Over the years, I've developed a handful of recipes that satisfy these requirements: entrees that feed both vegan and omnivore; meals that are welcoming to the gluten-intolerant, the dairy-sensitive and the nut-allergic. The secret, I've found, is in the toppings. Make a solid central recipe and offer garnishes to satisfy everybody.
When you're asked to contribute to a large menu, making the right quantity can be a challenge. Remember, no host wants to have gallons of anything left over. When I'm bringing an entree or a side dish, I aim to make enough for half the number of people attending. For a buffet, few people will eat an entire "serving" - at least as far as a serving is defined in a recipe. If there will be 25 at the party, I make enough for 12. Once the toppings come into play, that's going to be more than enough.
But when I'm assigned dessert, I'll make enough for everyone. Because . . . it's dessert. (If they play their cards right, it could be slab pie.)
Beyond responding to food preferences and making the right amount, the best party foods also should be ready to dispense. Arriving with bags of food in need of a platter, the oven, a saute pan or serving spoons is not party-friendly. I always bring my contribution in a serving dish, with utensils. (Just remember to take them home!)
A slow-cooker might be the answer. It provides a terrific way to carry and serve hot dishes such as soups, stews and chilies - even if they aren't cooked in the appliance. If you're worried about spillage, stretch plastic wrap over the ceramic insert's opening before you secure the lid.
I appreciate a recipe that can be made ahead or has elements that can be put together here and there throughout the week. That way, the day of assembly is quick and straightforward - even better when the dish benefits from resting for a day or two to meld the flavors. If it freezes and reheats readily, I'm in.
This green chili hits all the marks. It combines lively poblano, Anaheim and jalapeno peppers with a tangy salsa verde of tomatillos, white onion and garlic. The mix is mildly spicy and flavorful enough to spark the interest of nearly every partygoer. But chili peppers can be tricky and inconsistently spicy; when you cook with them, tasting along the way is imperative. Err on the side of not too incendiary, to tempt everyone, and use hot sauce and extra jalapeĆ±os on the side to tip the Scoville index for fire eaters.
White beans make this dish hearty, and mashing some of them in the pot helps transform the chili from soupy to stew-y. Once the chili's flavor has bubbled to life on the stove, summer squash, roasted corn and another hit of sweet white onion provide body and even more layers of flavor. The chili is robust and textural and intoxicatingly aromatic. It is also vegan and free of gluten, dairy and nuts.
Omnivores are not left out here; I serve the chili with a side of small turkey meatballs flavored with ancho and chipotle. Guests can toss three or four of them into a bowlful, then slide on over to the condiments: Cotija cheese, sliced fresh or pickled jalapeĆ±os, chopped cilantro, cream or sour cream, avocado, tomato, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and hot sauce.
No party? This recipe still works. Serve half to the family for dinner, then pack up leftovers, suitably garnished, for an envy-producing lunch at the office. There might be enough to share.
EVERYBODY'S CHILI VERDE
MAKES 12 servings (makes 16 cups) Peeling a batch of peppers is fast and only slightly messy. To blacken and loosen the skins, broiling works well.
Serve with the classic toppings of cilantro, sliced scallions, sour cream or crema, pickled or sliced jalapenos, and hot sauce.
For a meaty side, add these Turkey Meatballs.
MAKE AHEAD: The chilies, corn, tomatillos and onions can be prepped and refrigerated a day in advance. This chili verde tastes even better the next day; make it ahead if possible. It can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. The tomatillo-pepper base (without the squash and final chopped onion) can be frozen for up to 3 months; add those two ingredients as you reheat the chili verde.
- 8 poblano chili peppers (about 2 pounds)
- 8 Anaheim chili peppers (about 1 pound)
- 8 ears corn, shucked
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
- 16 tomatillos, husked and rinsed (about 3 pounds)
- 3 large white onions, quartered (about 2 pounds), plus 1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, halved with stem, then seeded
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 cups water
- Three 15-ounce cans no-salt-added white beans, navy beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (about 4 cups total)
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 pounds firm summer squash, such as pattypan, coarsely chopped (see headnote)
Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Arrange the poblano and Anaheim chilies on the baking sheet; broil for about 4 minutes or until their skins blacken and blister; use tongs to turn them over, and repeat. Leave the broiler on.
Immediately transfer the chilies to a large heatproof bowl; cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap so they will steam.
Place the shucked corn on the cob on the same baking sheet, drizzle with the oil to coat all over; broil for 3 minutes, then use tongs to rotate the corn and broil for 3 minutes or until lightly charred. Transfer the corn to a cutting board. Leave the broiler on.
Arrange the tomatillos, the 3 white onions and the garlic cloves on the same baking sheet. Broil for 3 minutes, then use tongs to turn the pieces over and broil for 3 to 4 minutes or until they all have a bit of char on the edges. Let cool.
Wear gloves to peel and discard the chilies' loosened skins, stems, seeds and ribs. Cut off the corn kernels, reserving the spent cobs for another use, if desired. Coarsely chop the tomatillos, onions and garlic; together is okay.
Transfer the tomatillos, onions and garlic to a high-powered blender or a large food processor; puree until fairly smooth. Add the peeled Anaheim and poblano peppers, then add the jalapeĆ±os, one half-pepper at a time, pureeing and tasting for heat after each addition (to taste). Adjust for heat, adding more jalapeĆ±o until the chili is spicy enough. Add the chopped cilantro; puree until smooth.
Pour the green mixture into a 5-quart heavy Dutch oven. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the beans, smashing about half of them with the back of a fork to add texture. Add the Mexican oregano, salt and cumin, stirring to incorporate. Once the mixture returns to bubbling at the edges, cover and cook for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching.
(At this point, if you plan to freeze the chili verde, do not add the squash, the corn or the remaining onion.)
Stir in the squash and the remaining chopped onion; cook (medium heat, uncovered) for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender.
Stir in the corn kernels. Cook (uncovered), stirring occasionally; once the chili verde begins to bubble again, turn off the heat. Taste, and add salt as needed.
Once the chili verde is fully heated through, it's ready to serve.
Nutrition | Per serving (using grapeseed oil): 290 calories, 14 g protein, 58 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 12 g dietary fiber, 18 g sugar