The Holiday Pot-Luck

Today, my department hosts its now-annual potluck to kick off December’s rush of finals, graduation, grading, and paperwork.

As a tradition, the potluck apparently got its name from Thomas Nash, who discussed added guests in terms of whatever’s available to feed them–the luck of the pot. However, it’s evolved to be a communal meal to which guests all contribute in one form or another. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about a communal Thanksgiving dinner held in DeSmet, S.D., one year, sponsored by her church, where the members of the Ladies Association brought different dishes to share for a fee.

My first exposures to potlucks? Well, I can’t even remember. It seems they’ve always been a thing, though I do most closely associate them with the church ladies of my childhood, frankly. But every meal as an extended family functioned similarly; no one person provided all the food for any particular meal. All took part.

Thanksgiving became a perfect showcase for the potluck and for family dishes. Though snow prevented us from traveling this year, we were ready with our contributions of pie and cupcakes. My sister, brother, mother, and I texted back and forth for a few weeks to determine the final shakedown of who would bring what to ensure everything was covered.

The office potluck is a bit different. No one knows exactly what everyone’s bringing, just that everyone should bring something. To that end, I’ve evolved into the potluck person who brings some sort of hot dish to share that’s heavy on protein. There’s never, ever, enough protein at a potluck, especially at a holiday where sweet treats are the norm.

This time around I made meatballs from scratch, which, as I write this, smell amazing. the aroma brought all the participants to the front office to load up a plate. We’ve also got a variety of other treats at the table, and that’s half the fun of a potluck. You never quite know what’s going to be on offer.

Amy’s Meatballs

Suitable for spaghetti, sandwiches, and plain-old snacking, meatballs are family staple. My general recipe is actually a rule-of-thumb kind of thing: One pound of ground meat to one cup of fresh bread crumb to one egg, plus seasoning.

The batch I made for today turned out really, really tasty. I used jarred tomato sauce for the coating and kept them hot in a crockpot.

3 lbs 80/20 ground beef, thawed

2 cups Italian-seasoned dried bread crumbs

1/3 cup milk

1 T. salt

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs

Blend the crumbs, cheese, and salt; add milk and stir together.  Let stand for a few minutes to “freshen” the crumbs. Crumble the ground beef over the top. Add the two eggs; mix with your hands until combined. Don’t knead too much or they’ll get rubbery.

Portion out into 1 1/2 inch balls on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Once out of the oven, you can sauce them any way you’d like. I added this batch to a crockpot with four cups (two jars) of spaghetti sauce. If you used plain bread crumbs and added allspice and celery seed to the main recipe, you could sauce with mushroom cream gravy for Swedish meatballs. As I said, it’s more of a rule-of-thumb than a true recipe.

Enjoy for your next potluck!

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