Potluck Dishes To Please Crowds And Cooks Alike

Chris Kimball of PBS' 'America's Test Kitchen' has a new book of classic potluck recipes. i i

Chris Kimball, host of PBS' America's Test Kitchen has a new book of classic and heirloom recipes for potluck dishes. AP/Keller and Keller hide caption

itoggle caption AP/Keller and Keller
Chris Kimball of PBS' 'America's Test Kitchen' has a new book of classic potluck recipes.

Chris Kimball, host of PBS' America's Test Kitchen has a new book of classic and heirloom recipes for potluck dishes.

AP/Keller and Keller

Potluck dinners, as anyone who's been to one knows, can be anything but lucky. It doesn't have to be that way — just ask Chris Kimball, host of PBS' America's Test Kitchen. For his new book, Kimball and his editors collected their favorite recipes for sharable treats.

Kimball brought NPR's Renee Montagne a sampling of dishes from the new book, Cook's Country Best Potluck Recipes.

In the potluck spirit, we reached out to Morning Edition listeners via Facebook and asked them to share their favorite potluck stories online. The responses included one from Sara, who works at the University of Florida — where she encourages foreign students to share a dish from their home country.

"We've had some good, some bad — and some just plain weird," she says. "The chicken feet stick out the most with me."

Kimball says that if you'd rather use a different part of the chicken — perhaps just an egg — nothing says "potluck" like deviled eggs.

The name for the spiced eggs goes back to the 18th century, Kimball says.

"But the funny part is that in a church, they wouldn't call them deviled eggs — they called them 'dressed eggs,'" he says. "Because they did not want to use the word 'devil.'"

Kimball's recipe for deviled eggs includes sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, spicy brown mustard — and a tip for hard-boiling the eggs.

"We found that if you put the raw eggs in cold water; bring it up to a boil; put the top on and let it sit 10 minutes; take it out and put it in ice water immediately," he says, "you don't get that greenish tinge."

Here's a sampling of recipes from Cook's Country Best Potluck Recipes: Foolproof Deviled Eggs, Lazy Daisy Cake, Lexington Pulled Pork, Texas Sheet Cake, 24-hour Picnic Salad, Cowboy Caviar, Drunken Beans and Maple Sausage & Waffle Casserole.

24-Hour Picnic Salad

24-Hour Picnic Salad
America's Test Kitchen

Frank's is our favorite brand of hot sauce. If using a hotter brand, such as Tabasco, reduce the amount to 1 tablespoon.

Serves 12

Salad

1 medium head iceberg lettuce, cored and chopped rough (about 6 cups)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped

1-1/2 cups frozen peas

4 celery ribs, sliced thin

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 medium cucumber, halved, seeded, and sliced thin

1 pound bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

1-1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese

Dressing

1-1/2 cups mayonnaise

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons hot sauce (see note)

2 teaspoons sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons pepper

1. For the salad: Place half of lettuce in large serving bowl and sprinkle with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Rinse sliced onion under cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Layer onion, eggs, peas, celery, bell pepper, and cucumber over lettuce. Add remaining lettuce to bowl, sprinkle with remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and top with bacon and cheese.

2. For the dressing: Combine all ingredients and spread dressing evenly over top of salad. Cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Remove plastic wrap and toss until salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve.

Drunken Beans

Drunken Beans
America's Test Kitchen

We prefer a dark Mexican beer, such as Negro Modelo, but any lager or ale will work in this recipe. Andouille sausage may be substituted for the chorizo. Make sure to soak the beans overnight in water to cover.

Serves 4 to 6

8 ounces chorizo sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 onion, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 pound pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained

1 (12-ounce) bottle dark Mexican beer (see note)

5 cups water

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

Salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

1. Cook sausage in Dutch oven over medium heat until browned, about 8 minutes; transfer to paper towel–lined plate. Cook onion in sausage fat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans, beer, and water and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until beans are just soft, about 1 hour.

2. Stir in sugar, chipotle, and 1 teaspoon salt. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are completely tender and sauce is slightly thickened, about 50 minutes. Return sausage to pot and simmer until sausage is tender, about 10 minutes. (If mixture becomes too thick, add water.) Stir in cilantro and lime juice and season with salt. Serve. (Beans can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 4 days.)

Foolproof Deviled Eggs

Foolproof Deviled Eggs
America's Test Kitchen

To center the yolks, turn the carton of eggs on its side in the refrigerator the day before you plan to cook the eggs.

Makes 1 dozen filled halves

6 large eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sour cream

1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard (such as Gulden's)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Place eggs in medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill medium bowl with 1 quart water and 1 dozen ice cubes. Pour off water from saucepan and gently shake pan back and forth to crack shells. Transfer eggs to ice water with slotted spoon and let cool 5 minutes.

2. Peel eggs and slice in half lengthwise. Transfer yolks to fine-mesh sieve and use spatula to press them through sieve and into bowl. Add remaining ingredients, mashing mixture against sides of bowl until smooth.

3. Arrange whites on serving platter and fill with yolk mixture, mounding filling about 1⁄2 inch above whites. Serve immediately.

How to fill deviled eggs

Getting the filling into the cooked egg white can be a messy ordeal. A pastry bag fitted with a large star tip makes beautiful deviled eggs, but who has this sort of equipment at home? We found that you can "pipe" the filling through a large plastic storage bag. Force the egg yolk mixture into one corner of the bag, and twist the bag to keep the filling in the corner. Using scissors, snip off about 1/2 inch of the corner of the bag. Squeeze the bag to pipe the filling through the hole into the egg whites.

Make Ahead

You can make the deviled eggs up to 2 days in advance. Wrap the peeled egg-white halves tightly with a double layer of plastic wrap, and place the filling in a zipper-lock plastic bag (squeezing out all the air). Refrigerate until ready to fill and serve.

Lexington-Style Pulled Pork

Lexington-Style Pulled Pork
America's Test Kitchen

Boneless pork butt (also labeled Boston butt) is often wrapped in elastic netting; be sure to remove this netting. To test the meat for tenderness in step 4, stick a fork into the top of the roast, then remove it. If the fork comes out with little or no resistance, the roast is ready; if the fork is difficult to remove or picks up the roast, the roast isn't ready.

Serves 8

Pork

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons pepper

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 (4- to 5‑pound) boneless pork butt (see note above)

4 cups wood chips, soaked, drained, and sealed in a foil packet

1 (13 by 9‑inch) disposable aluminum roasting pan

Sauce

1 cup water

1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. For the pork: Combine the paprika, pepper, brown sugar, and salt in a bowl. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and rub it evenly with the spice mixture. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 1 day. (If refrigerated, let sit at room -temperature for 1 hour before grilling.)

2a. For a charcoal grill: Open the bottom grill vents halfway. Light a large chimney starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (75 briquettes; 41/2 quarts). When the coals are hot, pour them into a steeply banked pile against one side of the grill. Place the wood chip packet on top of the coals. Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and open the lid vents halfway. Heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 5 minutes.

2b. For a gas grill: Place the wood chip packet directly on the primary burner. Turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 15 minutes. Turn the primary burner to medium-high and turn off the other burner(s). (Adjust the primary burner as needed to maintain the grill temperature around 325 degrees.)

3. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place the meat on the cool part of the grill, away from the coals and flames. Cover (positioning the lid vents over the meat if using charcoal) and cook until the pork has a dark, rosy crust, about 2 hours. During the final 20 minutes of grilling, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.

4. Transfer the pork to a roasting pan, cover the pan tightly with foil, and roast the pork in the oven until a fork inserted into the center meets no resistance, 2 to 3 hours.

5. For the sauce: Meanwhile, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl until the sugar and salt are dissolved; set aside. (The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.)

6. Remove the pork from the oven and let rest, still covered with foil, for 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, unwrap the pork and pull the meat into thin shreds, discarding the excess fat and gristle. Toss the pork with 1/2 cup of the sauce and serve with the remaining sauce in a bowl on the side.

Texas Sheet Cake

Texas Sheet Cake
America's Test Kitchen

Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Serves 24

Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs plus 2 yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup sour cream

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup water

½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Chocolate Icing

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

3 cups confectioners' sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 18- by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Whisk eggs and yolks, vanilla, and sour cream in another bowl until smooth.

2. Heat chocolate, butter, oil, water, and cocoa in large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk chocolate mixture into flour mixture until incorporated. Whisk egg mixture into batter, then pour into prepared baking pan. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack.

3. For the icing: About 5 minutes before cake is done, heat butter, cream, cocoa, and corn syrup in large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Off heat, whisk in confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Spread warm icing evenly over hot cake and sprinkle with pecans. Let cake cool to room temperature on wire rack, about 1 hour, then refrigerate until icing is set, about 1 hour longer. (Cake can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Cut into 3-inch squares. Serve.

Kitchen Know-How: Timing Is Everything

The key to perfectly moist Texas sheet cake is to let the warm icing soak into the hot cake. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour the warm icing over the cake and use a spatula to spread the icing to the edges of the cake. This creates the signature fudgy layer between the icing and the cake

Lazy Daisy Cake

Lazy Daisy Cake
America's Test Kitchen

This classic Depression-era cake is topped with an easy-to-make coconut icing, which is broiled until golden brown. Be sure to use a metal cake pan; glass pans are not recommended when broiling. If you have a drawer-style broiler (underneath the oven), adjust the rack as far as possible from the broiler element and monitor the icing carefully as it cooks in step four. This cake can be served warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 8-inch square cake; serves nine

Cake

1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar

Broiled Icing

1/4 cup packed (13/4 ounces) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 tablespoons evaporated milk

3/4 cup (3 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut

1. For the cake: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with a foil sling and grease the foil (see page 207). Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Heat the milk, butter, and vanilla together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and -granulated sugar together with an electric mixer on -medium-high speed until pale and thick, 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining milk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes, -rotating the pan halfway through baking. Let the cake cool slightly in the pan, about 10 minutes.

4. For the icing: Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to be about 9 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar, melted butter, and evaporated milk together, then stir in the coconut. Spread the mixture evenly over the warm cake and broil until the topping is -bubbling and golden, 3 to 5 minutes, checking often to prevent the icing from burning.

5. Let the cake cool slightly in the pan, about 30 minutes. If desired, remove the cake from the pan using foil before serving.

Test Kitchen Tip: Who's Lazy?

Lazy daisy cake might be called "lazy" because it is a simplified hot milk cake — it contains melted butter, which easily combines with the batter, rather than softened butter, which must be creamed. This cake is also a great last-minute dessert because the cake is served warm with a quickly made broiled frosting that "cooks" right on top of the cake.

Maple Sausage and Waffle Casserole

Depending on their size and shape, you will need 6 to 8 waffles. Belgian-style frozen waffles are too thick for this recipe. This recipe is easy to double; use a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and increase the baking time by 30 to 40 minutes. One-pound boxes of sugar and a cast-iron pan can be used to weight the casserole in step three.

Serves 6

6–8 frozen waffles (1/2 inch thick; see note above)

12 ounces maple breakfast sausage, crumbled

1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

6 large eggs

1-1/4 cups whole or low-fat milk

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the waffles in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes each side, rotating the baking sheet halfway through.

2. Cook the sausage in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. -Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.

3. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish. Add half of the waffles in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the sausage and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Layer the remaining waffles and sausage and 1/2 cup more cheese. Whisk the eggs, milk, maple syrup, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl until combined. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the casserole. Wrap the baking dish with plastic wrap and place weights on top. Refrigerate the casserole for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day.

4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Let the casserole stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Bake until the edges and center are puffed, 45 to 50 minutes. Serve.

Weighting the casserole

Cover the casserole with plastic wrap, then set 1-pound boxes of sugar on the plastic wrap and top with a cast-iron pan.

Cowboy Caviar

Black-eyed peas are traditional in this dish; however, black beans can be substituted. We much prefer the flavor of fresh corn here, but 3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed, can be substituted for the cooked corn in step 3. Add the avocado just before serving and stir it in gently to prevent it from turning mushy. Serve with tortilla chips.

Makes about 6 cups

Dressing

1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped fine

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Dip

1 ear corn, husk and silk removed (see note above)

1 (15.5-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (see note above)

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine

2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped fine

2 scallions, minced

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

Salt

Hot sauce

1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped (see note above)

1. For the dressing: Whisk the jalapeño, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt, and cumin together in a small bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and set aside.

2. For the dip: Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the corn and cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, remove the corn from the water, allowing any excess water to drip back into the pan. Transfer the corn to a plate and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

3. Cut the kernels off the cob into a large bowl (see page 99). Add the black-eyed peas, bell pepper, tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro. Drizzle with the dressing and stir to combine. Season with salt and hot sauce to taste. (The dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day.) Gently stir in the avocado and serve.

All recipes excerpted from Cook's Country Best Potluck Recipes by the editors of America's Test Kitchen. Published with permission from America's Test Kitchen. Copyright 2010 by the editors of America's Test Kitchen.

Books Featured In This Story

Cook's Country Best Potluck Recipes

More Than 100 Classic and Heirloom Favorites for All Ocassions

by America's Test Kitchen

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More Than 100 Classic and Heirloom Favorites for All Ocassions
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