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Transportable dishes for Thanksgiving potluck

Hello Hounds!

I'm going to a Thanksgiving celebration this year, and it seems the host is not planning on doing it up much at all. She's making a turkey, and so far others are only bringing stuffing (I'm already bummed not to have stuffing in the turkey) and a sweet potato pie. Looks like I'll be cooking up a storm. I don't mind that so much... but I'm not sure what will travel well. She doesn't have a lot of pots and pans and has requested that we microwave my pre-made dishes. Trying to remain positive about this, but already feeling like this is not going to be a great meal. Any suggestions as to how I can save it? Thanks!

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  1. Do you have a crock pot? I've read about others doing mashed potatoes well in advance, and then serving from a slow cooker with great results.

    Will she make a gravy? That's my fave part of T-day, and can be made from turkey wings/parts in advance, if it's something you'd like.

    Baked dishes travel well. Maybe a spinach gratin? To avoid the microwave, if you aren't travelling long distance then just bake at the last minute, and wrap in a towel to insulate.

    Cranberry sauce or pepper jelly over cream cheese makes an easy appetizer, serve with crackers.

    3 Replies
    1. re: springleaf

      Thanks springleaf! I don't have a crock pot, but it's high time I get one. Are you saying to just put my already made mashed potatoes in a crock pot and heat them up at the dinner?

      1. re: luckiestduck

        I'm trying this method for the first time this year. All the recipe research I've done says to make your mashed potatoes the day before, using plenty of milk and cream (some recipes use cream cheese or sour cream instead). Store and chill in your crock pot container. The day of, cut up a stick of butter and put on top of the potatoes. Turn on your crock pot and let it warm the potatoes. Once the butter is melted, give it a quick stir and you should be good to go.

        Oh, and if you're looking for a veggie dish that heats up well, this is delicious:


        1. re: luckiestduck

          Sam's Club has a great deal for $40 on a triple slow cooker. I also have a large crock pot that I use for pulled pork.

          Someone else mentioned roasted brussels sprouts - Yum! We have them regularly. They are awesome. I just steam them up until they are still slightly firm. They are great with sea/kosher salt, olive oil and fresh ground pepper. If you like toss in some bacon, proscutto or panceta.

          My guests always go crazy when I serve up green beans. Buy 3 pounds of fresh green beans for 8 people. Just wash them, cut the ends off, boil until they are "just barely cooked". While they are cooking, heat up 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and 4+ Tablespoons Puree'd garlic. Toss with the green beans then season with sea salt or kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. And then add in a touch of balsamic vinegar, fresh squeezed lemon and Sriracha (Rooster) Hot Sauce. If you like add in just a touch of good soy sauce or maggi sauce.

          It's easy to prep this the day of and it'll knock their socks off. If you want to - also toss in bacon / panceta / procutto.

          If you really want this to be a knock-out - then find a way to convince the host to BRINE THAT TURKEY! It's easy to do and will make a big difference.

          You could also do a homemade gravy. Easily done 1-2 days beforehand. Here's what you'll need and it's EASY:
          - Chicken broth
          - Better Than Bouillon Chicken base or Turkey base - either will do
          - Giblets. You can get a BIG package of giblets for between $1-2 from many markets
          - Sea or Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and perhaps a bit of fresh tarragon if you like

          Pan roast the giblets with 1/4 cup canola oil until they are cooked through then put them aside to let them cool.

          Deglaze the pan using just a bit of dry white wine and then add broth and let that heat up to a simmer. Give it a taste and then add some BTB to taste, adding more as you need, Start with 2 TSP and then add only 1 TSP at a time. Season with salt/pepper to taste.

          Chop up giblets and stir them back in. Let the flavors mingle on a slow nice low simmer for a good 10-15 min. Taste and then season more as you like. I like adding a little tarragon at the very end but that's me. Feel free to add whatever herbs you like.

      2. I'm sharing your sinking feeling about this meal. But hopefully the company will be good. A couple of things. 1) No oven or stovetop access? Because if you can get there 1/2 early eary and there's space any casserole style dish can be heated wonderfully. Creamed spinach can be reheated on the stovetop easily. 2) The host doesn't sound like she knows what she's doing so you may want to bring ready to eat appetizers in case the turkey will be in the oven a long time after people get there. A cheese plate, meatballs in a crock pot, deviled eggs, crostini, dates with chunks of manchego cheese inside and wrapped with proscuitto.

        1. So the host said "I'm making a turkey, someone is bringing stuffing and someone else is bringing a sweet potato pie. That's the meal....and then there's whatever you bring"? Have you gone to this persons' house before so you know what to expect? How many people are coming? Have you talked to them about what they're bringing? Maybe this woman is kind of overwhelmed by the idea and could use your help...rather than being bummed. If you really think this is going to be such a debacle--if having the stuffing outside of the bird bums you already it is likely to get worse--maybe you should have your own T'Day. It's still almost two weeks away.

          3 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            i'm with escondido on the need for a little more recon here.

            also, were you ASKED to "cook up a storm"?

            1. re: alkapal

              Totally agree. If the hostess is eager for guests to bring side dishes and is coordinating so there aren't duplicates, great. You find out what she needs and commit to as much as you are comfortable cooking and transporting. But resist the temptation to throw your culinary weight around by preparing the majority of the meal. That could be perceived as an insult.

              Sounds like you should plan on having a separate dinner of your own at some point in the next couple of weeks, so you can have whatever you like.

              Green bean casserole or creamed onions are traditional Thanksgiving accompaniments that will be missed by most guests if they are not part of the menu. Since dessert is sweet potato pie, they don't need candied yams or sweet potatoes in any form on the dinner plate.

            2. re: escondido123

              escondido 123, I didn't mean to come off as that negative... just trying to ensure that the meal and day will be the best that it can be.

            3. What about roasted brussel sprouts? You could roast them the night before, then reheat them in the microwave. We do ours with onions, bacon, and thyme. In terms of cold sides, my family serves a Waldorf salad as part of our Thanksgiving meal. You could make that that morning, and all you'd need to do is transfer it from its travel dish to a serving dish.

              Has she said if you can use the oven or stove if you bring your own pots or pans? Or are you strictly limited to the microwave? And will you be the only one cooking up a storm? Something seems fishy here.

              I second the suggestion to bring an appetizer, too. When I was in grad school, a friend hosted a potluck for Easter dinner and thought a ham slice would be sufficient for a big group. We ate a lot of appetizers, and thankfully a few of us had brought hearty side dishes, so we didn't starve, but it was a bit confusing!

              1. cranberry sauce/relish was my first thought but i see springleaf already covered that.

                how about roasted chestnuts? glazed carrots? roasted green beans?

                or soup? plenty of ideas here:

                if you're really motivated you could also make a dessert so there's an option besides sweet potato pie. plenty of pumpkin-y alternatives here:

                and of course there are things like pecan pie/bars & ginger or spice cake.

                1. Thanks everyone!

                  A little more info for you...

                  Usually I host a family/ stray friends dinner. This year the family is going off in a bunch of directions, and my mom asked if I would go with her to a friends instead. Without having asked many questions, cause, ya know, she's my mom, I just said yes. That party then got all switched up, and landed at the home of this woman who is sort of known for her bad taste in food. The woman doesn't cook at all. Then the party got thinned out (probably because of her culinary reputation) to only five of us. I do feel some loyalty to my mom, so I'm sticking to the plan. The host did specifically request that the food be heated in a microwave if it needs heating. I'm going to try to persuade her to let me bring my own pots and pans and use the stove top. I was not asked to cook up a storm... I'm really doing that for my own benefit because I love Thanksgiving and don't want to have a meager one.

                  I'm thinking I'll definitely do a soup and a salad of some sort. Good thinking to bring some nice ready to eat appetizers. I'll definitely try that crock pot method of mashed potatoes as well.

                  Thanks for all of the great suggestions!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: luckiestduck

                    Remember it is only one meal and you can surely have your own T'Day over the weekend if you'd like. If this woman has asked for things to be a certain way, I think it is good manners to stay within her comfort zone and not bring pots, pans and such and basically take over her kitchen. The vibes would not be very Thanksgiving Day IMHO. What does you mom say about all this since it is her friend?

                    1. re: escondido123

                      I think it is well worth checking in with the host on use of the stove. While I don't think it's good manners to bring a whole host of outside kitchen stuff, bringing a pot or pan to heat up what oyu brought is reasonable if there's space on that stove.

                    2. re: luckiestduck

                      if you did that to me, i'd be really, really annoyed.

                      i mean, you just wanna waltz in and run the show? not good. not good at all.

                    3. Mashed potatoes microwave well, and are a welcome addition at any meal, Thanksgiving included! ;)

                      Woops, I just see you're already making mashed potatoes... well, make A LOT and you'll be good to go.

                      How about an apple pie?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: visciole

                        I agree with you about reheating mashed potatoes in the microwave....I find it keeps them really moist.

                        1. re: perk

                          Good to know! That simplifies that!

                          1. re: luckiestduck

                            Just add a bit of extra milk, stir it up, and nuke.

                      2. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions about food and manners... though honestly I feel some of you are a bit aggressive! I will certainly take into account that this is not my home and have no intention of waltzing in and taking over. My impression is that when the host says that all they are making is a turkey, they are welcoming a good amount of participation from their guests. I don't really plan on storming the kitchen, but I think people might be happy to have a nice meal.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: luckiestduck

                          um, i'm assuming you mean me. anyhow, it might be read as "aggressive" if you did what you said you were planning on doing. i think it would be presumptuous, but that is my opinion.

                          i agree with others that you should just plan on "doing up" something special with all the bells and whistles at your place.

                          i hope it goes well; that is nice of you to stick with your mom.

                        2. What about a shaved brussel sprouts salad? It could be served at room temperature, so you wouldn't need to worry about reheating at all.