Why Lasagna Is the Worst Dish to Bring to a Potluck
We love a bubbling casserole of pasta and cheese as much as you do, but there's a case to be made for shaking things up at your next party. Here are five amazing alternative ideas.
An Easier Way to Deliver Hot and Cheesy Deliciousness
It's not that we don't adore lasagna—but we have to admit that the return on investment for this crowd-pleasing classic is pretty low (if you're making it from scratch). You spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, only to watch the lasagna be gobbled up in minutes. Save this pasta bake for a night when you can savor it at home (and enjoy the leftovers for days)—and try one of these other recipes the next time you have to bring something to a party. They're from Amy Thielen's new cookbook, The New Midwestern Table
, which brims with 200 recipes for the rustic, soul-tugging cuisine of Thielen's potluck-centric childhood in Minnesota.
First up is this homespun "hotdish," an update on the famous chicken-wild rice combination. Thielen makes a simple, fresh mushroom sauce instead of using the traditional canned cream-soup base, though she still calls for a topping made from Ritz or Keebler Club crackers.
Get the recipe: Classic Chicken and Wild Rice Hotdish
A Self-Serve Favorite They Expect, with an Unexpected Twist
Small meatballs bobbing in what Thielen calls "vaguely Asian sauces" were a big part of social events when she was growing up; they're great because you can keep them warm in a crock pot and guests can help themselves with toothpicks. This delicious take hews fairly close to the original; the meatballs are made with pork and the sauce is tomato-based—but Thielen deepens the flavor with two surprising ingredients: fresh lime juice and a bit of fish sauce (which doesn't taste like fish, but rather lends a salty complexity).
Get the recipe: Sweet-and-Sour Potluck Meatballs
A Salad That's Not "Just a Salad"
The stacked salad is another potluck stalwart; also known as the seven-layer salad, it can be the most interesting-looking and widely appealing dish on the table. Somehow, when everyday ingredients—in Thielen's version, beets, potatoes, carrots, eggs, peas and canned tuna—are spread in layers in a glass bowl, they become a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.
Get the recipe: Seven-Layer Russian Salad
A Meaty, Low-Cost Side That Goes with Almost Anything
Baked beans have deep roots in the potluck circuit; they go with many of the standard party foods (hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken) and are one of the most economical ways to feed many people. Thielen believes the best baked beans rely on quality meat for flavor, so she uses an assortment of slab pork (or slab bacon), smoked turkey and pork sausage. A crunchy mantle of buttery bread crumbs on top makes the dish irresistible.
Get the recipe: Deluxe Baked Beans with a Crumb Top
The Throwback Appetizer That's Still Going Strong
We've seen many iterations of deviled eggs, but few are as over-the-top as these. Thielen named them with an image of a glitzy 1980s Midwestern steakhouse in mind; they have a heady mix of savory flavors, from Worcestershire sauce, bacon, lemon and a totally unexpected twist: crisp, iridescent nori, aka dried seaweed. She swears pairing bacon with seaweed is a surefire way to win over any skeptics.
Get the recipe: Steakhouse Deviled Eggs
Next: Quick breads and coffee cakes you can make in no time