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Thanksgiving, the Stress-Free Way

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Nov 15, 2006 5:45PM

Ah, Thanksgiving. A time when we, as Americans, make like the pilgrims did so many years ago and cook up sweet potatoes with marshmallows, roasted or deep-fried turkey, and mashed potatoes of various types. 2006_11_tdinner.jpgExcept for 1) the pilgrims didn't do any of this shit, 2) they actually wanted to cook an eagle and 3) there is no reason for you to have to do any of this either if you make your plans now to either eat out at a restaurant or order in.

Look, we get it. Thanksgiving can be a huge pain. It takes forever to cook all the food, and most of the time, the turkey looks better than it tastes. Use our handy guide to figure out which option works best for your stress-free holiday.

If you need to impress future in-laws, business contacts, etc:
Seasons, the celebrated restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel, is offering up a classic Thanksgiving feast with some unusual twists. In addition to the standard turkey and stuffing, diners will be able to chow down on butternut squash ravioli with apple cider broth, and crisp sage and white corn grit cake with smoked duck and onion marmalade. It ain't cheap, but it also ain't your problem anymore. Open 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; $95 per adult; $25 for children ages 5–12; free for children four and under; call 312-649-2349 to make a reservation.

If you have to satisfy meat-eaters and vegetarians alike:
Chicago Diner, in Lakeview, is absolutely the best place to take vegetarians this Thanksgiving. The unusual part? It isn't too bad for meat-eaters as well, because the food is really, really good. Options like beefy wellington and roasted vegi turkey will please the vegetarians, while still allowing the meat-eaters to eat the classics. Their annual Thanksgiving dinner is so popular, that there are now four different seatings to accommodate everyone. Seatings at 12, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. $36.95 per person, ($40.95 raw selection); $20.95 children, Carryout full meal $26.95. Reservations required, so call 773-935-6696.

If you want your meal to be a little nouveau:
Meritage Cafe and Wine Bar in Bucktown is offering a $55 fixed-price Thanksgiving meal that eschews traditional fare in favor of the upscale cuisine they are known for. Trade in your turkey for some cranberry-stuffed quail or spiced venison carpaccio. Don't like stuffing? Check out their Kaboca squash and gorgonzola ravioli. Nobody said the holidays are easy, and with Meritage's 350-bottle wine list, it can all go down a little easier. Open 2-8 p.m.; $55 per adult. Call 773-235-6434 to make a reservation.

If you don't really dig the whole American thing:
Yes, Thanksgiving was originally about pilgrims, America, and the like, but that doesn't mean it hasn't evolved. For $26 a head, check out Rio d'Sudamerica's south of the border take on Thanksgiving. Tamales, flan — it's all here. Call 773-276-0170 to make a reservation.
Both Reza's restaurants are offering a Thanksgiving buffet. ALL YOU CAN EAT! Not only will they have all the turkey and sides, but the buffet will also include Persian appetizers and kabobs. We've always felt like pita and hummus was missing from our traditional spread, so Reza's offering might just hit the spot. Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; $15.95-$19.95. Call 773-561-1898 or 312-664-4500 to make a reservation.

If you want to sit down at the table in your own home, but not have to cook a thing:
Whole Foods, Cooking Fools and The Goddess and Grocer are three excellent picks for getting your meal catered. We think the Cooking Fools looks perfect. Classic enough to please mom and dad, but with enough panache to still feel fun. Our favorites include the roasted butternut squash and pear soup, maple bacon brussels sprouts, and the chocolate nibby panna cotta with orange pistachio biscotti. Prices vary from place to place — some do by the dish, others charge by the pound, so make sure you know how many people will be coming. Then, all you have to do is make a stop at Binny's to pick up a beverage or two, and you are ready to go.

If you want to cook the meal, but aren't sure you can:
There is still time to take a Thanksgiving cooking class that will teach you everything you need to know. We promise, it isn't as hard as it looks! Our favorite amongst the bunch is The Chopping Block, with locations in the Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square. They have been offering Thanksgiving-themed classes throughout the month, and there are still a few left: one today, two on the 17th and a final course on the 18th. These guys are pros, and they will teach you how to cook everything from the stuffing, to the sides, to the dinner rolls. An added bonus? All students receive discounts on items from the store the day of their course, so if you need a cheesecloth/roasting pan/pie dish, you can do that too!

For more info about Thanksgiving options that don't involve being in the kitchen all day, click here, here, and here.

Image of traditional Thanksgiving dinner via the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library.