These parties are always great fun and share out the workload amongst the guests. Follow these tips to make sure you have more than luck on your side.
Organise The usual custom is for whoever is hosting the party to co-ordinate who brings what. You don’t want to end up with four lasagnas. Some use a group email to liaise with their guests as to who brings what, others just straight up tell people what to bring. Opt for whatever works for you and cause the minimal amount of confusion for guests.
Cater for everyone Make sure every guests’ dietary requirement can be accommodated. If you have a guest who is vegan, lactose intolerant as well as allergic to nuts then get them to bring a dish that they can eat and they will have to make do with that plus the salad for the evening (remember – whilst the food is always nice to eat, the main point is the socialising).
A theme, perhaps? Veteran potluck hosts will introduce a theme after a while to make things more interesting and to help avoid that feeling of de ja vu. Always keep in mind your guests’ cooking abilities and budgets. Some usual and more unusual themes include: Greek, Italian, desserts-only and an under the sea theme.
Check your equipment Is someone doing a soup? Do you, as host, have soup bowls and spoons? If not, tell them. They can bring their own or they may have to hire them in (or not do soup!) Think about your oven space as well and get guests to let you know how they intend to cook and serve their dish. Potlucks do require planning!
Come prepared Similarly, good potluck guests know that part of the deal is bringing their own stuff for their dish that they will have to clean and deal with when they get back to their house. Bring your own trivet or heatproof matt, too, to place under your dish if needed.
Plates vs bowls To be honest, even though we have already mentioned soup, that’s a bit of a nuisance to bring to a potluck party. Ideally, everything should be eaten off a plate. If it needs a bowl, forget it. Save that recipe for your next dinner party.
Is it appetising? People don’t have to try your dish. It’s buffet style so you want your dish to look appetising. Know your crowd and avoid doing things that are super garlicky, overly spicy or contain weird ingredients.
Don’t forget the veg Many potlucks I have been to are awash with meaty, creamy and heavy dishes. What was lacking from most is a nice crunchy vegetable dish, salad or lighter accompaniment. These are just as important as the main dishes.
Label it Hosts should provide food flags or tented cards to place in front of each dish to label what it is, together with any key ingredients that those will allergies need to know about (i.e. contains meat, fish, nuts, dairy etc).
Guests don’t have to bring food Task a guest or two with bringing the drink, maybe even paper napkins, decorations, the flowers or candles. (Hint: this is a good trick for those who aren’t known for exemplar cooking skills!)
Originally written for the Middle East’s leading lifestyle magazine ‘Fatafeat’ (November 2015 edition).