Photo-worthy food: Modern Potluck offers dishes dressed to impress
I’ll admit it: When preparing a dish for a potluck, I have never once considered its Instagram worthiness.
Yes, I’ll add a flourish of whipped cream or a sprinkling of an aromatic herb, but I can’t say I’ve ever stopped to consider how the food will appear from certain angles. I only assume it will be eaten, happily, by the friends or family for whom I’ve prepared it.
Kristin Donnelly, however, has paused to think about how in an age of #foodporn, cooks may want to up the ante in dishes they bring to share among friends. Her new cookbook, Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share (Clarkson Potter, 2016), is filled with tantalizing recipes and updates to classics that are just beautiful.
Donnelly, the former editor of Food & Wine magazine, was inspired by her dreams of hosting the elusive “perfect” dinner party. Realizing the potlucks she grew up with were among the happiest gatherings she’s been to, she wrote Modern Potluck with the goal of bringing people together around dishes that are versatile, healthy and crowd-pleasing.
The “modern” in the title refers to dishes that are vegetable-heavy, sustainable and a little bit adventurous. The old standbys are here, but often dressed up with a recipe for every season—Donnelly’s Smoky Deviled Eggs with Toasted Rosemary are sure to be a welcome addition to your holiday meal. Potato salad gets a twist with fennel, cornichon pickles and pickled onions.
Looking for something bolder? Try the Massaman-Mushroom Curry, Samosa-Filling Stuffed Poblanos or Spiced Carrot and Goat Cheese Strudel. Donnelly offers some beverages and desserts as well, including an Apple-Ginger-Bourbon Cocktail and Chocolate-Cherry Millet Cookies.
Donnelly stresses the importance of seasoning food well and often. Several recipes for condiments and spices are included, from Cilantro-Pumpkin Seed Pesto to Vanilla-Spiced Cranberry Jam to seasoning salts such as Smoky Orange Salt and Za’atar.
Modern Potluck is filled with attractive, full-color photographs of food, highlighting just how Instagram-worthy and mouthwatering these recipes are. For new cooks and the curious, Donnelly peppers the book with sections explaining how to navigate farmers markets and shops to find the best seasonal offerings, along with several cooking techniques and discussions of whole grains, beans and how to perfectly roast vegetables. Most recipes include vegan and gluten-free options.
Though Donnelly focuses on healthy, flavorful dishes to feed a crowd, her goal is to inspire cooks and foodies alike to enjoy not just the food but especially each other’s company. She never forgets that potlucks are social events, meant to bring friends and family together to celebrate, mourn or simply hang out.
My family gathers for a potluck meal every Christmas. I don’t think my contribution has ever made it to social media. But this year, with Donnelly’s help, perhaps that will change.