What do I cook for Thanksgiving if all the food is taken care of?

I'm joining some friends for Thanksgiving, and despite all my protesting and requesting, they assure me that all the dishes have been accounted for and I don't need to cook or bring a thing. My inclination is to cook something anyway, but is that rude? Is there a fail-safe dish to whip up that will miraculously work with their unknown menu? A food gift? Should I stay home? Help.

Amanda Sims


Nancy November 27, 2015
Amanda, very curious - what did you eventually decide to do and how did it all work out?
ChefJune November 25, 2015
I would make my Magic Espresso Brownies and take them along. (cover recipe in the Baking book). they won't clash with anything else that's being served, and the host might even decide to hide them away for another day. I don't think you can ever go wrong with a contribution of Brownies.
tanya November 25, 2015
a thermos of hot mulled wine! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mulled-wine-recipe.html
sydney November 25, 2015
A fun liqueur like Cointreau, Bailey's, or Grand Marnier for coffee that night or their brunch the next morning!
boulangere November 24, 2015
It genuinely sounds as they simply want you there. I encounter this all the time. Either people are terrified to cook for a chef, or they want the chef to have a night off and attend a party without having to put it on. I either bring a beautiful houseplant on which the hosts might not splurge, or a flower arrangement that could grace either a buffet, or a dinner table, or even a bathroom. Seriously.
missb503 November 24, 2015
I just have to chime in: go! I'm making thanksgiving for family this year and I truly have an absurd abundance of dishes. If a friend needed a family to eat with id beg them to come! Bring a hostess gift of any kind. Anything that doesn't go in the fridge.
SilverSage November 24, 2015
You hit the nail on the head Missb503! Don't bring anything that needs to go in the fridge! The last thing the hostess needs to worry about is squeezing one more thing in there with all of the holiday prep. Fridge space is usually at a premium.
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 24, 2015
Bring a nice bottle of extra virgin olive oil and aged vinegar.
rt21 November 24, 2015
I had a similar dilemma last year .... So I brought a basket filled with breakfast items for the next morning .....
Lindsay G. November 24, 2015
Bring a bottle of wine, if the crowd you're going to visit drinks. The sentiment will not go unappreciated (and there can never be too much wine among friends!)

If the celebration is for a non-drinking party, a nice hostess gift (like some nice hand lotion or a pretty flower arrangement) would be nice as well.
Loves F. November 24, 2015
Stay home! Watch Netflix! Just kidding :). I agree with the others that you shouldn't bring a dish... especially not a random appetizer! Sometimes I host dinners where I want friends to contribute, but sometimes I've very carefully planned out every detail, down to the bacon wrapped date appetizers, or whatever, and a totally off-theme chip and dip platter or tray of brownies would totally throw off the vibe. Wine is always good, but, in my opinion, bubbles are always better!! If they don't want to open it during dinner, then they have the makings for mimosas in the AM (minus the OJ... so basically, they can have champagne for breakfast, which is a big win in my book).
HalfPint November 24, 2015
@Amanda, yes it is rude to show up with food when you've been firmly assured that the food has been taken care of. It implies that you think your hostess' food isn't good enough and anything YOU bring is better. Don't be that guest. Go to dinner and bring good conversation and the offer to help setup, serve, or cleanup.
scruz November 24, 2015
it's not being mean to ask you not to bring anything nor should you feel bad. my brother would always bring a huge prawn platter when i said i had the menu set for a dinner and of course everyone would fill up on his appetizers before dinner was served and i would have cooked too much for dinner. while i appreciated his attempts, it really screwed up my budget and amount of leftovers. so, bring a nice wine or sparkling wine or some of the other suggestions and go and have a great time being with friends that like you so much they included you at their table on this great thanksgiving holiday.
702551 November 24, 2015

Most of them are easily transported, keep well, and can be redistributed as "take home" leftovers if the host does not want to keep them around. They are eminently portable, which is convenient as a dessert-y snack just kicking it after the meal.

Another option is chips and salsa (or guacamole). No one turns that down and it's a party-friendly appetizer.
aargersi November 24, 2015
I concur - don't bring anything for the dinner, nor should you bring flowers. The thought is nice but then the hostess has to find a vase and cut the stems and find a spot and blah blah - to me the breakfast idea is best. I am always fried on Friday morning - having something ready for breakfast (and kinda wholesome after all of that rich stuff and booze) would be great, a not to sweet bran muffin, some nice coffee or tea, maybe a little fruit - like that - would be great in my book.

And wine
Always wine
Stephanie November 24, 2015
I've adopted the trick from a friend of the family - always have a few thrift store vases on hand. Then the host/ess doesn't have to find a vase orcut the stems - or worry about returning the vase. (This same friend also does casseroles in thrift store dishes when someone is ill, just had a baby, etc.)
Lindsay G. November 24, 2015
The idea of taking flowers already in a vase is great! I learned a few years ago that my mother-in-law and her sisters-in-law all do this - there is one vase that gets passed around with flowers in it every time there's a family dinner.
Dina November 24, 2015
Booze! Just bring a bottle of wine, or liquor, or some beer. If you insist on getting fancy, some kind of sangria would work. I haven't tried it, but something like this one from smitten kitchen might work.

Michele November 24, 2015
I think EmilyC's answer is perfect. And I also think you definitely shouldn't stay home, your friends want you. Sometimes we do like to take total care of our guests and so go and be a guest. However, if you have really empty hands I think a bottle of wine is never amiss.
EmilyC November 24, 2015
Definitely don't stay home! : ) I'd bring a food gift that's clearly meant for after Thanksgiving. It could be scones for the next day, homemade candy (pistachio brittle?), or makings for their favorite cocktail.
Sarah J. November 24, 2015
Make a drink?
Susan W. November 24, 2015
I would begrudgingly respect their wishes. There are times when I have been invited somewhere that I am met with that. It's usually people that I have cooked for multiple times, driven to the airport or taken care of their dog while they are away. I would take them a gift based on what you know about them. Wine, chocolate, champagne..something they can use the night of or set aside for another occasion. Frustrating..I know, but don't deny them the pleasure of treating you to a wonderful meal.
Nancy November 24, 2015
Make or take one or more items that they can use the day AFTER with the leftovers...a casserole dish with good cream and farm eggs, to make a savory bread pudding of the leftover stuffin, good bread, pickles & home-made 1000-Island dressing for the sandwiches, beer to go with the sandwiches, any dessert that's not pumpkin or pecan pie. Call it the "morning after" basket.

Voted the Best Reply!

Niknud November 24, 2015
I think you respect the host in this case, since you don't know what the menu is and they've said not to bring anything. However....you can always make yourself the favorite guest by bringing a Tupperware set along with a roll of aluminum foil and saran wrap as a hostess gift. Because let's face it, nobody ever has enough storage containers to deal with the avalanche of leftovers. I would cry happy tears of joy if one of my guests brought something like that!
Stephanie November 24, 2015
This is so brilliant. I have got to remember this!
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