potluck dish?

  • It’s crowd pleasing but not eccentric or weird
  • It will hold up on the buffet table
  • It is simple, with no more than 3 parts

Think a salad with dressing, a cake with whip cream, a main dish casserole with green sauce, taco chips with salsa, bread with butter and jam.

Modern Potluck has recipes in several categories from main course, to salad, snacks, dips, and drinks.  Casseroles get a chapter by themselves, as do slow cooked main dishes. 

In the chapter on sweets a few of the dishes caught my eye.  Apple and Pear Crips with dates and halvah makes a 9 x 13 inch crisp (p. 204).  The dates are added to the filling with the peeled and cored apples and pears.  The halvah is added to the streusel topping along with the butter, flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger.  Doesn’t that sound fabulous?  I would assemble the dish early and then bake it just before the potluck, so that it is still steaming hot when I arrived to the event. 

Another exciting sweet dish is the Apple Sauce Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake that’s perfect for fall and early winter gatherings.  The bundt cake is made with whole wheat flour and includes black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and 2 cups of applesauce, plus a 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips.  Um, how many cups is that?  It is topped with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar (that’s icing sugar, fellow Canadians!)  There’s even a vegan variation that uses chia seeds in place of eggs. 

Potluck is my favorite method of entertaining.  When you do potluck everyone will have at least one dish they can eat, no matter what their special dietary restrictions are.  The host simply needs to clean the house, put the coffee and tea on, and have a main dish ready.  Everything else can be brought by the guests.  So as you come to this season with less work and more time to visit with friends, and you need to prepare a potluck dish, have a look through Modern Potluck, Beautiful Food to Share, and be inspired.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Modern Potluck from Blogging for Books.  This review represents my honest review of the book.