Whether your main dish is destined for a neighborhood potluck, a church supper or a holiday party, it's important that it be easily portable for you as well as easily accessible to the people who will be eating it. If the infrastructure seems too daunting, the sauces are too messy or the food just involves too much assembly on the guests' parts, they might end up avoiding that tasty dish you put so much thought into.
It's hard not to love a main dish that can be eaten hot or cold, especially if it's an outdoor potluck or you're not sure how much competition there is going to be for an oven or microwave. A 3-lb. broiler chicken cut up into pieces or 2 lbs. of drumsticks should suffice as your potluck contribution. Fry the chicken in the morning and keep it refrigerated until the event. You can then deliver it cool or warm it in your oven and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil. Prepare a spicy dip on the side to accompany the old-fashioned flavor.
Baked Beans with Bacon
Cooking and draining the bacon is the most heavy lifting you'll do for this main dish. Add it to three 15-oz. cans of commercial pork and beans, chopped onion, brown sugar and spices to taste. Since it only takes about 20 minutes to heat once all of the ingredients are put in the cooking pot, this is a potluck dish that you can actually prepare upon your arrival. Another easy heat-and-eat option is chile con carne. Supplement the canned variety with your own spice blends and some browned ground beef or pork. Bring along some corn bread or tortilla chips.
Recruit your tweens and teens to help mix and roll main dish meatballs. Ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey all work well and, depending on your choice of spices, are adaptable to Italian, Asian, Mexican and Swedish cuisines. Serve the meatballs from a chafing dish with a large spoon. If you want them to simmer in a sauce, don't pour the sauce over the meatballs until after you arrive and start the reheating process. This makes them much easier to transport. Meatballs also lend themselves to very filling appetizers. Provide toothpicks and a cool, creamy dip on the side.
Casseroles are the quintessential potluck meal because of their ease of preparation and the fact they can be made ahead and even stored in the freezer until the day of the potluck. From start to finish, they also only involve one dish, which makes for easy clean-up. A 2-qt. casserole with a lid is ideal for potluck fare. If your casserole has a soupy texture, a deep receptacle with a spoon is best for serving. In contrast, a casserole that is more dense is better served in an oblong or rectangular baking dish with a spatula.