Easy Thanksgiving dishes to impress guests at your gathering

Media Credit: Kimberly Courtney I Photographer

For those of us who can’t get enough potato dishes during the holiday season, this soft-yet-crispy potato cake is just for you.

When the Thanksgiving season rolls around, crafting a dish fit for a feast can carry a lot of pressure.

Whether you’re attending Thanksgiving with family, friends or members of your local community, offer to bring one of these achievable dishes instead of showing up empty-handed. Discover four recipes that won’t take all day to make but are sure to dazzle your loved ones.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse
If you’re looking for a quick recipe that looks like it took much more time and effort than it actually did, look no further. This chocolate mousse needs just two ingredients and yields a light but creamy dessert through a simple, three-step process. An easy recipe with a delicious outcome, this smooth, lightly salted mousse allows the chocolate to take center stage and will serve as the optimal post-dinner treat to leave your taste buds on a bittersweet note.

Ingredients
– 10 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
– Sea salt flakes, to taste

Instructions
Combine ice and a small amount of water in a large bowl to create an ice bath. Nestle a smaller bowl in the ice bath, careful not to completely submerge in the water.

Put the chocolate and one cup of water in a small pot on the oven over medium heat. Whisk for about three to five minutes or until the mixture is melted and smooth.

Immediately pour melted chocolate into the bowl in the ice bath. Vigorously whisk chocolate mixture by hand for about three to five minutes until thick. Once the chocolate is fluffy and can form a mound when dolloped with the whisk, the mousse will be ready to go. In the event that the mixture hesitates to thicken, add a little more chopped chocolate and remelt over the heat. Scoop the mousse into bowls and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt flakes overtop.

Potato Cake
Though a more complicated recipe, this savory addition to the meal still offers a big hit for your Thanksgiving celebration. For those of us who can’t get enough potato dishes during the holiday season, this soft-yet-crispy endeavor is just for you. This potato cake elevates and gives more definition to a usual potato dish like the classic mashed potatoes. The product will leave your loved ones begging for the recipe.

Ingredients
 3 pounds russet potatoes (about 6 medium-large), scrubbed
– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
– Pinch of ground nutmeg
– ½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream, at room temperature
– 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Instructions
Heat your oven to 425 degrees and bake the potatoes directly on the oven rack until they’re tenderly cooked inside with crispy skin, which should take about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them sit at room temperature until cool enough to handle but still hot. Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Warm a 10-inch nonstick, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Place the butter in the skillet and swirl until it melts into a foamy consistency before tossing in the garlic to cook, stirring occasionally. Once both the garlic and butter reach a golden brown after about three minutes, remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

Cut the hot potatoes in half and scoop the insides out onto a cutting board as you save the skins for snacking or discard. Chop up the flesh with a knife to produce pieces varying in sizes, but don’t go larger than the size of a walnut half.

Deposit the insides of the potato into the skillet, season generously with salt and pepper and sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg. Drop in the crème fraîche or sour cream and fold the mixture while evenly coating the potatoes. Flatten the mixture gently into a layer. Place the skillet over medium-high heat to cook for about five to eight minutes until all moisture has evaporated and the potatoes begin to develop a golden hue on the bottom.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée
A warm, comforting dessert for both the body and mind, this crème brûlée uses five ingredients but will seem particularly showy among your selection of Thanksgiving desserts. The classic French recipe offers a creamy base contrasted with a caramelized sugar crust, easily achieved under your oven’s broiler. If you’re looking to indulge in a delectably rich treat this year, this is the one to try out.

Ingredients
– 2 cups heavy or light cream, or half-and-half
– 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– ⅛ teaspoon salt
– 5 egg yolks
– ½ cup sugar, more for topping

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a saucepan, combine cream, vanilla bean and salt. Cook over low heat until the mixture turns hot. Let sit for a few minutes. Discard the vanilla bean. If you opted to use vanilla extract, add it to the saucepan now.

In a bowl, beat the yolks and sugar together until light. After stirring about a quarter of the cream into this mixture, pour the sugar-egg mixture into the cream and stir. Pour into four 6-ounce ramekins or small oven-safe bowls and place the ramekins in a baking dish. Fill the dish with boiling water until the waterline reaches halfway up the side. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until centers of the crème brûlée are barely set. After cooling completely, refrigerate for several hours.

Before serving the dishes, top each custard with a teaspoon of sugar in a thin layer. Put ramekins into a broiler two to three inches from the heat source. Turn on broiler and cook for about five minutes until the sugar melts and browns and perhaps even blackens a bit. Serve within two hours.

Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Soup
The last recipe is a cozy side dish to warm up your guests on a chilly Thanksgiving evening. This soup blends all of the seasonal ingredients to create a lovely autumnal dish and includes apple cider as a surprise element to tie everything together. This autumn-enrapturing recipe only takes 30 minutes to put together.

Ingredients
– ½ large white or yellow onion, minced
– 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
– 8 cups peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash
– 1 cup chicken stock (or water) with more for thinning out as needed
– 1 ½ cups apple cider
– ½ cup to ⅔ cup sour cream
– 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
– Cracked black pepper
– Bread for serving

Instructions
Place a medium-sized saucepan over low heat, and add onion, garlic and ½ cup water. Cook for about five to seven minutes until the shallot and garlic soften, being careful not to let them burn. The water will have nearly completely evaporated at this point.

Add the squash and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with lid and let simmer for about 20 minutes until the squash is soft.

Carefully pour the mixture into a blender. Holding the top down, blend until smooth. Add the cider, one ½ cup of the sour cream and salt. Continue blending until well combined. Taste and add more salt and sour cream if necessary. Thin out the mixture with more stock – you may need as much as another cup. Taste and adjust seasoning again as necessary. Serve the soup immediately with fresh bread.

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