Anyone ever held a copycat recipe potluck? I may throw a mean fancy dinner party, but heaven help me, I’d go crazy if I did it all the time. This week I thought I’d talk about something much, much simpler. So much simpler, you barely have to work at all. In fact, you might even be able to convince someone else to host it. Lol. I haven’t actually done one of these yet, but I have been thinking about it for awhile. What do people love? Going out to eat. What impresses those same people? Cooking something from one of those restaurants they love eating at.
In theory, you could do the whole meal yourself, but sometimes a busy girl just needs a break. And sometimes a super pregnant girl just needs to eat and not stand on her feet cooking all day. I’m currently both, but even if I was only one or the other, I think this is the kind of party where sharing duties would be very comfortable. Copycat recipes are usually easy to find, easy to follow, and come out tasting pretty darn good. Even if your friends can’t cook, they can probably come up with something for a copycat recipe potluck. At the very least they can buy it from the restaurant and try to pass it off as theirs. Why not give it a try?
Option 1: A Copycat Recipe Potluck Free-for-All
What do I mean by this, you may ask? It’s simple. Put absolutely no limits on what people bring. Any restaurant, any course, any particular dish. It doesn’t matter if it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a tasty cocktail.
My main concern with a copycat recipe potluck free-for-all is that you’d wind up with fifteen batches of Olive Garden breadsticks. But I guess that could be fun, right? You can judge each other harshly and pick one person to look down on for their poor attempt at fresh bread. Okay, kidding about that last part. Don’t be mean. They might not own a bread machine or have the time to knead bread. Why they chose breadsticks in that case, I don’t know. Your hypothetical bread baking friend clearly wants to be an overachiever. But I digress.
Honestly, what are the chances you wind up with fifteen batches of breadsticks? I bet there will be a couple of overlapping dishes, but for the most part it’s likely to be a surprise. Some people probably won’t even think of chain restaurants – they’ll use copycat recipes from their home towns, or some restaurant they visited once in New York. Plus, most of them will be glad not to have a restriction. You’re making them bring you food, and you’ve already put one theme on it. Adding more might stress them out.
Option 2: An Email Chain of Organization
What did people do before email? I mean, I lived without it for part of my life, but I can’t imagine trying to organize events now. Anyway, once you decide who’s invited you can start an email chain. Send it to all your guests, enjoy the necessity of the reply all button.
One word: Delete.
This one is better for groups of friends who do not like surprises, like to stay organized, and prefer feedback before they choose a dish. They sound like a high maintenance group of friends, but they’re not really. They just don’t want to make a Cheesecake Factory dessert if no one’s going to eat it. You can’t blame them. By making sure in advance that everyone knows what everyone else is bringing, you’ll get a nice, cohesive meal and all the really bad ideas will be vetoed from the get-go. It might take a little more time up front, but it will soothe the indecisive people who don’t know what to fix.
Option 3: Assigned Restaurants
You can assign restaurants one of two ways. First, individual assignments. Everyone is either told their restaurant or they pick it from a list. Second, you pick three or four restaurants and assign groups.
There’s really only one drawback to this, and it’s that your friends may not agree with your choices. Generally when you have a potluck you’re telling people to bring their best food, so if you start putting restrictions on them left and right they might not want to participate. A copycat recipe potluck should be fun, not stressful, and not everyone is going to have the same taste as you. Of course, if you keep it really small to just close friends, you probably know exactly what restaurants you all like and this could make it super easy.
Anyone have a least favorite chain restaurant? I do! I mean, I had a gift card to this place for three years before I finally caved and bought a beer there. So imagine if everyone I knew brought a dish from that restaurant. Shudder. This way you’ll be sure you’ve got people bringing food from less questionable restaurants, plus for people who don’t want to think about what they’re bringing, you’ve really narrowed down the options.
Option 4: Assigned Courses
Instead of telling people what restaurants they should be copying, you can tell them what course to bring. Or, again, you can have them volunteer. Volunteering is fine, it’s just a matter of who you speak with first. You might want to suggest a course to people but be very flexible if they want to trade.
The main drawback here is that you have to do a little more organizing than if it was a free-for-all. The secondary drawback is that you should probably assign yourself the main course, if you choose to have a main course instead of a smorgasbord of sides and desserts. I don’t know that you really need a main dish, but if you do, it’ll probably be meat and probably cost more to serve a whole bunch of people. If it’s at your house and you’re the one doing the inviting, I would go ahead and take that hit yourself unless someone else actively wants it.
I mentioned breadsticks earlier, but I don’t really think you’ll get that much bread. I do, however, think you have a real chance of getting a whole lot of dips. It might be a huge variety of dips, and that might be a very fabulous party idea in itself, but is that what you want for a potluck? Probably not. Assigning courses at least guarantees you’re going to get a full menu.
If you’re feeling like a regular potluck isn’t the way to go, a copycat recipe potluck would be fun to try. Personally, I’d go with the free-for-all, because I just don’t have time to deal with organizing all those guests and their food. I will happily give suggestions, though, if they ask. If you are going to throw one, I would go through a copycat website or two and be prepared with a few options that seem simple enough. CopyKat Recipes is a good place to start, but you can do a quick Google or Pinterest search and you’ll get plenty of ideas. Now get out there and make your friends cook for you!