America’s original potluck dates to Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock.
The pilgrims and Native Americans brought geese, turkey, boiled lobsters, venison, corn dishes and more to share at the original feast. Nearly four centuries later, we’re still celebrating Thanksgiving potluck style.
Potlucks — more a nod to practicality than history — allow families and friends to share the work and cost of the sprawling feast of thanks.
However, potlucks can be as disappointing as an overcooked turkey. Who hasn’t suffered through a potluck with two identical green-bean casseroles, mashed potatoes tasting like wallpaper paste, or stuffing jacked up with too many jalapeños?
For this Thanksgiving, we’re helping to take the “bad luck” out of potluck by offering a few tips to organize the holiday food. It starts with the host, who roasts the turkey and makes the gravy, assigning the side dishes that give this traditional holiday meal its culinary identity.
The goal: Flavors, colors and textures that mingle as well as the guests at the table. No one dish overpowers another.
Potlucks need rules, so here’s the Thanksgiving game plan:
- Turkey remains the anchor of the Thanksgiving table, and is the host’s responsibility. Count on about 1-1/2 pounds per guest. For a large crowd, roast one turkey in advance. Slice and rewarm the early bird in a little chicken broth after pulling the Thanksgiving Day turkey from the oven to cool.
- When assigning side dishes, match the recipe to the cooking ability of the guest.
- Assign beverages and the bread basket to those who are unable or unwilling to cook.
- Don’t shortchange dessert. Assign pies to the serious bakers on your guest list.
- Decide in advance whether to provide the serving dishes and utensils or ask guests to bring their own.
- Food safety is essential. Hot foods should be transported and served hot, and cold foods kept cold.
- Hosts should make room in their refrigerators for cold dishes, and keep ovens warm for hot dishes. Encourage guests to bring their warm dishes in crock pots.
- Remind everyone to take home their dirty dishes.
- Be thankful for the family, friends and food at the table.