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Food & Drink

Five idiot-proof Thanksgiving starters

For gatherings where you can't get away with just bringing a bottle of wine

Photo: Photo by Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Sweet Potato Soup Shots: a savory take on the omnipresent Thanksgiving root vegetable

Photo: , License: N/A

Welsh rarebit-inspired muffins

Thanksgiving: It's the potluckiest time of the year. Whether you find yourself enjoying the idyllic extended-family dinner à la Norman Rockwell, or you gather with a group of friends (aka the family you choose), it's statistically more likely that you will be a guest than a host. In other words, you'll need to bring a dish. And as casual as it sounds, Thanksgiving potluck can be
a minefield.
To demonstrate your appreciation of the host's hospitality, you have to bring something that required a little effort, but at the same time, you don't want to compete with the lineup they've already planned. (Four bowls of mashed potatoes on the table isn't going to make anyone happy.) It's no wonder some people wimp out with a relish tray, or boring dinner rolls.
But not you! You're creative, fearless, and well-intentioned. You are going to kick Thanksgiving's ass – in a very polite and well-behaved way. You're going to bring seasonal starters. See, now you're a hero, because the other guests have something to nibble on and your host has an extra 30 minutes in the kitchen before the grumbling stomachs drown out the small talk. All five of these pre-meal snacks travel well, double (or halve) fairly easily, and play well with turkey.

Sweet Potato Soup Shots

(adapted from Merrill Stubbs' and Amanda Hesser's Food52.com)
No marshmallows here: This is a savory take on the ubiquitous Thanksgiving vegetable. The amount of broth and water may seem like a lot, but if you're serving it as a shot, the soup needs to be thin to be drinkable. If Middle Eastern flavors aren't your favorite, substitute herbes de Provence for the za'atar and chopped niçoise olives for the feta.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons za'atar *
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, white and light-green part only, rinsed thoroughly and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and chopped
5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken stock
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

In a small pot, combine za'atar and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Cook over low-medium heat until warm, but don't burn the spices. Set aside for at least an hour to infuse.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm the butter and remaining olive oil. When the butter has melted into the oil, add the chopped leek, carrot and onion. Cook until softened and translucent, about five minutes. Add the sweet potato and saute for another minute. Add the stock and water, drop in the bay leaf, and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Check to make sure the sweet potatoes are completely soft, then remove bay leaf and puree with an immersion blender. Add salt to taste (you may need more or less depending on your stock).

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