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5 must-haves for holiday cooking

Let’s get right to the point — you’ve got lots to do in these few days before the holiday.

Make sure to have these five things on hand for your holiday cooking or hosting, because they have multitasking, disaster-averting powers. (Feel free to add to this list.)

▪  Lemons. A spritz of fresh juice can sharpen acidic flavors, cut fattiness, replace an extra shake of salt and brighten a vinaigrette, sauce, stew or soup. Overlapping, roasted slices of lemon can camouflage a homely turkey. Grated lemon zest adds zip to green vegetables — added last-minute, to avoid discoloring - and perfumes whipped cream for plopping on pie slices.

▪  Butter (unsalted as an ingredient; salted for finishing). Whisk in a pat or two to smooth out a sauce or gravy and add richness; melt and pour over nuts before you toast them in the oven - they’ll be good for snacking and for future baking (frozen); use it as a base to make a raft of flavored compound butters; brush it on, softened, as a final glaze for poultry. Plus, it’s often on sale at this time of year, so buy a few pounds, place in freezer-safe zip-top bags and hang on to them for holiday cookie baking in December.

▪  Unsweetened apple cider. Beyond holiday beverages, use it to mellow the flavor of a store-bought or over-seasoned gravy; to coat a pan of vegetables for roasting; as the liquid base for a slow-cooker full of leftover shredded turkey; sweeten a vinaigrette; braise a cabbage side dish in it; boil it down to create a delicious syrup with even more uses.

▪  Insulated cooler with ice. Before the feast, use it to house a wet-brining bird or as overflow storage for displaced items from the refrigerator. Lined with newspaper and/or beach towels (and made ice-free), it can keep just-cooked, wrapped items warm — freeing up oven space.

▪  Disposable aluminum cake pans with lids (the kind you can buy at the supermarket or paper goods store). They will help prevent depletion of your own takeout container stash as you dole out leftovers, with no expectation that guests should return them to you.

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