The Takeout’s fantasy food draft: Best Thanksgiving food

Photo: KarpenkovDenis (iStock), Graphic: Natalie Peeples
Takeout DraftTakeout DraftFood. Fantasy sports. Debating over Slack. Welcome to The Takeout Draft.

Welcome, dear readers, to The Takeout Draft, our recurring feature that combines our love of food, fantasy sports, and arguing on Slack.

Every week, we will select a topic of conversation from the food and drink world. Takeout writers will then field a team via the snake draft format. After five rounds, The Takeout commenteriat will vote on who they believe was victorious in that week’s draft. At the end of the year, the staffer with the most weekly victories will select a charity of his/her choice that The Takeout will make a donation towards.

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The previous Takeout Draft: best Chinese-American dish was a close race. With roughly 3,600 votes cast, our winner was: Aimee Levitt!

This week, the topic is Thanksgiving food: turkey, sides, dessert, and all. Competing in the Thunderdome this week are members of the Takeout staff: Kate Bernot, Aimee Levitt, Allison Robicelli, and Marnie Shure. The randomizer has selected a draft order:

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Let’s go!


Kate Bernot: Allison, start us off!

Allison Robicelli: Okay, I’m going to pick turkey. I kinda have to.

Aimee Levitt: No, you don’t.

Allison: DARK MEAT turkey.

Kate: I think this will be a controversial choice! That’s all I know for certain.

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Allison: I go out to an Indian buffet on Thanksgiving, and they’ve even got tandoori turkey on the menu. Which is awesome, btw.

Aimee: What a waste. Succumbing to cultural norms.

If people really liked turkey, they would eat it more often. They would know how to cook it.

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Allison: I’d eat an Indian butter turkey. I might make that right now, in fact.

Aimee: My pick is rolls. My favorites are brioche rolls, but I’ll go with Pillsbury crescent rolls in a pinch.

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As long as they’re warm.

Marnie Shure: Both excellent rolls

Kate: So buttery, so absorbent.

Aimee: Mmmmm....

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Marnie: Temperature isn’t as important for me with rolls, but softness definitely is. It must yield!

Aimee: Pillsbury rolls get hard as they cool.

Allison: I like those Pepperidge Farm ones. I remember eating them when I was a kid and thinking they were super fancy, because only rich people could afford Pepperidge Farm

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Marnie: Well, those are two great picks to kick us off. For my first, I’m going to claim STUFFING before someone swipes another holiday staple!

Specifically, sausage stuffing. The classic kind with the bread, celery, etc. I know a lot of folks like cranberries in there, but not me.

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Kate: Damn that’s a strong pick.

Aimee: The only stuffing I’ve ever had is Stove Top. I think I’m missing something here.

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Kate: Even Stove Top is good, to me.

Marnie: Not a bad stuffing by any means! It’s a comforting heap of bread and meat.

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Allison: Matt and I were arguing about this. I’ve only had it with Italian sausage, but he was saying country is the way everyone else eats it. Twitter confirmed it. I feel bad for everyone who hasn’t been using Italian!

Aimee: My family used to have kishke instead. I guess it’s similar?

Allison: I can’t hear that word without singing “My Bubbe Made a Kishke...”

Kate: Before this devolves into musical theater, I’m going to leap in with my first-round pick: apple pie

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Aimee: Excellent choice.

Photo: Lesyy (iStock)
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Kate: I know you can eat it other times of year, but is there any better time for apple pie?

Aimee: There’s really not. And it’s so much better than pumpkin.

Marnie: Wow, I’ve never had apple pie with my Thanksgiving meal! We’re pumpkin/pecan purists

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Allison: I’ve actually got apple butter going in the oven right now and it smells incredible

I could eat an apple pie every day

Kate: I could have voted for the smell of pie alone.

Marnie: it’s a very olfactory holiday

Aimee: That sounds like a headline in a science journal.

Allison: In the future we will all snort Thanksgiving

Kate: It’s lower-calorie that way.

So for my next pick (wow I love this double-vote thing), something on the savory side: Mashed potatoes and gravy

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Marnie: Do you like chunky mashed potatoes, or smooth like baby food?

Kate: Well when you put it in those terms...

I’ll take both, but I actually prefer a creamier potato with tons of cream and butter mixed in.

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Allison: Mashed potatoes are iffy to me. I have had some that were so good I nearly cried, but so, so many more potatoes that were gluey and disappointing.

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Marnie: In the latter case, they tend to be a vehicle for gravy more than anything else. Nothing wrong with that!

Kate: Gravy sponge, gravy sponge

Aimee: Yum!

Allison: Gravy volcano!

Aimee: Um…

Allison: Do you not make a volcano with your mashed potatoes?

Why would you not do that?

Aimee: No gravy?

Marnie: Enough gravy talk (for now). Time for my next pick: mac and cheese

Allison: I’ve never had this at Thanksgiving! I would like to, though.

Marnie: Specifically, the baked kind, with a crust of either breadcrumbs/cheez-its/french fried onions/corn flakes etc.

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Aimee: Yesssssss

Kate: I think it should be on more Thanksgiving tables, frankly.

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Marnie: You definitely don’t eat it in the same quantity on Thanksgiving—you have to save room on your plate and inside your body for other stuff. But it’s such a nice, warming addition to the meal.

Allison: I always hate when mac and cheese is a side, because then it looks bad when I fill my whole plate with it.

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I’m not taking a tiny spoonful. That’s ridiculous.

Kate: Eat... less mac and cheese? *Does not compute*

Aimee: Who cares what other people think? It’s Thanksgiving!

Marnie: To that point, Aimee, what’s your next pick?

Aimee: Garlic mashed potatoes! (Distinguished from mashed potatoes and gravy because you don’t want to put gravy on these babies.)

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These are, by the way, the only mashed potatoes that are acceptable in my family’s house.

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Allison: Don’t you tell me what I can and cannot put gravy on.

Kate: Now you’ve rankled Allison.

Aimee: Why would you want to drown out the taste of garlic?

Marnie: Good point

Allison: It’s an issue of principle.

Marnie: Show us how it’s done, Allison. What’s your next dish?

Allison: My second pick: cranberry sauce. It makes everything on the table a little more interesting: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, buttered rolls. The best part of my first pick, the skin, is so good with cranberry sauce

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The sugar and tartness go so well with the skin’s fattiness.

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Marnie: So you apply it to pretty much everything?

Allison: The fun part of Thanksgiving is smushing everything around on a plate, so it ends up in everything. Like the lingonberry jam at Ikea.

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You also need it for your turkey sandwiches the next day as a lubricant.

Kate: Team Cranberry Sauce, please stand up.

Aimee: I... don’t think I’ve ever had cranberry sauce, either.

Marnie: I haven’t yet reached my understanding with cranberry sauce, but I’m hoping this is the year. Last year was the first time gravy ever really clicked with me, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

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Allison: My next pick: pecan pie!

Marnie: LOVELY

Kate: Damn, strong work

Allison: Specifically: pecan pie topped with an excessive amount of Reddi-Wip

Marnie: Not vanilla ice cream??

Allison: That’s good, too, but damn do I just love Reddi-Wip

Aimee: Reddi-Wip is better for Thanksgiving. Especially when you shoot it straight into your mouth.

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Marnie: Understood

Allison: The pecan pie is dense, and so is ice cream, so you don’t get a ton of variation in texture—the lightness of the Reddi-Wip is key

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And the creaminess of either is essential to balance out the cloying sweetness in pecan pie

I personally make mine with grade B maple syrup, but some use dark corn syrup, which is a LOT to process.

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Aimee: ooof

That’s a lot

Allison: I’ve never been one for super sweet things. But to each their own.

Aimee: My next pick is roasted brussels sprouts.

Marnie: GREAT pick.

Aimee: I like the crispy creamy texture, and Trader Joe’s sells them on a Very! Dramatic! Stalk!

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Marnie: Yes they do!

Aimee: If you roast and salt them enough, they don’t taste like vegetables.

Kate: Roasted Brussels sprouts are underrated and criminally misunderstood (if you’ve only had the boiled ones).

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Marnie: The key is roasting them all the way through. Restaurants always serve them charred on the outside and still raw in the middle.

Allison: I’m a major fan of all cruciferous vegetables.

If you shave them, then toss and oil and roast at 450-500, you’ll get all crispy bits

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Marnie: I’m feeling the pressure to make my next pick a vegetable, too. Honey glazed carrots

Aimee: No pressure. It’s Thanksgiving!

Marnie: Ha! Good point.

I love a roasted carrot on its own merits, but the honey glaze is a good consensus builder at the table. And it’s a nice complement to some seriously salty sides.

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Allison: I only like carrots when they’re cooked. They’re so good cooked that eating them raw just makes me sad for the carrot.

Kate: Oh I love glazed carrots too! I begged my mom to make them every winter. Hers had brown sugar though, I believe.

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Marnie: That sounds great

Aimee: My mom always made us eat carrots raw. Maybe that’s why I can’t accept them.

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Marnie: Great for the eyes, I’ve always been told

Aimee: So are glasses. Which I had to wear anyway.

Marnie: Kate’s got her last two selections coming up, and I truly have NO idea what she’s planning.

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Aimee: Suspense!

Kate: Goddamn the pressure!

Okay, I am (maybe?) going out on a limb here, but I love this dish so much: sweet potato casserole, sans marshmallows

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I like mine with a nutty-crunch crust instead

Allison: Well then it’s not a casserole.

That’s a different type of casserole. Otherwise it’s just sweet potatoes in syrup

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Marnie: No no, pecans can be the topping too!

Allison: Wait—what’s the nutty crunch crust?

Kate: What do you call this?

Photo: The Washington Post - contributor (Getty Images)
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Allison: That is a sweet potato crisp. That is dessert.

Kate: Not at my table

Marnie: Not on Thanksgiving!

Aimee: Potatoes are not dessert. Not when there’s pie.

Allison: What about sweet potato pie? If anything, sweet potato pie is the more responsible of the two dishes.

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Aimee: It has crust. Casseroles don’t have crust.

Allison: No, but crisps do, and that is a sweet potato crisp.

Kate: Well this took a turn.

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Aimee: Last pick, Kate. Make it good!

Kate: What I really need on my squad is more carbs, so I’m going with cornbread

It’s basically a vegetable, you see. Made from corn.

Aimee: Oh, good choice!

Allison: Cornbread. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!

Marnie: YES

Kate: And again, straddling that sweet-savory line that so many good Thanksgiving dishes do.

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Marnie: Goes great with mac and cheese.

Kate: So yellow!

Aimee: Do you like it baked any particular way, like in a cast iron skillet?

Marnie: And/or from a Jiffy box?

Aimee: And in bread or muffin form?

Kate: Oh gosh, I like it in all forms—probably in a loaf shape for Thanksgiving. And Jiffy is just fine by me!

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What other 50 cents can bring such joy?

Marnie: Well, cornbread is a tough act to follow. But for my final pick, I MUST pick up the maligned Pumpkin Pie.

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I adore pumpkin pie.

Kate: I actually do too.

Allison: So do I! Again, made with grade B maple syrup

Marnie: I’ve only ever used one recipe, the Eagle Brand cookbook’s simple one

Aimee: I guess I’m the contrarian here. But my dog loves it!

Marnie: Pumpkin is great for dogs!

Aimee: I made a crust in a little pie pan for her and everything. It was great.

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Allison: Sometimes I cook the pumpkin puree on top of the stove for a while to caramelize it a bit.

Marnie: That’s a great idea. One day I’ll get more adventurous and try new ways to make it.

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And the crust, too, which I currently buy premade.

Allison: Just crank that heat up to high, butter and nonstick pan, spread out the pumpkin and stir occasionally. You can roast it, too, but that takes longer.

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I think Thanksgiving is as much a time for pumpkin pie as it is for turkey

Aimee: And if it was that great, we’d have it more than once a year.

Kate: Sorry, I just blacked out thinking about caramelized pumpkin pie. I’m back now.

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Marnie: I’ll never stop thinking about it

Aimee: My last pick is very specific to my family. Which, I am starting to realize, listening to all of you, celebrates Thanksgiving weirdly. But anyway... my cousin Jenny’s lasagna!

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Photo: tbralnina (iStock)

Marnie: Lasagna a la Jenny: a Thanksgiving classic

Aimee: It’s way more popular than the turkey.

Allison: That’s actually how my family used to celebrate!

We’d have lasagna first. We never had a meal that didn’t involve pasta first.

Kate: Jenny sounds great. She can come to my Thanksgiving, too.

Aimee: Oh, Jenny hosts her own. Every year. Jenny is that powerful.

She borrows all her neighbor’s ovens.

She once went to extraordinary lengths to get vegan cheese for my sister’s ex-husband. She’s the best.

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Kate: Give it up for Jenny, everyone.

Marnie: Thanksgiving is the annual holiday set aside to give thanks to Jenny

Allison: Is the lasagna the whole meal, or is it an appetizer?

Aimee: The main course!

Allison: Ah, I only had it for a first course. Though I’d be happy if it was the first course and a main course.

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Marnie: Take us home, Allison

Allison: For my final pick, I’m taking something I didn’t discover until I was an adult and now can’t live without: corn pudding.

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Not cornbread

Aimee: What is this corn pudding?

Marnie: Corn pudding, my reason for living!! Alternatively known as spoonbread.

Aimee: And is it a dessert?

Marnie: It might as well be. It’s divine. (Sorry, I’ll let Allison explain.)

Kate: Whoa, I want to know more!

Allison: It depends on your recipe. Some make it with creamed corn, some with lots of milk and cornmeal. I do a bit of both.

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I love anything with a custardy texture, as I’ve told you a million times. It’s sort of like what I wish most mashed potatoes were.

Marnie: corn pudding also goes well with.....mac and cheese

Aimee: Huh

Allison: Truly, Thanksgiving is best when it’s a bunch of stuff all jumbled together.

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Kate: A metaphor for America, truly.

Allison: It’s the lines between servings, where all the dishes meet to become one. That, truly, it the spirit of Thanksgiving.

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Marnie: Wow

Aimee: America!

Marnie: ~ fin ~

Allison: The winner is mush. Thanksgiving mush.


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About the author

Marnie Shure

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

Kate Bernot

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, host of The Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, the author of three books, and a swan meat influencer.