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A Harvest Dinner, Minus the Stress of Thanksgiving
’Tis the season for harvest feastin’! It’s the annual harvest season, and traditionally, there was too much to eat on the farms not to share it with good company—it’s no wonder there are so many holidays clumped together in the fall. But you don’t have to wait until the end of November to throw an appropriately autumnal spectacle in your home. You don’t even have to roast a turkey at your own “harvest feast” dinner. (Any type of poultry will suffice for a beer can-stuffed bird, by the way.) But you can, and should, enjoy the fruits of the harvest with a laid-back affair focused on good beers and food.
The indoors are more inviting once it gets cooler out, and you may not even need to turn on the heat with the oven going all day. But say you don’t want to be the sole cook at your soirée, but relax and enjoy it? The best solution is go potluck … but plan ahead.
A good potluck party follows the same formula of war: divide and conquer. If you have a friend or two who delights in baking, tag that person to do the desserts. If some friends cannot cook at all, have them pick out some beers to bring. Figure out roughly who will be bringing what, and you might find that the only things you’re to provide are the plates and a main course. What are some perfect main courses to feed a large group? Thinking outside the turkey (and keeping in mind that you’ll be pairing these with beer), a warm, savory stew or soup can be an easy crowd-pleaser, and involves much less risk than roasting a large bird as you can continue tweaking and seasoning it. Here are a few ideas for hearty main courses that can be cooked entirely on the stovetop:
– Beer-braised beef stew
– Coq au Bìere
– Chili with pumpkin and beer
– Succotash (a vegetarian option, with beans and beer)
Then there’s sides and snacks, which require little to no work at all. A selection of cheeses and charcuterie are fall appropriate when served with sliced apples, nuts and honey. Some other small tidbits to round out the hors d’oeuvres might include:
– A platter of quick-pickled fall vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower and onions
– A homemade jam or apple butter with bread
– A platter of bite-sized chunks of roasted root vegetables, served warm or at room temperature
– A savory squash dip made by scooping out the roasted flesh of a squash and puréeing it with butter and herbs
– The roasted seeds of said squash, sprinkled with salt after roasting at 325°F for 1 hour
As for desserts, get your bakers on board and pack your freezer with ice cream. Make a Porter reduction sauce to set out for optional drizzling on dessert plates by cooking down the sweetest beer you can find on the stove until it’s syrup-like in consistency.
And finally, the beer. You’ll want to have a full spectrum of beer styles to pair with all the edible opportunities, from Oktoberfest lagers to Stouts. It might not be as great of a value to buy six-packs of so many different beers, but since guests should ideally bring a couple, this is a simple feat. You can even assign friends to a certain style (e.g. “Stout” or “IPA”) and see what they bring. Perhaps the best part of throwing a potluck-style party is being introduced to new tastes (and beers) that you wouldn’t otherwise know of. So let your guests have their say on the breweries, and sample all around. Everyone contributes, everyone feasts. It’s a simple, humble tradition to savor. ■