Last weekend we hosted a gathering of my cousins on my Dad’s side. There are six of us who grew up near each other in Ontario, all children of three brothers who emigrated to Canada from Belgium in the 1950s. Every few years we and our collective significant others get together to enjoy each other’s company and keep the family spirit alive. This involves much laughter and loud conversation on topics both deep and frivolous, and of course food!
Being me, originally I was planning to make all the food for our reunion, but one of my cousins kindly pointed out the insanity in this approach and suggested I make the event a potluck. I came to my senses, sent out a group email asking everyone to ‘reply all’ with what they would be bringing, and immediately felt more relaxed.
My mission was to provide the meat dishes for the carnivores in the crowd. So, several nights before the big day I simmered ribs and then froze them, ready to toss onto the barbecue when the big day rolled around. (Post to follow!) I already had hamburgers in the freezer, from a big batch I’d made ahead while I was on vacation in May.
The day before, I slow-cooked a pork butt in Cuban mojo sauce using Karen’s recipe over at the excellent blog Back Road Journal, then shredded it and stored it in the refrigerator to be heated up before the dinner.
On the big day I was feeling relaxed enough to bake an olive oil and red grape cake as a back-up to the dessert one of my cousins was bringing, and take a trip to the store to buy a selection of fruit as an afternoon nibble.
The event got going with a couple of different veggie and dip trays, my bowl of fruit, and a big pitcher of sangria to lubricate the conversation. Good start! I wish I’d taken a picture of that sangria – it was a work of art, chock full of fruit and ruby red. (Actually, I do have a picture of it, but the pitcher’s pretty much empty – it was good and a much appreciated offering!)
There were two beautiful salads, one featuring asparagus, sugar peas, sweet potato and chickpeas, and the other mixed greens with nuts and fruit.
We had a big basket of multi-grain buns, and a delicious broccoli and cheese dish.
To go with my Cuban pulled pork, I dressed purchased (make life easy!) shredded cabbage and carrot with a spicy lime vinaigrette for a zesty coleslaw.
For dessert, there was a fabulous pistachio and cream confection that was so good I completely forgot to photograph it. That’s a shame, since it was so pretty! And, of course my cake, which I got an image of before everyone arrived and things started hopping.
Considering I had 12 people over, this was an incredibly easy party to throw. Major thanks to my cousin for suggesting the potluck! It’s a pleasure to cook for others, but sometimes it’s smart to take some of the pressure off yourself, and also give others the pleasure of contributing some of their favourites to the menu. As the host, I was still fairly busy, but had much more time to visit and enjoy my cousins’ company than if I’d tried to do it all alone. Everyone rose to the occasion with flair, and we had a very good dinner indeed!
What’s your favourite potluck offering?