Whether you’ve got all your sisters with you or not, big family gatherings don’t have to be stressful. A little planning makes for an easy-breezy meal, one where you can enjoy reconnecting with the people who matter most. Read on for our top tips for making the most of getting everyone together.
- One cook, one pot – The best dishes for potlucks are hearty one-pot dishes. Think a crock pot of simmered beans; a big bowl of potato salad; cool, peanut-dressed noodles with veggies; dips, and spreads.
- Make-ahead meals – Try to serve something that doesn’t require last-minute cooking. Soups, pasta bolognese, curry, salad dressings, and any homemade sauce with bold spices or flavor enhancers (like peppers, onions, or garlic) actually taste better after a day or two of sitting in the fridge. When you make ahead, you can reheat just before you’re ready to eat. That way, as the meal gets closer, you can focus on the smaller, fresher meal details like slicing raw fruits and vegetables for a salad or putting the final touches on your bruschetta.
- Don’t overdo it – It’s easy to cook more than you need when cooking for a group. A great way to keep this in check is to stick with four dishes…at most! Feel free to spread it out however you like, whether you want one of each: hors d’oeuvre, main, side, and dessert, or two mains with salad and dessert, you can mix and match however you like!
- Balance is everything – Keep in mind that temperature, flavor, and ingredient variance makes for an expertly balanced meal. Consider the Japanese rule of five — five colors, five tastes, and cooking with five different methods (meaning raw, boiled, sautéed, grilled, pickled, braised, roasted, etc.). This ensures all kinds of interesting textures, a gorgeous palette of colors, nutritional variety, and enough flavor variance that even the pickiest of eaters will find something they love.
- Not everything has to be scratch-made – occasionally you just don’t have the time to make every element from scratch. Instead, find a favorite jarred olive tapenade, pre-made fresh pasta, local hummus, or seasonal jam from your local market (or farm to door delivery service, oh heyyy!). The rest of the party won’t likely know, and more importantly, won’t care.
- Large Family-style meals mean large serving dishes – take inventory a day or two before. If you’re missing something, don’t hurry to buy a platter you don’t love. Just call a friend or family member and borrow one! (Remember…leftovers are a great way to say thanks!)
- Cook what you know – this is the golden rule to preparing a stress-free large-party dinner: only cook what you’ve cooked before. If you don’t know what it’s supposed to taste, smell, or look like when it’s finished, skip it. Go with an old favorite — chances are everyone else will love it, too!