In case you missed it, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Which means you should probably start working out your Holiday Eating Strategy ASAP. If you don’t know what, exactly, I mean by a Holiday Eating Strategy, then you’re probably the person who dives right in to the roll basket and is full by the time the gravy boat actually makes its way around the table.
What I’m saying is, prioritize! All those side dishes on the table can be overwhelming. You don’t want to make any decisions you’ll regret 10 minutes down the line, when you’re stuffed to the gills but haven’t even touched Aunt Lucy’s Creamed Corn Pudding (you know the dish).
Here’s our highly scientific breakdown of what you should take, and what you should pass on.
First Take: Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving necessity. Sure, tubers hadn’t made their way to the New World, or even the Old World, by the time the pilgrims of lore landed at Plymouth Rock, but that doesn’t mean you should pass them up at the table in 2015. On the contrary, make sure to take a big, claggy spoonful of the stuff. If you get too full to eat it, you can always turn it into a volcano at the end of the meal.
Second Opinion (Vince Mancini): It’s hard to talk about Thanksgiving without someone bringing up mashed potatoes. I know, it’s traditional, right up there with an apple pie when it comes to unimpeachable comfort foods. Thus, I know this is borderline blasphemous, and I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as the guy with strong opinions about potato products (GUILTY). But I feel compelled to point out that mashed potatoes just aren’t that great.
Look, they aren’t bad, especially if you slather them in gravy, whip them with equal parts butter and potatoes, and/or use a creamier potato variety like Yukon gold as your base. But even done perfectly they lack the textural contrast to eat much of (and why eat if I’m not going to gorge?!). The drawback of the smooth texture is that it sort of reminds you of nursing home food. I have a hard time with anything that looks the same going down as when I puke it up to cut carbs. It’s meant to be a side dish, so… it’s fine. If we’re making both mashed and scalloped potatoes, I’ve got no beef with you. But if you ask me to choose? It’s not even close. Scalloped have all the potato and butter flavor of mashed, plus cheese, chew, and god willing, even a little crunch. If we’re comparing potato dishes, the best thing you can say about mashed is that they’re better than baked or boiled. COME AT ME, BRO.
First Take: It’s pretty rude to serve a Thanksgiving meal without gravy. I think Emily Post wrote something about that, actually. Although gluten-free gravies exist, you should probably just assume that the stuff on the table was thickened with flour and pass on it if you’ve got a sensitivity. Or, you know, if you just don’t like gravy. Traitor.
Second Opinion (Steve Bramucci): Gravy is a sauce and you just can’t have a meal this heavy (and potentially dry) without at least two sauces (gravy + cranberry). This is beyond essential — go to a home where it’s made from real reduced turkey or chicken stock.