For every Thanksgiving Day grocery shopper procrastinator who hasn't picked up the essentials, Melissa Clark, our food contributor and food writer for The New York Times, offers us wisdom. Where can you best put your money to work for you at the Thanksgiving table? The turkey or the side dishes? (click through for Melissa's tips and her recipe for Spicy Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Hash)
Melissa Clark’s Top Five Tips on Where to Spend Your Money on Your Thanksgiving Dinner
- Buy a good turkey: It is the main course! Buying a better quality bird means a better tasting meal. You can buy a nice name brand like an American Bronze, or organic, freerange, or kosher. Kosher turkeys come pre-brined and the process of declaring a bird kosher demands that the turkeys be treated humanely, which means they’re not factory farmed.
- Don’t cut corners on the potatoes! Buying really nice, flavorful potatoes that are organic doesn’t break the bank and the return in taste is surprising. Try fingerlings, garnets, jewels, and Japanese White Sweets.
- Buy fresh herbs and spices. Fresh herbs often come in a mixed pack and you can use them throughout the entire meal: on the turkey, in the dressing, on the potatoes, in the gravy in salad. They won’t go to waste. And as for spices, if you’re using old spices…it’s time to replace them. This is the best time of year to do it.
- Don’t bother buying fancy bread for your stuffing. But don’t buy that doughy sliced white stuff either. Make a compromise and buy a nice, affordable Semolina for a buck. It has a nice crust and good flavor.
- Skip the shrimp cocktail and substitute some nuts. It’ll just make people enjoy the main course more!
Recipe: Spicy Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Hash
- 3 pounds of Garnet and or Jewel sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 3/4" chunks
- 7 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 0.5 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
- 0.5 teaspoon chili powder
- freshly squeezed lime juice from half a lime, or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl toss potatoes with 4 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Spread potatoes on two large baking sheets, leaving space between chunks so they can brown. Roast, tossing occasionally and changing position of baking pans so potatoes cook evenly, until potatoes are golden, crisp around edges, and tender, about 35 minutes.
2. In a large skillet, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeños and chili powder and cook 2 minutes more. Add remaining half teaspoon salt, cook and toss about 5 minutes.
3. Pour in lime juice and scrape up any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Combine hash mixture with sweet potatoes in a large bowl and stir in the cilantro. Taste and add more lime juice and salt, if necessary.
Yield: About 6 cups for a nice Thanksgiving side dish