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Plan a Potluck
A potluck is the antithesis of fancy. Instead of a virtuoso performance by a kitchen goddess, it requires a communal effort by a group of friends. If the people you know like to cook, such a party is a great way to share the effort—the shopping, chopping, and pot scrubbing.

When planning a potluck, your job is to make certain that you do not wind up with 12 baguettes for dinner and nothing else. Divide the meal into categories—appetizer, drink, salad, vegetable, bread, fruit, dessert—and assign one (or more) to each guest. Be clear but not controlling. Do not, for example, tell your neighbor to bring the exact white bean salad that appears on page such and such of a certain cookbook.

One very nice bonus of a potluck is that it allows you to splurge on great ingredients. You might not spring for a whole tenderloin of beef if you are also providing appetizers, wine, side dishes, and dessert for your guests. But $90 doesn't seem so extravagant when it's the sum total of your tab.

The other hidden benefit is that your guests will feel invested in the outcome of the party. Instead of showing up wanting to be fed and entertained, they will arrive prepared to contribute to the meal's success, and there's no better way to ensure that everyone has a great time.

The Menu

You supply:
Grilled tenderloin of beef with fresh herb vinaigrette

Guests bring:
  • Vegetables for grilling
  • Bread and cheese
  • Tossed green salad
  • White bean or grain salad
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dessert
  • White and red wine
  • Soda, water, juice
  • Beer