By: Doug Uscher

Thanksgiving is upon us again, and if you’ve been invited somewhere, the first question you should ask is, “what can I bring?” A good guest never shows up empty handed, especially at Thanksgiving. Your options are many, but an appetizer, side dish, or dessert are all safe bets. Add something tasty to drink, and you’ll be a guest who’s going to get invited back again.

For an appetizer, you want something that people can eat with their hands and ideally requires nothing more than a few minutes in the oven to heat up. My go-to is something my wife and I call “Mushroom Goodness.” Pasty made from cream cheese and stuffed with sautéed mushrooms, they are a bit of work to put together, but once done, they heat up in minutes and are always a hit. We’ve reached the point where we always make a double batch, just so we can stick some in the freezer for a rainy day.

Brussels sprouts have been all the rage for awhile now, so when you’re looking for a side dish, you’re likely to win points with this one. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to slice them thin, sauté them with some wine and top them with fried shallots. The shallots take a little extra effort, but they add a salty crunch factor that will get people thanking you for bringing them to the table.

Probably the most asked for Thanksgiving dessert is to “bring a pie.” That leaves you with plenty of options, but I’m going to recommend you skip the easy pumpkin pie in favor of something more crowd pleasing: Bourbon Pecan Pie. Right from the first word you’re going to win people over, especially if you bring along some bourbon to go with it. But we’ll get to that in a minute. For starters, make your life easier and get boxed pie crust. It’s as good as homemade, and is practically foolproof. The rest of the pie is almost as easy, but looks (and tastes) impressive.

Speaking of bourbon, if you decide to bring pie, consider bringing a bottled cocktail along to go with it. Bottled cocktails are perfect, because you don’t have to rely on your host’s liquor cabinet, and with the work done ahead of time, all you have to do is pour. A bottled Manhattan could just as easily start the night as pair with the pie you brought, so you might want to bring two bottles.

If cocktails aren’t your thing, a bottle of wine on top of your food offering will be appreciated, especially a good one. Consider stepping outside the norm a bit and picking up a quality Beaujolais or dry Riesling. Either will be surprising to wine newbies or refreshing to wine snobs. The bright, easy-drinking fruit flavors of Beaujolais go beautifully with turkey, but will last throughout the night. A dry, Alsace Riesling is a perfect pairing for your Brussels sprouts, and will go a long way towards educating your fellow guests about the versatility of what most sommeliers call “the king of grapes.”

Recipes for these dishes can be found on our blog or you can invite me over, and I’ll bring them along.

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