Five Statement Dishes for Friendsgiving on a Budget

'Tis officially the season of the potluck. Whether it's a gathering with friends, coworkers, or family, shared meals are deliciously bountiful but can sometimes add some pressure: whose creation will be the tastiest? How much of your food budget do you need to set aside? Will you be the fourth person to bring mac and cheese for yet another year in a row?

Behold: five under-$30 statement dishes that'll ensure you stand out from the crowd and avoid going broke.

Lumpia (gluten-free)

Image Credit: Alex Santos Murry
Image Credit: Alex Santos Murry

Ingredients:

2 carrots, julienne

1/3 cabbage, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, chopped

1 packet Mama Sita's Lumpiang Shanghai mix

Oil of your choice

2 eggs

1 pack spring roll wrappers

No great Filipino spread is complete without some lumpia, and so should it be with Friendsgiving. There are many ways to make the timeless Filipino spring roll—the classic will always be Lumpiang Shanghai. Substitute the traditional pork for healthier, seasonal ground Turkey. Cook the meat in a wok, then add chopped carrots, cabbage, garlic, and onion and season as needed with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl, mix in an egg and one packet of Mama Sita's Lumpiang Shanghai mix (available at any pan-Asian grocery store, like NYC's family-owned Asia Market Corp. on Mulberry Street in Chinatown.) Then, roll them up in thin rice wrappers. Deep fry in an oil of your choice (I like grapeseed or rice bran), pack up in a Tupperware, and surprise all your friends with this gorgeous statement dish.

Chilled Cucumber, coconut & beet soup (vegetarian, gluten-free)

Ingredients:

2 cucumbers (peeled, seeded, & chopped)

1 beet (peeled & chopped)

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

Oven real estate is hard to find at a crowded Friendsgiving—it's cold outside, so most folks will cook up something warm that needs to be reheated. An easy solution? This colorful, eye-catching chilled soup that's creamy enough to feel substantial and low-maintenance enough to ensure short cook time and ready-to-serve status.

Chop up some cucumbers and a beet, and throw in your favorite blender alongside one can of coconut milk. Puree until smooth, purple, and delicious. To add a kick, toss in a bit of fresh ginger. Refrigerate overnight and serve cold at Friendsgiving—bonus presentation points if you serve in tea cups or juice glasses.

Crab Rangoon (gluten-free, pescetarian)

Ingredients:

1 clove garlic, minced

1 package cream cheese

1 can crabmeat, drained and flaked (imitation crab works too)

1 cup chopped scallions

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 pack wonton wrappers

Oil of your choice

I recently attended a party with a beautifully eclectic mix of food — the scene-stealer? Crab rangoon wontons. Hands. Downs. Imagine crunchy, golden brown pockets filled with rich cream cheese, scallion, and fresh crab. YUM.

Combine cream cheese, crab, garlic, scallions, and soy sauce in a bowl. Mix well until ingredients are evenly distributed. On each wonton skin, place one dollop of mixture, then use water as an adhesive to seal edges when folding into a triangle. Deep fry in oil of your choice, and get ready to be the most popular chef at the potluck.

Pancit Bihon (gluten-free)

Image Credit: Alex Santos Murry

Ingredients:

1 lb vermicelli rice noodles

1/2 lb chicken, cubed

1/2 cup snap peas

1 cup sliced carrots

1/2 small cabbage, chopped

1 cup celery stalk, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup shrimp

Instead of noodle casserole, try this flavorful, unexpected, and surprisingly easy to make Southeast Asian noodle dish. Not only is this meal photogenic AF, but your gluten-free friends will love you because it's likely to be the only pasta dish at the table they can indulge (rice noodles, baby.) Cut chicken into small cubes and saute with salt, pepper, and garlic. Add in carrots, snap peas, chopped celery, cabbage, and stir-fry lightly. Grab two packets of Mama Sita's Pancit Bihon Mix (notice a trend here? Mama Sita's is EVERYTHING). Mix in with two cups water, then pour over chicken and veggies and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, boil the rice noodles in a pot. The noodles will cook quickly — once they're done, mix in with bihon sauce and meat/veggies. Top with sliced lemon, hard boiled egg, and cooked shrimp. If you really want to impress your guests, bring your own patis (fish sauce) for an extra garnish.

Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Bark (vegetarian, gluten-free)

Ingredients:

2 pomegranates

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Rock or sea salt.

For something super sweet and extra easy, pick up a couple pomegranate and a bag of chocolate chips after work. Melt the chocolate and collect the seeds from the fruit. On pan covered in wax paper, pour the chocolate and add seeds in layers. Sprinkle in rock salt for complexity. Cover, freeze overnight, and break up into bars before serving. The majority prep time is literally 15 minutes, and the finished product will be gourmet AF next to everyone else's basic chocolate chip cookies.