If you're cooking for a smaller crew this year, as you should be, keep in mind which dishes have the most versatility for the days to follow
Thanksgiving is obviously going to look a bit different this year for most folks, with the current spike in the coronavirus pandemic leading the CDC to issue new guidelines for holiday celebrations, most of which boil down to some form of “DON’T DO ANYTHING LIKE NORMAL.” (See: “Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving,” and we all know how grandma loves catching up on Zoom.)
Because of this, cooking up even a fraction of the usual feast will leave most with a mountain of leftovers. Keeping that in mind, we thought we’d rank the traditional holiday dishes from worst to best, weighted toward ease of re-use.
NA. Cranberry sauce (canned)
It’s not 1986 anymore. Put down the can opener.
13. Green beans
Usually dished up to at least suggest healthy eating, and like most steamed vegetables they’ll only get more limp and useless on subsequent days.
12. Candied sweet potatoes
Marshmallows should be for cocoa and s’mores and nothing else.
You’re either eating stale bread or making croutons.
10. Leftover marshmallows
Great for cocoa and s’mores.
9. Brussels sprouts
They’re tasty but smell pretty bad while cooking. After that first day, they just smell bad. Also see “green beans.”
8. Green bean casserole
This is a once-a-year dish, two tops. You’ll remember that on Friday, when all you can taste are the preservatives in the cream of mushroom soup. But save some extra crispy fried onions; those things are good on all sorts of dishes.
7. Stuffing (homemade or Stouffer’s)
*Larry David voice* Pretty, pretty good comfort food, even a few days later.
Use it to make even more stuffing, or fry some up for corn fritters or corn pone.
5. Cranberry sauce (homemade)
Holds up remarkably well, and can be used as a spiced jelly for toast or as the key condiment on a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich.
It’s fair if you don’t consider this a side dish, but we do, and we’re pouring it on everything in the days following Thanksgiving.
3. Macaroni and Cheese
While it’s not exactly versatile (aside from piling it on a sandwich in lieu of sliced cheese, which, yes), it freezes and reheats well, giving you fallbacks for easy dinners in the coming days and weeks.
2. Mashed potatoes
At Ohio University, the dining hall used to feature “the potato cycle,” where on subsequent days it offered up the full life cycle of a potato, starting with baked, then mashed, then cheesy mashed and finally Mexican mashed, which, to be fair, was probably a step too far (it involved spiking cheesy mashed potatoes with some type of spiced tomato paste). All of this is to say that your mashed potatoes can be reborn in at least a few different forms, most of which are equally delicious.
In a traditional ranking of Thanksgiving dishes, turkey would maybe crack the top seven. But considering the ease with which it can be incorporated into sandwiches, pot pies and eventually soup (if you’re not making stock from the carcass you’re doing it wrong), it’s hard not to catapult the bird to the top.