Holiday Potlucks

I’ve got two potlucks this weekend–tonight the English Department party at the Over Museum, and tomorrow night a private party at a friend’s house.

I almost always make a vegetarian dish for potlucks–though I’m no longer a vegetarian, I remember well what it was like to go to a potluck and have nothing to eat but what I brought.  That is not usually much of a problem anymore–especially at English Dartment functions, but I still think it’s a good policy.

You know someone’s going to bring a big bucket of fried chicken or a big crockpot of meatballs (usually a guy–Americanist or pop culture critic–see DeLillo’s White Noise if you don’t know the type), so it’s unlikely anyone’s meat cravings will go unsatisfied.

Today’s potluck creation was going to be vegan, but I succumbed to the call of the stick of butter on the counter and used it (not the whole thing) to saute the onions and mushrooms.  I think I’ll probably also garnish with cheese.  Once you break the dairy barrier, why not?

The final product will be a kind of crockpot barley risotto (which is not really a risotto at all, but it should have the same texture).  I parboiled the barley with a vegan bouillion cube, and while that was cooking, I sauteed a sliced yellow onion and some small chunks of those “baby bellas.”  Added some salt, pepper, and crumbled sage.

I set up the crockpot on low, and dumped in some frozen roasted summer squash and beans from this year’s garden.  When the mushrooms were shrunken a little and the onions lightly browned, I dumped a little red wine (maybe 1/4 cup) in to deglaze the pan, and scraped the whole caboodle into the crockpot as well.

Then, when the barley was about 2/3 to 3/4 done, I dumped that in, along with the extra broth in the pan that hadn’t yet been absorbed.  I put about a tablespoon more butter in there for a little more richness.  Then I used the wooden paddle to chop up the frozen veggie chunk in the bottom that was starting to melt from the added hot ingredients, and clapped the lid back on.

I really have no idea what this will taste like, but I think it’ll be OK.  I’ll check on it when I get back from the dog park this afternoon to make sure the barley got done and then mix in some grated Parmesan.

The nice thing about a potluck is that people only ask who made something if it’s good.  If it’s not great, you’re incognito.  We have a lot of fantastic cooks in the Department, so there’ll be something delicious to eat, even if I didn’t make it.

No plans yet for tomorrow night’s dish.  That’s thinking too far ahead!


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