Here’s How to Potluck Like Ina Garten, According to Her Biggest Fan

updated Nov 8, 2019
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To uphold his title as Ina Garten’s biggest fan, we asked Trent Pheifer to bestow us with the myriad lessons he’s learned over the years of being the Instagrammer behind beloved Ina Garten fan account @StoreBoughtIsFine.

In addition to his passion for all things Barefoot Contessa, Trent also has a well-regarded reputation as an esteemed potluck guest/host. And it’s no wonder: If you knew someone who had cooked over 800 Ina recipes, wouldn’t you invite them over for a dinner party or two to try the fruits of their labor?

Here Trent shares a hefty dose of Ina’s entertaining tips and wisdom in addition to a few of his tried-and-true Ina recipes that have become his potluck favorites.

How to be a Great Host (Like Ina)

Let people know what you’re making in advance.

If you’re cooking a main dish, tell your guests so they can bring dishes that complement it.

Provide a broad theme to help your guests narrow down options.

This can mean choosing a cuisine from a specific country, directing people to the recipes of a particular cookbook or chef (I hear Ina Garten has some great ones!), or arranging a cook-off, challenging everyone to make their best version of a particular dish.

Create a sign-up sheet.

You don’t have to stick to this, but it will prevent half of your party showing up with desserts.

Be gracious!

Take some pressure off those who hate cooking and assure them that store-bought is fine.

How to Be a Great Guest (Like Ina)

Ask the host for some direction.

If not specified by the host, ask what type of dishes (appetizer, veggie side, dessert) are most needed. You don’t want to be the 10th person at a party of 12 to bring dessert.

Don’t assume there will be oven space.

Choose a dish that tastes just as good at room temperature as it is warm out of the oven. You never know what the oven situation will be when you arrive.

Make a dish that’s easily transportable.

All you need is one nightmare trip on the subway with a delicate or oddly shaped dessert for you to never do it again. If I’m making dessert, I prefer to make cookies, simple cakes, or dessert bars for these occasions.

How to be a Great Cook (Like Ina)

Charlie Bird Farro Salad

I agree with Ina that Charlie Bird Farro Salad is perfect for any potluck. Dishes at potlucks can skew heavy, so people always gobble up this delicious salad that’s chock-full of goodies whenever I bring it.

Ina’s Baked Farro and Butternut Squash

This is easily one of my favorite side dishes — and it’s just as good at room temp. The nutty farro topped with creamy butternut squash, thick-cut bacon, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese is so hearty. It’s also unique enough that you don’t have to worry about anyone bringing something similar.

Ina’s Ham and Leek Empanadas

I made Ina’s Ham and Leek Empanadas for a potluck years ago and friends still rave about them. They look intimidating, but store-bought puff pastry makes them a cinch. These pockets of heaven are stuffed with smoked ham, Gruyère, leeks, crème fraîche, spinach, basil and Parmesan then baked until puffed and golden. Of course, they are best fresh out of the oven, but just as good at room temperature if you can’t reheat before serving.”

And there you have it, people. Go forth and potluck like Ina and Trent! Just remember to ask yourself: What Would Ina Do?