Potluck Dishes with a Modern Twist

modern-potluckModern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share by Kristin Donnelly; Clarkson Potter

Potlucks are one of my favorite events to attend. I love sampling the wide variety of dishes while chatting with friends and family, and I consider myself lucky to know many great cooks. However, there is one aspect of potlucks that I often dread: deciding what to bring. I enjoy cooking, but with seemingly endless options as well as considering possible dietary restrictions, I frequently feel stumped. Thankfully, Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly has come to my rescue. Modern Potluck offers recipes that might differ from traditional potluck dishes, but are no less delicious or fun to share with friends.

A wide variety of recipes are featured in Modern Potluck, including variations on standard potluck dishes like deviled eggs, potato salad, fruit salad, and fried chicken. However, there are more than just updated classics. Included in the recipes are new dishes like spiced carrot and goat cheese strudel, plum-ginger coffee cake with coconut, and caramelized kimchi corn bread. The ingredients for most recipes can be found in a local supermarket, but some might require a trip to a more specialized store. The recipes are inspired by cuisines from around the world, and Donnelly cites many other cookbooks, chefs, and food blogs for much of her inspiration.

Modern Potluck is well organized and beautifully designed book. In the beginning of the book, Donnelly lists the “rules of the potluck,” which offers tips on what makes a great potluck dish, what hosts and organizers should know, and what guests should know, as well as a note about food safety. I found this to be helpful, as I have not yet organized many potlucks.

For each recipe, in addition to the serving size, Donnelly notes whether it is gluten free, vegan or vegetarian, which is helpful information when trying to accommodate different diets. She also offers “potluck prep” for each recipe, noting which steps can be done the night before, which recipes are best served the day they are made, and other important information. Beautiful photos of the finished dishes accompany many of the recipes, and photos of people enjoying the dishes at potlucks are featured throughout.

The recipes themselves are detailed and easy to follow. I tried the recipe for the mustard-cornichon deviled eggs, one of four varieties of deviled eggs offered. The recipe was easy to follow, and the deviled eggs were delicious. I was easily able to find the ingredients at my local grocery store, and the flavor was a nice change from the traditional deviled egg.  I plan to try recipes for candied bacon, flank steak lettuce cups, and lemon-berry bundt cake, among many others in the future.

Modern Potluck would best serve the adventurous chef who enjoys sharing sophisticated and delicious dishes with others. The true heart of the potluck is the time spent with friends and family, but it never hurts to enjoy delicious food.

Elizabeth Weislak works in the children’s department of the Mebane Public Library. She may be reached at eweislak@alamancelibraries.org or 919-563-6431.