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Potlucks put the focus on getting together – while lowering your stress level and grocery bill. Here’s what home cooks are bringing to the next big harvest feast

Everywhere in the world, for as long as humans have hunted, gathered and cultivated food, they have shared communal meals to celebrate their good fortune around harvest time.

We all have a deeply rooted need to be cared for, and to be fed. We also love to feast, particularly when ingredients are at their peak – an abundance of food, when we have access to it, is reassuring.

During the pandemic, it was heartening to witness the efforts we made to comfort and nourish each other through food. We baked cookies to leave on doorsteps. We brought meals to neighbours. We gathered around dinner tables virtually, often dropping off batches of the same dish so everyone could feel the deeper connection of sharing a meal, even on FaceTime.

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Now that we’re able to more safely gather again, we can carry on with family traditions that were put on hold. But the thought of hosting larger groups can be intimidating. Larger shared meals are made easier, and more affordable, when everyone contributes something to the table – a strategy that also accounts for any dietary preferences and ensures there’s more than enough for everyone. The menu could be left to chance – the luck of the pot – or each guest could be assigned a course to ensure dinner doesn’t consist of five desserts and a salad.

And some like the creative challenge of a theme: a recipe from generations past, or one inspired by a favourite movie, or even something that begins with the same letter as your name. What’s on the table matters – every dish is an opportunity to make new memories – but what matters more is who’s around it. Feeding each other is so much more than just eating.

These recipes were gathered from home cooks across the country – some with professional culinary chops or ties to the food industry, others known for a love of bringing friends and family together around the table.

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Tanya Pilgrim/The Globe and Mail

Herbed Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese

This tart comes from Miranda Halladay on behalf of Naramata Slow, a group dedicated to community and sharing ingredients grown, raised and sourced in the Okanagan region of B.C. Each October they host a potluck-style harvest supper with 250 friends and neighbours, makers and growers, that has become a hallmark to their mission. Leftovers are transformed into meals sold to raise funds for community initiatives. This is one of their go-to recipes; caramelized onions are optional (but delicious) and if you can find (and afford) heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colours and sizes, use them, but regular backyard or field tomatoes are equally delicious. Just make sure they’re at their peak.

  • 8 locally sourced field or heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced (optional)
  • olive or other vegetable oil, for cooking
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp dry white wine, divided, preferably from the Naramata Bench (optional)
  • 8 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
  • 6 sheets phyllo, thawed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved into curls
  • 1/4 cup julienned basil leaves (or a few whole, for garnish)

Lay the tomato slices in a single layer on paper towel to absorb excess moisture; sprinkle with salt on both sides and let rest for 30 minutes.

Heat a drizzle of oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat and sauté onions until coated with oil. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, then remove the lid and add 1/4 cup wine and a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to cook until caramel-coloured and all moisture has evaporated, 25-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine the goat cheese, white wine, thyme, tarragon and Parmesan in a food processor and pulse until well blended and smooth, adding more wine (or a splash of water) if needed to achieve a spreadable consistency.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay down 2 sheets of phyllo, keeping the rest covered with a tea towel. Brush with a thin layer of butter and repeat two more times to layer 6 sheets. Spread the goat cheese mixture evenly over the phyllo, leaving a half-inch uncovered around the edges. Spread with caramelized onions (if you made them), then layer the tomatoes in an overlapping pattern and brush with olive oil. Scatter with Parmesan curls.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the phyllo is golden and tomatoes look slightly roasted. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and basil leaves. Serves about 10.

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Tanya Pilgrim/The Globe and Mail

Stuffed Spatchcocked Chicken

Chef Jonathan Cheung is the owner of Appetite for Books in Westmount, Que., one of only two dedicated cookbook stores left in Canada (the other is the Cookbook Company Cooks in Calgary), where he hosts events with visiting chefs and authors, and teaches cooking classes in the open kitchen. A spatchcocked bird cooks far more quickly than a traditional roasted chicken or turkey (in this recipe, it’s done in an hour and 15 minutes); the recipe makes enough stuffing to accommodate a smaller bird, and it’s easy to bump up the quantity for a larger bird (which will also require a slightly longer roasting time).

  • 8-10 cups country-style bread, cut in medium dice
  • 6 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 250-500 g mild Italian sausage or fennel sausage, casings removed and crumbled (optional)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage, roughly chopped
  • 5 sprigs thyme, leaves pulled off the stems (discard stems)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 5-6 lb chicken, spatchcocked (ask your butcher to do this)
  • canola or other vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss the bread in 3-4 tablespoons of the olive oil and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toast for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden and dry. Set aside.

Preheat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook the crumbled sausage until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, onion, garlic and herbs, reduce the heat to medium high and sauté for 15 minutes, or until tender. Season generously with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Add the toasted bread and the broth and mix. Transfer half the mixture to a food processor, crack in the egg and process until smooth. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or a piping bag. Place the remaining stuffing in a loaf pan or similar-sized baking dish.

Place the spatchcocked bird skin side up on a clean cutting board. Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin away from the breast meat, doing your best not to tear it. You need to create a pocket for the stuffing. Work your way down to the thigh, trying to gently separate the skin from the top of the breast down to the bottom of the thighs, or even to the bottom of the legs. Lightly drizzle with oil and season generously all over with salt and pepper.

Snip off the corner of the resealable bag, about the size of a nickel. Stick the piping bag between the skin and the meat of the right breast and pipe the stuffing underneath. Repeat on the other side. Massage the skin a bit to equally distribute and smooth out the purée. Pipe any leftover stuffing under the skin around the legs.

Place a rack in a roasting pan or lined baking sheet. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the rack and place in the oven. Roast for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until a digital thermometer reaches 130 F in the thickest part of the breast and the thigh. At this point, if the skin is browning too fast, tent with foil and continue cooking until the thermometer reaches 160 F. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, cover the remaining stuffing in the loaf pan with foil and place in the oven to cook for 20-30 minutes.

To serve, cut the legs off of the bird and carve the dark meat. Using a large sharp knife, try to remove the breast in one piece; start by slicing along the breast bone and slowly carving down along the bones. Once removed, slice lengthwise. Repeat with the other breast. Serve with the baked stuffing. Serves about 6.

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Tanya Pilgrim/The Globe and Mail

Maple Rosemary Tartiflette

This unique scalloped potato dish with maple rosemary cream comes from Anne and James Tigley, who live in PEI – they came up with it for a dinner party years ago, and it has been a favourite ever since. Tartiflette originated in the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps, made with Reblochon cheese; they use Camembert, or you could use a Canadian Champfleury, Oka or other washed rind or bloomy rind cheese.

  • 2 lb russet or Yukon gold potatoes (preferably grown in PEI)
  • 6 slices bacon (optional)
  • 2 tbsp butter (divided)
  • 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary, divided
  • pure maple syrup, to taste
  • 2 cups 18 per cent cream (approximately; divided)
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 small-medium wheel Camembert, cold

Peel and very thinly slice the potatoes (a mandoline is great for this); place in a bowl cover with cool water. Cook the bacon until crisp; transfer to a plate, reserving about a tablespoon of fat in the pan. Slice or crush the bacon slices once cool enough to handle.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan with the bacon fat, set over medium heat, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. If you like, add a splash of wine and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it evaporates.

Remove the rind from the Camembert and slice into smaller pieces or wedges. To assemble the tartiflette, remove the potato slices from the water and pat dry on a tea towel or paper towel.

Butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan (or a similar-sized baking dish) and place a couple of layers of potatoes on the bottom. Top with some of the onion mixture, bacon, a pinch of rosemary and some bits of cheese, and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of maple syrup. Do this two more times, then pour about 1 cup of cream over the top and down the sides – Anne Tigley notes she doesn’t measure her cream, but adds enough to come about a third of the way up the side of the dish. Cover with plastic wrap, weigh down with two large cans and refrigerate for an hour. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking, and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Remove the plastic wrap, cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 10, or until bubbly and golden. Let sit for 20 minutes. To make the maple cream, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan, cook the shallot with a pinch of rosemary for 2-3 minutes, until soft, then add the remaining cup of cream and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup. Whisk until heated through, but do not boil. (The sauce can be made ahead; the longer it sits, the better the flavour, and it will thicken a bit.)

Serve the tartiflette in slices or wedges, drizzled with the maple cream. Serves about 6.

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Tanya Pilgrim/The Globe and Mail

Root Vegetables, Sage Brown Butter & Blue Cheese

An international authority on cheese, Janice Beaton has been making this dish for about 15 years; she tends to throw it together by feel at her home in Mabou, on the west coast of Cape Breton Island. The sweet potato is easily tucked into the oven while you’re baking something else, and the almost-finished purée is the perfect dish to transport and reheat on the stovetop, crumbling in the blue cheese when you’re ready. If you like, set aside a few sage leaves and cook them in a bit of oil until crisp for added garnish.

  • 400 g rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 550 g dark-fleshed sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 12 large fresh sage leaves, finely chopped or 2 g dried sage
  • salt and pepper to taste

100 g strong blue cheese, such as Bleu Bénédictin, Bleu d’Elizabeth, Blue Juliette, Dragon’s Breath, or any Roquefort-style

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the whole sweet potato until fork tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Boil the rutabaga until fork tender, which may be up to an hour. Drain and cover to keep warm.

While the vegetables are cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until medium brown, then add the shallots and sage. Continue to cook over medium-low heat for another five minutes.

Remove the peel from the sweet potato and place the potato flesh in a blender along with the rutabaga and butter mixture. Purée until the mixture has a smooth texture. Transfer from the blender to a saucepan and stir in the blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm. Serves about 6.

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Tanya Pilgrim/The Globe and Mail

Coriander Chutney

Torontonian Theresa D’Souza makes a spectacular fresh coriander chutney, which her family spreads on soft buttered white bread, or stirs into yogurt to make Goan raita to serve with her Pakistani biryanis. It’s delicious with just about everything, and perfect to bring to a party.

  • 10-20 raisins
  • 1 large bundle fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 1 small onion or large shallot, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno or 3 small green chilies, chopped (remove seeds and membranes for less heat)
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1/4-1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

If the raisins are very dry, soak them in some warm water while you get the rest of the chutney going. Put the coriander, onion, chilies, ginger, garlic and lemon juice into a blender and pulse, scraping down the sides, until partially blended. Drain the water off the raisins and add them along with the coconut cream, almonds, salt, cumin and pepper and blend, scraping down the sides to help blend it into a fine paste.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to four days, or freeze for longer storage. Makes about 2 cups.

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Tanya Pilgrim/The Globe and Mail

Maple Pecan Pie

Born and raised in Paris and now living in Calgary, Saïd M’Dahoma was working toward his PhD in neuroscience when he switched his focus to mastering pastries. Though he teaches technical French pastry classes online, he sometimes makes life easier by using a frozen ready-to-bake pie shell for this classic fall dessert, and prefers maple syrup to the customary golden syrup. (He loves his slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.)

  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Pecan filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) turbinado or golden brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp (40 g) butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (130 g) finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (130 g) pecan halves

Preheat your oven to 360 F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, maple syrup and butter. Whisk in the flour and then the chopped pecans. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell and place the pecan halves on top in concentric circles.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Serves about 8.

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