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YES! Weekly’s ten best Thanksgiving eats

by Amy Kingsley

Turkey

Whether it’s deep fried, brine soaked, butter injected, cooked at high heat, low heat or wrapped in foil, turkey is the common denominator in most observances of the American gorgefest known as Thanksgiving. The birds make a lovely centerpiece, and their ragged remains are infinitely recyclable in sandwiches, broths and casseroles. Preparing a turkey can be a bit of a pain in the ass, what with the days-long thawing and hours of roasting. But those willing to rise early and put forth the effort can expect perfectly moist, crispy golden gobblers to become an annual pinnacle of epicurean achievement.

Tofurkey

Despite the glut of side dishes available alongside the turkey, vegetarians used to get the short end of the stick on Thanksgiving. Not so anymore, thanks in large part to Turtle Island Foods. The natural foods company pioneered the production of their Tofurky, a trademarked turkey substitute sculpted from wheat gluten and tofu stuffed with wild rice. I’ve heard good reviews from vegetarian friends, and even been tempted to thaw out the fake bird that’s been growing ice in my freezer for the past two years.

Sweet potatoes

This autumnal tuber has a number of good qualities, affordability, nutritional value and taste chief among them. Since it is Thanksgiving, we can throw any concerns about sweet potatoes’ healthy characteristics out the window. So serve this savory/sweet switch hitter covered in marshmallows, drowned in liquor and generously powdered with brown sugar.

Green bean casserole

Green beans are a low stress, must-have addition to any Thanksgiving feast. I prefer the casserole version baked with condensed soup and topped by fried onions. At the very least microwave a high-quality brand and serve it sprinkled with toasted almonds.

Stuffing/dressing

Stuffing (or dressing) is the most infinitely mutable Thanksgiving dish, and the most indicative of geographic background and family tradition. It can be molded from rice, cornbread or chestnuts. Some cooks bake it inside the bird; others prepare stuffing separately. Whatever your method, avoid the boxed variety. Homemade tastes much, much better.

Gravy

Gravy provides the perfect culinary bowtie to bind all the disparate flavors vying for space on the Thanksgiving dinner plate. Don’t be shy (unless you have a heart condition), follow in the footsteps of Jackson Pollock and splatter your food with drippings.

Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving standby that tends to get overlooked, probably because the starchy side dish makes plenty of appearances during the year. Spiking potatoes with garlic or cheddar can help the dish stand out a bit, and perhaps earn the chef a few surprised and approving nods.

Creamed spinach

All vegetables served on Thanksgiving should be buttered, creamed or wrapped in ribbons of cheese. That’s the way to eat spinach anyway, provided another E. Coli outbreak doesn’t wipe supply off the grocery store shelves.

Wine

We get the partying started early in my house on Thanksgiving. Mom usually uncorks the first bottle around noon, and those of us who drink generally spend the rest of the day in a wine-flushed food stupor. I’m not enough of an expert to recommend any varietals, but I suppose you should avoid boxed or brightly colored spirits.

Pie

Pumpkin and pecan are the standard pie flavors in my family, usually served with generous dollops of Cool Whip. There are endless variations on either flavor, and the inclusion of an apple or chocolate pie in the traditional dessert repertoire wouldn’t be looked upon unkindly. So long as it’s baked in a crust, anything goes in this category.

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