Having mixed feelings about a work potluck is common, and most of the time, it's due to having no good ideas on what to bring. The most attractive aspect of a potluck gathering is the togetherness and sharing a meal. Work associates get to see another side of the friend-at-work at a potluck. The most common types of last-minute potluck dishes are casseroles, crock pot meals, dips, salads and meat arrangements.
The characteristics of a good last-minute potluck dish are brightly colored ingredients, flavor and simplicity. A colorful dish has more takers than a monochromatic dish. Flavorful dishes are better than bland, acquired-taste flavored meals. Dishes that require a lengthy preparation time or have too many ingredients aren't suitable for last-minute fare. Another sign a potluck dish is good for last-minute is that it is contained all in one pot or dish. Crock pot meals are a good examples of morning-of, last-minute meals.
The ingredients of any casserole is most often meat, vegetables, a starch and a savory sauce. These ingredients should complement, so use best judgment. A casserole is made to fit into one pot or dish. It can be a Shepherd's Pie where mashed potatoes are used as a crust, or something simpler like a tuna casserole with frozen young sweet peas for color and texture. Chicken, ground sirloin and turkey are the most common meats used in casseroles. Casseroles have to be baked between 30 and 45 minutes but can be served room-temperature. An easy, savory sauce is a can of cream of chicken, celery or potato soup.
A slow cooker or crock pot meal is ideal for last-minute work potlucks if the ingredients are simple. Store-bought soup warming in a crock pot on a table is a thoughtful addition to the work potluck. Light eaters will appreciate the calorie-conscious alternative and soup complements many dishes. The soup can be broth-based or cream. Another good idea is a stew or gumbo. A quick veggie and meat stew can be thrown together if the ingredients are pre-cooked. Stews can be store-bought and placed in a crock pot or, instead, a few cans of chili. Pre-made gumbos are usually located in the frozen or dry package goods section of the grocery store. They require water and about 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.
A meat platter is a more costly last-minute work potluck addition, but co-workers appreciate it. Crusty rolls, croissants or sliced bread can accompany the platter for those inclined to make a sandwich. A quick meat tray is comprised of an assortment of sliced cold meats from the grocery store deli. However, a roast braised at home, sliced and arranged on a tray cold or in a warm crock pot filled with mushroom gravy is just as good. A less-costly alternative is to purchase cold cuts and arrange on a tray. Meat trays can be purchased already prepared at the deli counter or already on display in the refrigerated deli section of the grocery store.
By far the simplest addition to a work potluck is the appetizer. Dips and salads are popular with co-workers because they are portable and light for those who are peckish. Dips can be homemade or store-bought and served with raw vegetables or potato chips. Salads can be of the green leaf variety, or creamy like macaroni and potato salad. Dips and salads provide variety at a work potluck and usually serve as the side dish as hungry visitors peruse the array of foods. Green leafy salads require refrigeration, like a bowl of ice underneath, and a salad dressing. They are found in the fresh veggie isle of the grocery store, pre-bagged and washed. Extra ingredients, like radishes, can be tossed in for variety and color. The addition of croutons is always appreciated. A hearty dip like spinach or artichoke require a hearty whole grain cracker.