Turkey, stuffing, gravy, vegetables on a plate

You’re the Best Guest Around

Planning a Thanksgiving menu is overwhelming, so if you’re headed out as a guest this year–way to go! Your 4-day weekend will be more relaxing than your hosts’ (well, unless you’re one of my restaurant buddies, in which case, good luck), but that doesn’t mean you’re totally free of responsibility. Every good guest rings that doorbell with an offering in hand, and I’m here to help you win Best Guest of this year’s Thanksgiving season.

There are a few key characteristics of a good bring-along Thanksgiving dish. It should be delicious (always numero uno), able to be served at room temperature, and totally prepared–short of the addition of, say, a salad dressing. You don’t want to take up room in your host’s oven or compete with dishes already on their table. That means maybe don’t show off your legendary stuffing, unless they ask for it (in which case, send me the recipe!).

Barley salad

Great examples of these sorts of dishes include salads or roasted vegetables (surprisingly great at room temperature), tossed with fresh herbs, a tangy vinaigrette, or other light sauce. Finger foods and appetizers are always welcome, like roasted pumpkin seeds mixed in your food processor with chili spices, tomato, and garlic, or toasted baguette slices with herbed goat cheese and caramelized onions. And of course, dessert is always a hit. Chances are your host will already have the classics, like pumpkin and apple pie, but nobody would ever turn away a caramel-apple layer cake or creamy rice pudding.

And if you’re not sure, it never hurts to ask. Instead of saying, “Can I bring anything?”–a question to which most gracious hosts will respond, “Just yourself!"–ask your friend what would be helpful. If they ask you to bring something to drink, a pre-mixed cocktail, like an apple cider sangria or a cranberry gimlet can be prepared the night before. Don’t forget to bring a garnish!

And if your hosts are really persistent about you coming empty handed, they might have menu control issues–common among us chef types and the food-obsessed. In that case, bring something they can enjoy when the meal is all said and done, like a bottle of wine or a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and wash a few dishes, too!