Something is going to go amiss this Thanksgiving. A side dish will burn, you'll be short a chair for an unannounced guest, your aunt will question all of your life choices in front of an assembly of your loved ones; it could be one of a million little (or large) mishaps. The world will not screech to a to a gravy-spattering halt. We promise.
Over the next few weeks, we'll help you prepare and gird your loins as best we can, with our own time-tested hosting tips and recipes, as well as plenty from chefs, hospitality experts, celebrities, hosts and home cooks we love. Our goal – sending you into Thanksgiving with a confident smile on your face, and seeing you emerge on the other side with your sanity intact.
This is not your fault, and the best thing you can possibly do is plan ahead and manage expectations - both your own and those of your guests. Start today by issuing your Thanksgiving invitations and asking your potential guests (and their guests, because strays are a lovely inevitable) to finish this sentence: "It's not Thanksgiving without ________." Then scheme with them about how to get it on the table.
You can attempt to make it yourself, but it would not be out of place, or make you a bad host, to see if they'd care to bring it themselves. Thanksgiving is a highly collaborative holiday and people, for the most part, like to be of use. This takes the onus of at least one dish off your metaphorical plate, ensures that guests' appetites for nostalgia are sufficiently sated, and gives them a chance to share their own history.
And if they can't or won't - so be it. Your best effort is good enough, and if goes spectacularly awry, you've all got an excellent story for next year's dinner.
Today's Burning Question
Q: How do you make mashed potatoes without animal products? I should rephrase that. I meant GOOD mashed potatoes. - Josh
A: This one's a cinch: olive oil. There are so few ingredients in this dish, there's nothing to hide behind, so it's worth a couple of extra bucks to splurge on a full-bodied, dressing-quality oil, which you'll end up using on everything.
Wash two large pounds of Yukon Gold or russet potatoes and, depending on your preferences, leave the skin on or peel it. Halve the potatoes, or quarter them if they're large, place them in a large pot, cover with cold water by one inch, add one tablespoon of kosher salt and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook until the potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain the water, saving about 1/2 cup of it.
Then place the potatoes in a large bowl, pour in 1/3 cup of olive oil and either whip with an electric mixer, or mash with a potato masher. Add enough of the reserved water to achieve the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you'd like to amp up the flavor even more, stir in chopped chives, minced tarragon or parsley, ribbons of basil or any of your favorite herbs.
Serve, sit back, and wait for the compliments to roll in.
But wait - there's more!
We've got plenty of fun surprises planned over these next few weeks, but in the meantime, consider printing out these mantras and cross-stitching them on throw pillows or possibly taking them to the tattoo parlor:
1. Don't be a martyr, be a host.
Un-buckle up, follow our ongoing Thanksgiving advice, and get set to have an absolutely delicious day.
- Guzzle wine advice from Terroir and Food & Wine
Got a Thanksgiving query or dilemma? Need techniques for roasting turkey or just looking for recipes to bust up your holiday rut? Wanna know what one of our anchors eats for T-Day? We're here to help. Post your question in the comments below and we'll do our best to assist.
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