Our clever friend Fran Black recently told us about her brilliant innovation of the traditional pot-luck dinner party model where guests are asked to bring a dish to forge an entire meal:
I have a recurring dream that I find the food photos in cookbooks I love are real; I just turn the pages and feast.
This New Year’s Eve I decided to make my dream come true and devised a variation of the “pot-luck”: I invited each of my guests to make a recipe from my favorite Sicilian cookbook, Sicilian Home Cooking: Family recipes from Gangivecchio.
Among my loosely connected group of thirty or so friends, it is customary to contribute a dish to our many social gatherings. But providing themed recipes was a first. There were a few grumbles but they knew me well enough to laugh when I countered:
“Attendance at the party is not compulsory but a dish from the book is”.
Everyone rose to the occasion. Eleven dishes from the book festooned the table, from Caponata and Torta de Gorgonzola e Pere, to Patate Siciliane alla Pizzaiola and Tagliatelli con Pomodorini, Cozze e Caperi (full menu below).
The feast that resulted was superb, —not one dud— and, my home among Sydney, Australia’s Northern beaches suddenly felt like Sicily. Everyone agreed that it was the best New Year’s Eve ever.
And they all are clamoring for a re-run with exactly the same menu.
For me it is done and dusted. I’d rather devise something new.
YES!! We can imagine wonderful parties that could be built around any number of cookbooks, providing a deep dive into the book but also, often, bringing a culture or restaurant or chef’s brilliance right in as well…
…like the great Cuban Table…
…or Aglaia Kremezi’s lovely Mediterranean Vegetarian Cookbook…
A daring pot-luck dinner could be made of Scraps, Wilt and Weeds, Mads Refslund’s cookbook about turning ordinarily wasted foods into delicious dishes….
…the possibilities are endless for this break-from-the-norm pot-luck that preserves the great benefits of the tradition: the work is shared so the host can relax; many more dishes and tastes than usual can be enjoyed.
With a cookbook-themed pot-luck, each cook gets to make a private exploration via the recipe they are contributing. Guests enjoy a unified menu driven by a culture, a chef, a vision..
Practical note: There are a universe of cookbooks to choose from, both vintage and cutting edge. Just think of one you’d love to explore.
It’s not necessary for each contributor to get the book; Fran simply scanned and emailed recipes to be made. Or a choice of recipes can be offered from appetizers, main courses, side dishes, desserts so guests to decided which they prefer to make.
Here are the Gangivecchio dishes that made Fran’s smash-hit pot-luck:
Insalate di Melone e Prosciutto / melon and prosciutto
Insalate di Funghi / mushroom salad
Caponata / eggplant appetizer with onions, tomatoes, olives, capers
Torta di Gorgonzola e pere / Pear and Gorgonzola tart
Melon con Aceto Balsamico e Menta / melon with balsamic and mint
Il Pane del Re / King’s bread
Patate Siciliane alla Pizzaiola / sicilian potato pizza
Quadrettoni di Frittata con Spinaci e Formaggio / spinach and cheese frittata squares
Uova Ripiene di Tonno e Capperi / eggs stuffed with tuna and capers
Gemelli alla Zingara / gemelli pasta with lentils
Tagliatelli con Pomodorini, Cozze e Caperi / tagliatelli with mussels and capers
In addition: Eggplant Parmigiana
Desserts included Cannolis, Ricotta Cheese Cake and Tiramisu