Chicken Divan as interpreted by Atlanta chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis. AJC file LOUIE FAVORITE /
Photo: Louie Favorite
Photo: Louie Favorite

4 potluck dishes sure to dazzle holiday guests

From now until next year, the number of invitations to cocktail parties, family reunions and office get-togethers is likely to grow exponentially until Jan. 2 when a collective holiday hangover will send us back into our caves to regroup until Super Bowl Sunday. But between now and then, the opportunity to bring a dish to a potluck party will surely arise.

This year, don’t be that guy who brings a tube of potato salad from the grocery store deli. From the archives of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution food section, here are four popular, tried-and-true recipes for party-perfect dishes sure to dazzle.

RELATED: Easy biscuits from scratch, with advice and photos from Atlanta chef Scott Peacock

Collard Cassoulet

Hands on: 20 minutes Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes Serves: 6 (side-dish portions)

1 pound collard greens, stems and tough ribs removed

5 garlic cloves, 1 crushed and 4 chopped

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 cups cooked white beans, 1/2 cup cooking liquid reserved

1/2 cup (plus more, if desired) diced or chopped cooked ham-hock meat, sausage, chorizo or bacon

1/3 cup (plus more, if desired) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup (plus more, as needed) medium-coarse fresh bread crumbs

In a large pot, cover the collards with salted water and boil over medium heat until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well and chop into small pieces. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Vigorously rub the inside of a 10- or 12- inch gratin dish with the crushed garlic. Discard the crushed garlic and set the dish aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the collard greens, stir to coat, and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl.

Stir in the beans, meat, roughly half the Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. If the mixture seems too dry, add enough of the reserved bean cooking liquid to moisten. (If you don’t have liquid, use water.) Spread the mixture in the prepared dish. Top with the bread crumbs and remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the filling is hot and bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top of the gratin is golden and crusty, another 10 minutes.

– From Frank Stitt, owner and executive chef of Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Ala. Adapted from “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.”

Per serving: 368 calories (percent of calories from fat, 25), 19 grams protein, 49 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 10 grams fat (2.2 grams saturated), 40 milligrams cholesterol, 900 milligrams sodium.

Lulu’s LA (Lower Alabama) Caviar

Hands on: 15 minutes Total time: 15 minutes plus 12-24 hours to marinate Serves: 10

3 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup chopped red onion

3 tablespoons each chopped green, red and yellow bell pepper

1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Salt and pepper

Combine black-eyed peas, onion, peppers, tomatoes, parsley, vinegar, oil and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Marinate for 12 to 24 hours before serving.

— From Lulu’s restaurant in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Per serving: 203 calories (percent of calories from fat, 33), 8 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 279 milligrams sodium.

Citrus-Glazed Sweet Potato Pound cake

Hands on: 20 minutes Total time: 95 minutes Serves: 12

For the cake:

3 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups cooked sweet potatoes or 1 (16-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained and mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 eggs

For the citrus glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan, tapping out excess flour. Set aside.

To make the cake: In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a food processor, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the sweet potatoes and vanilla and puree. Add the eggs, one at a time, pulsing to mix thoroughly after each addition. Slowly add the flour mixture, pulsing to combine. Transfer the batter to the pan.

Bake 60 to 75 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack, then invert cake onto rack. Transfer cake to serving plate.

To make the glaze: In a bowl, combine sugar, orange juice and zest. Drizzle glaze over cake.

— From “All American Desserts” by Judith M. Fertig (Harvard Common Press, $18.95)

Per serving: 476 calories (percent of calories from fat, 33), 6 grams protein, 75 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 18 grams fat, 119 milligrams cholesterol, 236 milligrams sodium.

Chicken Divan

Hands on: 15 minutes Total time: 40 minutes Serves: 4-6

1 to 1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken meat (from 1 rotisserie chicken), cut or torn into bite-size pieces

1 small head broccoli, cut into florets, steamed

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups milk, preferably whole

1 sprig parsley

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

2 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing the dish

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Pinch cayenne pepper

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 cup panko

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish. Spread the sliced chicken over the bottom of the dish. Top the chicken with broccoli and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Place the milk in a small saucepan with parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then remove from the heat to steep. Strain the milk, but keep warm. Set aside.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking for 2 to 3 minutes, until foaming. Remove the saucepan from the heat, allow it to cool for a minute, then whisk in the strained warm milk until no lumps remain. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until thick. Add mustard, cayenne and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, combine the Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. Add half the cheese to the sauce, and stir until it is completely melted.

Pour sauce over the chicken and broccoli. Combine remaining 1/2 cup cheese with panko and spread over the sauce. Bake until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 25 minutes.

– Adapted by Virginia Willis, Atlanta chef and cookbook author

Per serving (based on four): 473 calories (percent of calories from fat, 43), 49 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 22 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 149 milligrams cholesterol, 505 milligrams sodium.

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