If you think you’ve gotten off easy being a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner this year rather than cooking it, think again. According to Keri White, etiquette expert from the www.thesocialgrace.com, sometimes being a good guest is almost as hard as being a good host.


White’s first bit of advice? Don’t show up to the dinner with your favorite casserole in hand without running it by your host first. White recommends asking at least a week in advance what they might want you to bring (even if it’s nothing at all). “If she’s a super OCD host like me, she might not want to relinquish control of her dinner. But you can always bring wine.”


If you do bring a dinner contribution, “Don’t confuse a hostess gift with a pot luck dish,” White notes. “You should bring them something anyway, like a candle or chocolate sauce, something for the hostess.”


Finally, even if you do — or don’t — cook anything, always, always offer to lend a hand afterwards. “Help clean up, but be careful!” White warns. “They’ve hauled out their good stuff, so don’t assume everything goes in their dishwasher.”

Need more direction on what to bring? We talked to a variety of experts to help make sure you get remembered as the world’s best guest:

1. Wine
“I get a lot of questions about what to do when you’re invited to a Thanksgiving dinner party and are in charge of bringing wine,” says Turning Leaf winemaker Nicole Hitchcock. “A safe bet is to bring both a red and a white.” Hitchcock (perhaps with some bias) recommends the Turning Leaf Pinot Noir, which “goes with everything from a juicy turkey to a fresh salad. Our chardonnay is medium-bodied and pairs with anything from mild cheeses to your favorite stuffing.” If you need more ideas for wine pairings, you can call the Turning Leaf Holiday Hotline at 1-877-TLWINE-3.

2. Dessert

“To be a little bit different, why not offer a sweet potato tart with chocolate?” recommends Francois Payard, the famed pastry chef and cookbook author. “Everyone does pumpkin for dessert, so make a twist on a classic Thanksgiving dessert.” Tempted? Get Payard’s recipe online at www.metro.us.

3. A great hostess gift and dish

Make some mincemeat? tarts (the recipe can be found at www.metro.us) for Thanksgiving guests and hosts alike by using these adorable turkey cookie cutters (above) from Ann Clark Ltd. Include the (washed and prettily presented) cutter as a hostess gift (www.annclark.com).

If you think you’ve gotten off easy being a guest at someone’s Thanksgiving dinner this year rather than cooking it yourself, think again. According to Keri White, etiquette expert from the wwww.thesocialgrace.com, sometimes being a good guest is almost as hard as being a good host. Here are six tips from White to keep in mind this Thanksgiving.

1. If you bring a dish, make sure it's in a dish that can be lost. Transport it in Tupperware or a cheaper dish and assume the hostess has a better-looking dish that they will use.

2. Don’t confuse a hostess gift with a pot luck dish. If you’re going to someone’s home, you should bring them something anyway, like a candle or chocolate sauce, something for the hostess.

3. Always ask what you can bring. If they don't want you to bring anything, say you're going to bring some wine. If they still refuse, help out a lot while there.

4. Follow up with a thank you -- either by phone (for family members) or by letter (for a more formal invitation).

5. Don’t expect to bring back the leftovers of what you brought. If you brought it, it stays at the house.

6. Offer to help clean up. But be careful as they've probably hauled out their good stuff so don’t assume everything goes in their dishwasher.

Mincemeat Tarts
Makes about 12

You will need about 1 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) prepared mincemeat for this recipe. Note that the dough is rolled thinner here than for regular sugar cookies.

Cream together until light and fluffy:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

Beat in:

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together and add:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir just until all ingredients are well blended; do not overmix. Chill dough thoroughly, at least an hour, before rolling. Preheat oven to 350º. Roll half of dough out on a lightly floured counter to 1/8-inch thickness and cut, then transfer cookies onto cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or silicone liners. Brush lightly with water, then place a generous tablespoon of mincemeat on each cookie. Roll and cut the remaining dough and place the cut cookies on the filling, pressing it down lightly. With your fingertips, press around the edges of the cookies to seal. With a paring knife, cut a couple of slits in the top cookies to allow steam to escape. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly colored. Let cookies cool slightly on cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

Great shapes for Mincemeat Tarts are the Turkey cookie cutter, the Snowman cookie cutter, and the Turtle cookie cutter, all available from www.annclark.com.

François Payard: Sweet Potato Chocolate Tart recipe

Recipe from:
Chocolate Epiphany, Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone
Clarkson Potter, New York, 2007

Although it might sound like an odd combination, sweet potatoes work really well with chocolate. Their sweet flavor is distinctive without being overpowering. It might disappear if used in a very chocolatey dessert, so here I used a thin layer of chocolate glaze over the cooked sweet potato purée, which is then placed on a puff pastry base, for added taste and texture. A sprinkle of salt finishes the tart, reinforcing both the sweet and the savory flavors of the dessert. It’s a great dessert to serve when you want something other than the same old sweet potato pie.

Makes one 9-inch tart; serves 8 to 10

Tart Base:
All-purpose flour
1 frozen puff pastry sheet (14 ounces), thawed, or 1 pound Quick Chocolate Puff Pastry Confectioners’ sugar

Sweet Potato Filling:

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30 grams) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (30 grams) maple syrup

Chocolate Glaze, warm
Chocolate Shards
Fleur de Sel or coarse salt

Make the tart base: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a very lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick and at least 9 inches wide. Pierce the entire surface with a fork and brush off the excess flour. Place the puff pastry on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
Remove the puff pastry from the refrigerator. Using a round 9-inch cake pan as a guide, cut a 9-inch round out of the puff pastry. Reserve the scraps for another use, or discard.

Place a silicone baking mat or another piece of parchment paper over the puff pastry, then cover with a wire cooling rack to keep it from rising too much. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the rack and silicone baking mat and increase the heat to 450°F. Sift some confectioners’ sugar over the top of the puff pastry, and bake for 5 more minutes, until the sugar begins to caramelize and darken. Remove the base from the oven, and set it aside to cool.

Make the filling: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.

Rinse, peel, and cut the sweet potatoes in half. Place them on 1 large piece of aluminum foil. Put ½ tablespoon of butter and maple syrup over each half, and wrap them in the foil. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a knife easily pierces through their flesh.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven and immediately purée them in a food processor until smooth or pass them through a potato ricer.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place a 9 x 2 ½-inch-high cake ring mold on the baking sheet. Fill the ring to the rim with the purée. Smooth the top of the ring with a large offset spatula, and place the baking sheet in the freezer until the cake sets, at least 1 hour or up to 1 week (tightly wrapped in plastic wrap).

Finish the tart: Remove the baking sheet from the freezer about 1 hour before serving, so that the sweet potato purée has time to thaw out. Gently lift the ring from the cake. Place a wire cooling rack in the baking sheet, and place the frozen purée on it.

Pour the glaze over the purée, completely covering it. Push it down the sides with a large offset spatula if needed. When the glaze has slightly set, after 3 to 5 minutes, place the purée on top of the puff pastry.

Decorate the sides of the tart with chocolate shards, and sprinkle fleur de sel over its top. Serve at room temperature. The tart can be assembled up to 6 hours before serving.

Chocolate glaze
Glazing cakes give them the beautiful, shiny finish you see in pastry shops. A glaze is a loose ganache, made by melting chocolate with hot cream and adding a little corn syrup for shine. In order for the glaze to cover the cake smoothly, it should feel warm to the touch, close to body temperature. If needed, and particularly if the chocolate is not fully melted, fill a medium pot one-third full with water and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and, ensuring that the bowl containing the glaze doesn’t touch the water, place it over the pot. Mix until the glaze is smooth and reaches the desired temperature.

Glaze is best used immediately, but you can keep it, covered and refrigerated, for two to three days. Reheat it as directed above, adding a teaspoon of light corn syrup to regain some of the shine that will have been lost in the refrigeration process.

Makes enough to cover a 9-inch cake

8 ounces (250 grams) 61% or 72% chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon (12 grams) light corn syrup

1 cup (250 grams) heavy cream

Place the chocolate and corn syrup in a medium bowl.

Pour the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture into a bowl. Use immediately.