After a very early morning wake-up call, I landed in Portland yesterday afternoon to spend the holidays with my parents. So far, I’ve done nothing but catch up on sleep and tag along to a pair of seasonal potlucks.
Though my mom is a fine cook, in recent years, I’ve become her potluck consultant (she claims that after a lifetime of inventing dishes, she’s out of ideas). Regularly, she calls me when she needs some fresh inspiration. And when I’m in town, it becomes my responsibility to help dream up and prepare our potluck contributions.
Knowing that more than a few of you might be looking for side dishes and items for shared meals in the coming week or two, I thought I might share what I came up with over the last two nights.
On Saturday, we cut carrots and parsnips into sticks (two pounds of each), tossed them with olive oil, minced rosemary, salt and pepper and spread them out on a cookie sheet in single layers. Roasted at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes and turned at least once, they turn into crisp, caramelized nuggets of root vegetable goodness. To serve, I heaped them into a casserole dish and topped them with some chopped parsley, plucked moments before from my mom’s garden.
For tonight’s offering, we took a dish of mashed potatoes and kabocha squash. They get stirred together with beaten eggs, a bit of butter, chopped fresh sage and two kinds of cheese. It is ridiculously decadent and good. I think it’s perfect for a potluck, because it’s the sort of thing that must be shared. It’s far too rich to have for just a couple of people, but I crave it this time of year and love that I can have a generous taste while not being responsible for eating the whole thing.
I also brought two jars of pickles from home for tonight’s party, because I knew it was a crowd that would appreciate them. And I heard more than one person exclaim excitedly when they saw the jar of pickled okra.
How have the rest of you been handling your holiday parties and potlucks this season?