What would you bring to a potluck? Chili? Potato salad? Chips and dip? Dare to be as creative as our local chefs. Here’s what they’d bring–along with recipes, so that with your next invite, you can be the hit of the party. Or if you’re not gifted in the kitchen, call these restaurants ahead, on the sly, for some takeout: We’ll never tell.

Nina Psarros
Nina’s, Raleigh

“I would bring a nice pasta. You need to think about what everybody eats, for example, a nice homemade lasanga or canneloni. Remember that not everyone eats broccoli, so no Penne Rustica, also many people are allergic to seafood or are vegetarians. But if you want to make a Canneloni, for instance, I would use a traditional homemade crepe, not a pasta shell. You take the ricotta, bechemel, spinach, proscuitto, roll it and bake it with a Bolognese.

“It’s nice to make a special Bolognese sauce, not typical. So you grind all of your good meat yourself, such as filet mignon, or a little pork or veal, whatever you have on hand. Use some red wine to sautee the meat, like a Barolo or Chianti, a nice hearty red wine that’s not too sweet. Nutmeg (noce muscatta) is very important. I like to grind it; do not buy the powder. Buy it fresh, shave it in to the sauce. Separately sautee some celery, carrots and onions ground nice and soft with a little garlic. Brown the meat nicely, take a little wine, average a quarter cup per pound and a half of meat until the meat is nice and brown.

“Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper, fresh basil, a little parsley, and cook. Add the plum tomatoes–I like to use fresh plum tomatoes and crush them. Do not use pureed tomatoes, because the sauce will get too thick. Crushed tomatoes are perfect.” Note: Psarros will soon be publishing a book of her own recipes; keep an eye out.

Bret Jennings Elaine’s, Chapel Hill
“I would make my granny’s deviled eggs. They are my favorite potluck ‘eat-’em-while-you’re-in-line’ foods. Everyone loves them and they’re usually the first thing to disappear. They’re also easy and cheap to make as long as you have the patience to peel and fill a lot of eggs.”

Bret Jennings’ Granny’s Deviled Eggs
1 dozen Latta’s ranch eggs
1/2 cup granny’s bread ‘n’ butter pickles chopped small
two spoonfuls Duke’s mayonnaise
one spoonful French’s mustard
one spoonful fine chopped parsley
pinch saltMy granny didn’t add these, but they’re good with:
one spoonful fine chopped tarragon
one small spoonful curry powder(or sprinkle on top instead of paprika)

Cover eggs with cold water and bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit covered for 10 minutes, then remove with a perforated spoon to a bowl of ice water. When cool, peel, cut in half, and remove yolks. Mash yolks in a mixing bowl with a whisk or fork and add the rest of the ingredients, a little more or less of each depending on your personal taste. Spoon the yolk mixture back into whites. If you’re really on the ball, you’ll find a deviled egg platter with dimples in it for the eggs to sit in so the eggs don’t slide around on the plate. Bon appetit!

John Wright Glenwood Grill, Raleigh
“For a potluck around this time of year, I would probably bring an entree, such as a grilled boneless lamb loin (olive oil, salt and pepper, grill or pan-sautee it), a toasted sesame seed and grilled pineapple salsa. (Basically take black and white sesame seeds and toast them until the white seeds turn brown.) Take a fresh Del Monte gold pineapple, grill mark it on one side, cut it into quarter inch dices, and toss with seeds. No additional flavoring–it’s just scrumptious.

“I’d prepare some wild rice pancakes and blackberry coolis. For the coolis, take fresh blackberries or raspberries (not strawberries), use port wine, brown sugar, cook it for an hour on low heat (2 or 3 on burner, just to a simmer), use a food processor or blender, puree it. Strain it to get rid of the seeds and touch it with cream. That would be a lovely combination of color and tastes.”

John Wright’s Wild Rice Pancakes

(Serves approx. 8)

3 cups rice (not long grain rice, preferably jasmine)
2 cups sauteed spinach
basic pancake batter (no sugar)

(Add to attain desired consistency, less for emphasis on rice, more for emphasis on pancake.)

Pour to about 1/8 inch. Season with salt and pepper, cook on griddle or non-stick pan. Cut in pie shapes to serve

Bill Smith Crook’s Corner, Chapel Hill
“It depends on how many people are coming and the time of year, but if it was next week I’d probably make roasted chicken because it travels well and it’s good hot or cold.”

Bill Smith’s Roasted Chicken

1/2 chicken per person

For every chicken:

1 whole jalapeno
1/2 lemon
2 large cloves garlicMix ingredients and stuff the cavity of the chicken, then add salt and pepper. Trim the wings and the pope’s nose. Bind the chicken to preserve the shape. Coat the outside of the chicken with green Tabasco and salt and pepper. Bake on 375 for about 40 minutes, then turn oven down to 325 for the last 20-25 minutes. The legs will wiggle loosely when chicken is done.

If serving hot, remove chicken from pan and place pan on high heat. Add 1/3 bottle of white wine and sauté until hot.

Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable, like wilted spinach or Brussels sprouts.

Daniel Schurr Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern, Raleigh
“What I’d bring depends on what kind of dinner party my friends had planned. If it’s casual, I would bring homemade macaroni and cheese cooked with some old-fashioned Wisconsin white cheddar, heavy cream and breadcrumbs.”

Dessert choice? Second Empire Key Lime Pie, with a graham cracker crust, creamy Key lime custard, topped with Chantilly cream and caramel:

Second Empire Key Lime Pie

Yield: 1 Pie (9 to 10-inch springform pan)


1 lb. Graham Cracker crumbs
4 oz. sugar
1/2 lb. butter, melted
Mix all ingredients, don’t make too wet. But should be able to pack into pie pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool at room temperature.


zest of 1 1/2 limes, chopped finely
1 cup Key lime juice
2 lb. 6 oz. sweetened condensed milk
9 egg yolks
Whisk all ingredients together. Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until set.

Sour Cream Topping:

2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together well, spread over top of pie. Bake at 325 degrees until skin forms (10-15 minutes).

Ashley Christensen Enoteca Vin, Raleigh
“Most of my friends are restaurant folks or people who are directly affected by the industry (which as you know is a pretty vast circle) and the potluck environment is always a pretty entertaining turnout for us. For starters, over half the people just bring lots of wine and beer and think nobody’s gonna notice that they didn’t actually make anything. Usually the same people do that everytime and we love them for that. I have one friend who has been known to bring Tuna Tartare and two dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Another friend makes the wing stop at Hooters. I attend an annual Superbowl-Sushi potluck that another chef I know hosts.

“My recipe is one inspired from one of my best friends who taught me a great deal about food and life. She used to host a potluck of her own. It was a movie-theme night billed as ‘White Cheddar Theater,’ and a similar version of this dish was always the entrée. It never disappointed and I hope mine doesn’t either.”

Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheesecake

(Serves 6-8)


24 oz. Philadelphia Original cream cheese (softened at room temperature)
1 lb. Elbow Macaroni (cooked al dente, usually 8 minutes)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup shredded Asiago
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 oz. unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
2 tbsp. Duke’s mayo
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tbsp. cracked black pepper
1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
juice of 1 lemon


2 sleeves of Ritz crackers, crushed
1/4 pound unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. unsalted butter (cold, for lining springform pan)
1 tsp. granulated white sugarFor crust:

In a mixing bowl, combine Ritz crackers, melted butter and sugar. Work mixture with a fork until butter is evenly distributed throughout crackers. Using your hand or a rubber spatula, line a 9-inch springform pan with cold butter, bottom and sides. Add all-purpose flour and shake springform to cover full interior surface area. Turn pan upside-down and tap bottom with the palm of your hand to free any excess flour. Using your hands, press a thin layer of cracker mixture across bottom of pan and halfway up sides of pan. Refrigerate pan while preparing filling.

For filling:

In a mixing bowl, whisk together: cream cheese, half-and-half, sour cream, eggs, butter, Duke’s mayo, flour, black pepper, kosher salt and lemon juice. Using a rubber spatula, fold in cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asiago and macaroni. Add filling to prepared springform, leave 1/2-inch space from top of the springform pan, as the cheesecake may rise slightly while baking. Cover pan with aluminum foil.

To bake:

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place springform in center of oven. Bake for 45 minutes covered. Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until cheesecake sets and is golden brown on top. When you touch the center of the cheesecake, it should be soft but not liquid-like. It should feel a bit like gelatin.

Serving suggestion: I like to serve this with a salsa of plum tomato, cilantro, red onion and lime juice and a salad of baby arugula with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. I top the whole dish with crisp crumbled smoked bacon and cracked black pepper.

Brian Stapleton Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill
“It would depend on the time of year, but if it was next week I would bring panna cotta with a bitter cherry compote. It’s a light dish with a lot of flavor and, at a potluck, people don’t expect a chef to bring something you could have at home.”

Todd Ohle Bogart’s American Grill, Raleigh
“I’d bring over a pot roast. You just put the roast in a pan and cook it with the vegetables, such as carrots, partsnips, onions and shallots. I make the sauce from the roast drippings when you take the roast out of the pan. I usually add some veal stock, red wine (Cabernet or a Merlot) and mushrooms. For a dessert, I would bring a bread pudding.”

Bread Pudding

1/2 quart cream
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sugar white
pecan pieces
Approx. 1/2 cup pure maple syrup Enough bread to soak up the mixture (Todd recommends stale French bread.)

Pack into a container, such as a baking dish, or individual ramekins, and then bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Chef Shane Ingram Four Square Restaurant, Durham

Fried Green Tomatoes & Stewed Yellow Wax Beans
With a green tomato broth and limoncello aioli

For the tomatoes:

1/4 cup flour (seasoned with salt and pepper)
1/4 cup cornmeal (seasoned with salt and pepper)
2 eggs, whisked
3 large hard green tomatoes, cut into 12 slices
oil for frying

Dredge tomatoes in flour, then egg, then cornmeal. Immediately pan-fry in hot oil. This should be done last as the tomatoes should be served hot.

For the beans:

4 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 lb. yellow wax beans, halved lengthwise
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeds and pith removed, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. butter
1 cup white wine
1 cup water

2 sprigs fresh thymeCombine tomatoes, beans, jalapeno and garlic. Sweat over low heat in the butter until the beans soften (about 10 minutes). Add wine, water and thyme and slowly simmer until the liquid evaporates (about 2 hours).

For the green tomato broth:

2 oz. cold butter, cubed
8-10 hard green tomatoes

juice of 1/2 lemonJuice the tomatoes in a vegetable juicer and strain through a chinois or fine mesh sieve. You should yield about 2-2 1/2 cups of liquid. Reduce the juice over medium heat to about 1/2 cup. Whisk in the cold butter and season with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

For the limoncello aioli:

1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 1/2 oz. olive oil
1/2 oz. limoncello (recipe follows)

Whisk the egg, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest and limoncello together. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while briskly whisking. Season with salt and pepper.

For the limoncello:

1 750 ml bottle of vodka
zest of 5 lemons
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups waterAdd the zest of 5 lemons to a bottle of vodka. Cover and let stand for 2 weeks. Heat the water and sugar to a boil. Add the vodka, strain and let stand covered at room temperature for two more weeks. Store in freezer. Note: This also makes an excellent digestif, served chilled.

Final Assembly:

Fry the tomatoes as directed. Place the beans at the bottom of a large serving bowl and arrange the tomatoes on top. Ladle the broth around the perimeter of the bowl and top with a healthy dollop of aioli. (Put the remainder of the aioli in a small serving bowl for your guests.)

Arthur Gordon Irregardless Café, Raleigh
“For a potluck dinner, I’d bring a chutney or salsa of sundried tomato, fresh lime and cilantro. That way, people who are having vegetarian or meat items, it would add a little sparkle to the dish. For a main dish, I’d make a paella.

“Take a whole chicken and roast it, preroast the chicken pieces, fry the outside of the chicken to crisp the skin, take roasted peppers, peel them, chop them. Put in fresh tomatoes and lightly salt them. I’d put the vegetables in a pan and slowly reheat them, possibly adding onions. I’d mix up a citrus lime pineapple marinade to put on top of the vegetables, in a big pan, cut up chicken into the steamed salsa. On top of that, I would put little-necked clams, shrimp, put a lid on the whole thing, cook on top of the stove 12-15, or throw it into the preheated oven. Rice for paella, a jasmine rice infused with saffron, lemon juice, heat with small pan, nice yellow color.

“Saffron is the most expensive legal herb on the market, earthy quality. Originally developed by the peasants of Spain, shellfish and chicken running around, whatever you can throw into the pot. What I like the best about the dish is that while in essence you make it from scratch, you’ll often make a chicken with many leftovers. Reheating it in this fashion will bring back the moisture and give it an excellent flavor. The dish gets even better as you prepare it and has withstood the test of time.”

Mohan Chander Taj Mahal, Raleigh
“If I went to a friend’s house where people would be drinking beer, I would bring a Chicken Tikka and a Tandoori Chicken. For vegetable dishes, since we make North Indian food, I would cook Sag Paneer (spinach with homemade cheese), Chana Masala (chickpeas, tomatoes and potatoes), and bring a Nan bread.”

Mary Bacon Anotherthyme, Durham
“This [dish] is from when Somethyme restaurant had brunch, and we served it for our brunch and it was very popular. It’s like an entree, served with a little salad, like a piece of quiche. Nice and light and rich.”

Salmon Cheesecake

(Serves 6-8)

Coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with 1 tbsp. butter.


Mix together until it looks like dust:

Bread crumbs, toasted
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
2 tsp. dill weed, diced
1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. butter, melted Press into pan with the bottom of a glass. What doesn’t stick, throw away.


Sautee 1 cup minced shallots for 2 minutes
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp. cayenne

1/4 tsp. saltIn food processor, mix for 4 minutes: 1 3/4 lbs. cream cheese, add one at a time and blend for 30 seconds for each addition:

5 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 cup Swiss, grated
1/3 cup half-and-half
sauteed shallots (from above)
3/4 lb. smoked salmon, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. dried dillBlend for 15 seconds, then pour into springform pan. Put springform pan in another pan with hot water halfway up the side of the cheesecake bin. Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees. Turn off oven, leave in oven 30-45 minutes, with oven door ajar. Knife around edge to remove when cool.

Andrew Pettiser Margaux’s Restaurant, Raleigh
“When I get together with my friends, I bring something simple like Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I like to make them with fresh rice paper, pickled cucumbers, pickled carrots, a cilantro pesto, some shrimp, and Thai basil. Normally, I would use a chile dipping sauce.

“A lot of people like a crisp white wine with that, but my friends tend to like to drink red, one of the Pinot styles. I am fond of Australian wines, especially from smaller vineyards like Broken Woods just outside Sydney.

“I would bring an appetizer instead of a dessert, because I like savory things. Sometimes we’ll pick up pastries and cakes from the Hayes-Barton Pharmacy at Five Points. When you go to a potluck, the whole point is getting together and having a good time, so I like to keep it simple, not some embroiled culinary activity. If I brought a main course, I wouldn’t bring it prepared, I would bring some fresh fish or shrimp to grill outside.”

Therese Freeman Jean-Claude’s French Café, Raleigh
“For an appetizer, I would prepare artichokes and mushrooms filled with goat cheese, topped with marinara sauce and Swiss cheese. As a main dish, I might make a poached halibut with aioli sauce, and bring over a lemon sorbet. A salad to bring might be a Maison Salad. People love to eat assorted cheeses, too. An alternate main course for a fancy dinner would be a filet mignon with Bernaise sauce, puffed potatoes, and Carrots Vichy. One other dessert to prepare would be Vacherin (meringue, cream Chantilly and ice cream mixed together, served frozen).”

Maria Garcia Mar y Sol, Raleigh
“I am from El Salvador, so I would bring to a dinner party the traditional food of my country, such as pupusa, prepared with Chicarrones de Puerco (pork) and mozzarella cheese, tamales made with chicken and potatoes, and for dessert, empanadas de platanos, filled with a blended rice, sugar, and milk pudding.”