The Dish I Bring to Every Potluck

Welcome to You have time for that, a column where Bon Appétits Editor-in-Chief Dawn Davis highlights recipes from our archives that are delicious, accessible, and work every time.

The pursuit of art almost ruined the potluck for me.

Young, curious and with a crush on New York City, I volunteered as a lecturer at the Museum of African Art. Located in Soho, one of the coolest neighborhoods in town at the time, the museum was designed by Maya Lin. The staff came not only from the African diaspora, but also from Asia, Latin America, Europe and all parts of America. It offered exactly what I was looking for in the city: contact with cultural traditions and people from all over the world.

When the founder of the museum proposed a potluck for employees to which even lecturers were invited, I knew that the food would be excellent and varied. Filipino adobo, Senegalese peanut stew and manicotti with the freshest ricotta were on offer. My plate was full and ready to enjoy when a Nigerian employee walked in and expressed his vehement disapproval: “If I invite you to my home for dinner, I will not ask you to bring your own food,” he said with a dismissive shake of the head. Because I had lived in Africa for a short time and had experienced great hospitality at every turn, I was disappointed. He was right, I thought. Where’s the hospitality for asking someone to bring food to your dinner party? From that point on, I decided that if you were invited to my house by asking you to cook your own food, I would not offend you.

I held my own until nearly two decades later, when a bevy of mothers convinced me to celebrate the end of the school year with a family potluck dinner. Discouraged by the prospect of cooking for 20 adults and 30 children by myself, I surrendered.

A taste of Troy’s hot homemade BBQ sauce and LuShawn’s super moist chocolate cake, and I reversed my rule of decades: don’t offend your guests by asking them to cook. I now understand that you are giving them the opportunity to show their best, most philanthropic dish.

And that brings me to the topic of my second newsletter, where I search the archives of Bon Appétit and Epicurious looking for recipes where the payout beats the hassle. While looking for a little reunion with the title “We are all vaxxed” I discovered Yotam Ottolenghi’s Baked mint rice with feta and pomegranate relish. Perfect for any type of dinner, it’s a particularly elegant addition to a potluck for a number of reasons. Almost everyone across cultures and age groups loves rice. It compliments meat, but is vegetarian on its own, and when set correctly, it’s easy to serve hot rather than lukewarm, which is the fate of most dishes at Potluck. Bake the rice for about half an hour before breaking it out. During this time you make the sweet, tangy, tart and light relish. (I strongly advise to get an olive pitter.) When you get there, drain the feta, sprinkle it on the rice and fry it. Before serving, indulge in the relish and watch your friends enjoy one of the most festive, colorful, and delicious rice dishes I know.

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