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Tips for better Thanksgiving dishes

Tips from the pros

Some dishes that appear on the Thanksgiving table every year are considered a tradition. Others that you make year after year mean something else: You're in a rut. By tweaking an ingredient or two, though, you can put your dish back on top. We asked cooking pros to share their tips for making better Thanksgiving dishes. 

Woman shopping at farmer's market

1Think beyond pork when it comes to sausage stuffing

Try using a more unusual variety – say, pheasant sausage – on its own or as a blend with the pork sausage.

--Andrea Beaman, host of the healthy-cooking show "Fed Up!" on Veria TV and a former Top Chef contestant.

2Add heat to your dishes with spices

Consider adding fresh jalapeno to cranberry sauce and chipotle en adobo to sweet potatoes. "Sometimes we tend to make Thanksgiving so sweet-centric that we forget about balancing every dish with a little bit of spice."

--Claire Robinson, host of "5 Ingredient Fix" on the Food Network

3Use prosecco rather than Champagne

Serve cocktails to a large group easily and affordably by using prosecco, a sparkling white wine, rather than Champagne. To the prosecco, add star anise pear syrup (get Robinson's recipe here) or a splash of cranberry juice. Fancy, but inexpensive.

--Claire Robinson

4Try "dirty" mashed potatoes

Try "dirty" mashed potatoes – that is, leaving the skins on the potatoes. It's a time-saving technique with delicious results. Use a medium-size variety, such as Yukon Gold. Cook them whole and unpeeled in a pot of salted water. Meanwhile, heat equal parts heavy cream, milk and butter in a saucepan. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and return the potatoes to the pot. Using a hand blender or a manual potato masher, work through the potatoes, adding the hot cream and butter mixture to the pot. Mash or blend as much or as little as you like.

--Robb Garceau, executive chef for Union Square Events, the catering arm of Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack restaurants in New York City

5Go local

If you have the time, seek out squashes and other vegetables at farmers' markets or from individual farmers. Get to know the source of your ingredients, then share the story with your guests. It will help them connect with and appreciate the dishes on your table.

--Robb Garceau

More Thanksgiving tips

A succulent Thanksgiving menu
Avoid Thanksgiving Day disasters
Terrific roast turkey from Sandra Lee

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