- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Potlucks are one of the most hopeful and pleasing ways to present food to a crowd.

For as long as I can recall, community and church suppers offered potlucks as a way for everyone to contribute to the meal, to feed a lot from little. And for children, they were a way for us to sample cooking different from what we might receive at home.

There might be glorious orange cakes, casseroles of chicken seasoned with curry, and those unbelievably sweet fruit salads with marshmallows that were at the same time almost mystical and certainly delicious.

This chicken casserole was from my mother’s collection, and I think it was my first taste of curry. Add a fruit salad, some bread and your dessert of choice, and you have a fine fall dinner party. Or tote it to a potluck, where others can share in its flavor.

Five time-shaving ideas for fall potlucks:

• Sub sandwiches using cold cuts and vegetable salads from the supermarket deli.

• Deli hummus with raw vegetables and toasted pita triangles for dipping.

• Grilled halves of little pears drizzled with honey, dollops of mascarpone cheese, crumbled blue cheese and toasted walnuts.

• A platter of roasted slices of sweet potato and garlic, roasted potatoes with herbs, and roasted butternut squash chunks.

• Smoked turkey and honey mustard stuffed in little corn muffins

Curried chicken and artichoke casserole

4 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 7-ounce can mushroom pieces, drained

1 10.75-ounce can cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 cup pre-chopped pecans or slivered almonds

Place chicken, artichoke hearts, water chestnuts, mushrooms, chicken soup, sour cream, mayonnaise and curry powder in a large mixing bowl and stir until well blended.

Transfer mixture to a 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass or ceramic baking dish and scatter nuts over top. Bake casserole in preheated 400-degree oven until it is bubbling throughout and the nuts are toasted, 32 to 35 minutes.

Remove casserole from oven and serve at once. Makes 8 servings.

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