Halloween Treat: The Neighborhood Potluck Family Dinner

Halloween Treat: The Neighborhood Potluck Family Dinner

Years ago, my friends and I would gather as a group to trick-or-treat with our families and end the evening at my home or theirs for a potluck dinner of chili or pasta or pizza. Make It Better, Chicago North Shore’s online and print publications reminded me of days gone by and since it is Recipe Thursday, why not share this with you. Each week Make It Better sends subscribers an email with featured stories, events for the upcoming weekend, fundraising and other topics. This morning, Julie Chernoff writes about a Halloween tradition of friends trick-or-treating with their children and gathering afterwards for a potluck family dinner. Sarah Stegner, well known chef of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, partakes in this tradition. I would like to share Sarah’s recipe including beverages and the link to Make It Better. Enjoy!


Here’s the menu:

Beverages: Apple cider for the kids, but the adults might need something stronger after all that trick-or-treating. How about mixologist Daniel Sviland’s Caramel Appletini? Combine 1 quart of apple cider with 1 cup caramel sauce. For each ‘tini, combine 4 ounces of the mix with 2 ounces of vodka. Shake with ice, pour into a martini glass and garnish with an apple slice.


Main Course:

Untraditional Shepherd Pie

Side Dishes:

Mixed Green Salad

Roasted Pumpkin with Honey Glaze


Apple-Cranberry Crisp


The Recipe’s:

Untraditional Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 4

2 pounds Tallgrass (or other grass-fed beef) chuck-eye roll cut into 1-inch chunks, fat and sinew removed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup diced onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 cup chopped fresh, skinned and seeded tomatoes

1 cup peeled and diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (removed from stem)

3 cups unseasoned chicken stock

3 cups demi-glace*

4 bay leaves

1 cup blanched rainbow chard

1 Ghost or Habanero pepper, left whole (optional)

1. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Sear the meat in olive oil in a large hot pan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, until the meat is browned on all sides.

2. Remove meat from the pan and sauté onions until tender. Add garlic, carrots, and celery. Return the meat to the pan. Add the chicken stock and demi-glace.

3. If using, tie Ghost pepper with kitchen twine (or place in bouquet garni bag) and lower into liquid—taste often until desired heat is achieved, then carefully remove and discard. Be careful not to touch the pepper with uncovered hands. Cover the pan and cook slowly until the meat is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Stir in the swiss chard and place in an oven-proof casserole dish, or divide evenly between 4 smaller crocks.

For the topping:

4 cups potato puree

1/4 cup parsnip puree

1/8 cup butternut squash puree

2 tablespoons whole butter

1 cup chicken stock

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1. Mix together the above ingredients. Spread on top of braised meat in casserole dish (or divide into 4 portions and spread over meat in individual crocks).

2. Place in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, until potatoes begin to brown.

3. Serve and enjoy!


Side Dishes:

Salad with mixed greens, Honeycrisp apples, toasted walnuts and goat cheese in a simple vinaigrette of olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

Roasted Pumpkin with Honey Glaze:

Peel a pie pumpkin, halve, seed and cut it into chunks. Toss with olive oil and a little salt on a sheet pan and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until it starts to soften. Brush with melted butter and honey and return to oven for about 10 minutes more to glaze.



Apple-Cranberry Crisp with Lime and Ginger

1 package (12 ounces) cranberries, picked over

6 medium Honeycrisp apples, skin on, cored and cut in 1″ chunks

1/2 cup sugar

juice of 2 limes, zest of 1 lime

1/4 cup crystallized ginger nibs (find them at The Spice House)

Crisp Topping:

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

2 tablespoons each white and dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 cup sliced almonds


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

2. In large bowl, combine cranberries, apple chunks, sugar, lime juice and zest and the ginger nibs. Toss to combine evenly. Turn out into prepared baking dish and spread evenly.

3. In food processor, place whole-wheat flour, oats, sugars and cinnamon. Pulse two or three times to blend. Add cold butter chunks and pulse a few more times until mixture forms pea-sized clumps. Stir in almonds. Sprinkle evenly over apple mixture.

4. Bake in oven for about 40-45 minutes, until crisp is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Remove from oven; set on a rack to cool.

5. Serve warm with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.

Apple Crisp Leftovers, it’s also great for breakfast!

The link to Make It Better:  http://www.makeitbetter.net/dining/food-drink/5587-halloween-treat-the-neighborhood-potluck-family-dinner?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=OCTOBER+23+BETTER+LETTER&utm_content=OCTOBER+23+BETTER+LETTER+CID_6ede3db7798956e6bb33a565ed928bc1&utm_source=Better%20Letter&utm_term=Halloween%20Treat%20The%20Neighborhood%20Potluck%20Family%20Dinner