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November 6, 2013

Where to save, where to splurge

Experts offer shopping and menu tips for Thanksgiving

(Continued)

“If you can get higher-end mushrooms, that’s going to elevate your stuffing into something really special,” D’Arabian says. A bit of minced shallot will add sweetness and depth. “Having high-end stuffing versus run-of-the-mill is worth a few extra bucks. In a lot of people’s hearts, the stuffing is the star of the show, so that’s a good place to splurge.”

Mashed potatoes

Splurge on the cream, save on the spuds.

Starchy russets are your best bet for everyone’s favorite side because they soak up whatever flavors you throw at them. The 10-pound bag at Costco will do the job just as well as farmers market potatoes at four times the price. But using heavy cream instead of milk will make those potatoes silky and rich.

“There’s nothing like heavy cream in mashed potatoes, and it’s such an indulgence,” D’Arabian says. Leftover cream can be whipped for dessert.

Another splurge? A little fleur de sel or other crunchy finishing salt for the top.

Sweet potatoes

Splurge on fresh potatoes, save on the marshmallows.

When it comes to sweet potatoes, skip the can. Fresh sweet potatoes are inexpensive; come in beautiful, meal-enhancing colors like orange, yellow and purple; and require little effort to cook. They can be roasted simply in the skins and topped with butter and herbs, or they can be candied, scalloped or turned into a souffle. Where to save?

“Save money on the marshmallows,” says Mary Risley, director of Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco. “They’re not food.”

Green bean casserole

Just don’t.

It’s a recipe that started on the back of a can, and many food folks say that’s where it should stay.

“I get that it takes a green bean casserole to scratch the green bean casserole itch,” D’Arabian says. “Any attempt to elevate the green bean casserole does not scratch the itch. Do not elevate. Go with your classic recipe.”

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