Back to the Kitchen: How to Have the Perfect Potluck Party

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Here is a great reason to throw a party: On October 24, chefs, food banks, schools, farmers’ markets, and food lovers across America will observe Food Day — a day dedicated to raising awareness and raising funds nationwide to promote healthy eating and affordable, sustainable food. It’s a great way to host a potluck and raise money for your favorite food charity  (and show off your culinary greatness, of course). I love potlucks because you have a opportunity to taste everybody’s favorite dish and nobody has to do all of the work.

Time for a potluck!

I hosted a potluck at my home this past weekend. I made a pot of lentil soup, a roasted vegetable salad, brownies and mini pies, plus some  ice tea concoctions. I waited in  anticipation to see what treats would come into my home. My Greek friend brought hummus and olives. We also had a vegan pie, roasted chicken, the most fantastic artisan feta, bread, and  a variety of salads. We even had a Hungarian wine and a chocolate wine. Every potluck I ‘ve hosted always seems to have the right amount of food, but if you would like people to sign up, check out

I hope these recipes inspire you to have a wonderful event with friends and perhaps participate in raising money and awareness about good food for all.

Noni’s Olive Tapenade

6 large garlic cloves

2 cups pitted Kalamata olives or other brine-cured olives

4 anchovy fillets

2 tablespoons drained capers

1 teaspoon each fresh chopped rosemary, thyme

3 tablespoons lemon juice

5 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse the olives in cold water (this makes the tapenade less salty). Finely chop garlic cloves in food processor. Add 1/2 the olives, anchovies, capers, thyme and rosemary. Process until almost smooth. Add the lemon juice. With machine running gradually add olive oil. Blend mixture until smooth. Then coarsely chop the remaining cup of olives and mix in. Season tapenade to taste with pepper. Transfer to small bowl. Serve with toasted French bread.


6 seeded ripe plum tomatoes, diced (when in season I love to use the Heirloom)

1 red onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2-cup olive oil

Gently combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Let stand at room temp for 1 hour before serving.

Grilled Garlic Tuna Steaks

6 cloves garlic, chopped

6 scallions with tops, minced

1/3-cup parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons dry vermouth (or white wine)

1-teaspoon soy sauce

3 splashes green Tabasco (or to taste)

4 tuna steaks, 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick.

Prepare the grill to medium heat. Mix the garlic, scallions, parsley, vermouth, soy sauce and Tabasco. Add the tuna steaks and marinade in the refrigerator for one hour. Grill the tuna steaks 5 inches over the heat for about 8 minutes per side until they are firm to the touch. Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Artichoke Dip

8-ounce package cream cheese

1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 1/2 cup sour cream

1/2-cup mayo

1 can non-marinated artichokes (coarsely chopped)

3 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon chopped dill



Few dashes Worchester sauce

Throw it all in a bowl mix it up. Put in baking dish and cook uncovered at 350 until it is bubbly and brown (about 35 minutes.) Serve with crackers, crusty bread or crudity. I must admit my favorite way to serve it is using a small round loaf of bread and turn it in to a bread bowl by cutting off the top of the loaf and scooping out the bread (save it for dipping.) Just pour the dip into the bread bowl and again bake until bubbly and golden brown. For larger gatherings (this is such a hit that I would do this for anything over 4!!!!!) double the recipe and use a large round loaf. I also buy a little extra bread and slice it as it goes fast.

Basic Fried Chicken

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

6 drumsticks

6 chicken breast halves with skin and ribs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 cups (about) peanut oil

Mix buttermilk, 2 teaspoons salt and pepper in large bowl. Add chicken; turn to coat. Cover; chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
Remove chicken from refrigerator. Line two baking sheets with paper towels. Mix flour and 3/4-teaspoon salt in shallow dish.
Add enough peanut oil to 12-inch skillet to reach depth of 1/2 inch. Heat over medium-high heat to 375°F. Remove 6 chicken pieces from buttermilk mixture. Dip in flour mixture and turn to coat; shake off excess. Add chicken, skin side down, to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; cook until brown, about 12 minutes. Turn chicken over. Cook uncovered until cooked through, about 5 minutes for breasts and 10 minutes for legs and thighs; transfer to paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Emma’s Party Pasta

1 pound pasta shells, cooked & drained

1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges

3 green onions, chopped

1 red pepper, sliced thinly

1 cup sliced black olives

1 cup toasted pine nuts

1-pint cherry tomatoes

Juice of 4 lemons

1-cup olive oil

5 shakes green Tabasco

1 bunch fresh basil, chopped

Mix dressing in a bowl with wire whisk. Pour over all ingredients and marinate overnight.

Asian Chicken Salad

For the dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together:

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1-cup peanut butter

1/4-cup soy sauce

1-cup rice wine vinegar

1-tablespoon wasabi paste

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

crushed red pepper to taste

In a slow steady stream add:

1/4-cup sesame oil

1/2-cup canola oil

For the salad:

2 pounds chicken breasts, poached (see below)

3 cups white cabbage, shredded

3 cups red cabbage, shredded

2 large carrots, peeled, grated

4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

Toss together and then lightly dress.

A note on poaching chicken breasts

This is the simplest way to cook chicken breasts. (It even works for the frozen breasts in a bag.) Everyone says that my chicken is so tender. Place the breasts in a pot. Fill to cover with cold water. Add what ever you have and like. Garlic, salt, pepper onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, white wine. Bring to a boil and remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes. It will be the most amazing chicken ever.

Peanut Noodles

1 pound dry pasta- spaghetti or angel hair

1-cup peanut butter

3 tbsp. sugar

1/2-cup soy sauce

1 tsp. chili pepper flakes

3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

3 tbsp. minced garlic

3 tbsp. canola oil

Garnishes- slivered carrots, green onions, red pepper s, fresh cilantro, and sesame seeds, toasted peanuts

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water. Drain the noodles, let stand and use the warm pot to make the sauce. (It helps with the thickness of the peanut butter) Wisk the rest of ingredients until blended. Mix in the pasta. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Before serving toss with the garnishes of your choice.

Orzo and Feta Salad

2 boxes (16 ounces) orzo pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups feta cheese, diced

2 cucumbers, diced

2 red peppers, diced

2 pounds asparagus, grilled and chopped

2 cans large olives, sliced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1-cup basil, chopped

1-cup virgin olive oil

1 cup lemon juice

Splash green Tabasco (to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté 1 box of the orzo until golden brown. In a large soup pot bring water to a boil and cook all orzo until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Once orzo has cooled, in serving bowl mix orzo, olives, feta, red peppers, cucumbers, asparagus, parsley and basil. In small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice and green Tabasco. Mix into salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and chill before serving.

Soybean and Corn Salad

6 cups edamame, shelled and cooked

5 cups corn, off the cob cooked and cut or frozen, cooked

2 red bell peppers, finely chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

3/4-cup limejuice

1 tablespoon cumin

Salt to taste

Mix all together. Taste. Adjust the lime. Unfortunately limes vary greatly in there flavor and juiciness. I always buy a few more than I need.


1  1/2 sticks butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)

1/4-teaspoon salt

1/2-teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1/2-cup flour

2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces

3/4-cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a nine-inch baking pan with bakers joy.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and nuts and chocolate chips. Bake for 45 minutes let cool completely before cutting into squares. You can then cut the squares on an angle for little triangles.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies. Check out her websites www.Backtothekitchen.netand She wrote a weekly food column for the Sun Community Newspapers.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.