RECIPE: Need Thanksgiving dinner help

kat123October 8, 2007

I love decorating and keeping house, but unfortunately I DO NOT enjoy all! It looks like we may be having around 18 people over for Thanksgiving dinner which I love, but can any of you please give me an easy, yummy recipe for turkey?

There is no way I'm going to be able to cook a turkey big enough for such a large crowd. Any and all ideas, advice and help would be most appreciated. Thanks!

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You need a 20 pound turkey....
But one...take the wrapping off, put it in a pan, for a beginner, one with a lit is preferable, set your oven at 325 and cook it for 4 hours. It will be just fine.
You could baste it, rub it, brine it mess with the temperature turn it brasts side down and then try to turn it over....but, if you don't like to cook, just put it into a pan and cook it!
We'll talk about gravy, stuffing and potatoes later!
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 11:05AM
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Crockpots, crockpots and more crockpots! I do my stuffing, potatoes, corn, greenbeans.....everything that I can in them and serve from them buffet style....including devilish chocolate cake....sweet potato dishes are awesome too if your family likes them!

Here is my all time favorite.....and I usually do this in an oval shaped crockpot,,,but a round one would work too!

This is a family good and so easy! Gives you time to sit and visit a while with your family. Notice #1 calls for family does not care for celery so I use #2
Crockpot Cornbread Dressing #1

Cornbread Dressing cooked in crockpot posted by babbling betty on November 21, 2001 at 07:00:13:

Cornbread Dressing

1 cornbread, 8 inch pan
8 slices day old bread, toasted and cubed
4 eggs
1 medium onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 Tbsp butter

Lightly grease crock pot. Crumble cornbread into mixer bowl. Add all ingredients except butter. Pour mixture into crock pot. Dot top with butter. Cook on high 2 hours or on low 3-4 hours.

Crockpot Dressing #2

1 (8 inch) pan cornbread
8 slices dry white bread
4 eggs
2 c. chicken broth
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Celery to taste
1 med. onion
2 tbsp. butter

Mix ingredients except butter.
Place in crock pot. Dot butter on top.
Cook 2 hours on High then 4 hours on low.

Have a Wonderful Holiday!

Here is a link that might be useful: Lots of other ideas too!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 12:06PM
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I hope you'll ask some of your guests to bring dishes to contribute to the meal. That will reduce the panic (somewhat!). I agree with Linda C on her advice regarding the turkey.

I only have one oven. Even if I'm only having a small number of people for Thanksgiving dinner, I try to make a lot of my side dishes ahead of time so I can just put them in the oven to reheat after the turkey comes out and the gravy gets made. Just be sure if they are in glass or pottery dishes to take them out of the refrigerator and let them sit a half hour or so before you reheat them so the dishes don't break.

I have a time-tested recipe for "do-ahead" mashed potatoes that feeds a crowd. If you're interested, I'll post it.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2007 at 4:48AM
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A roast turkey dinner is one of the easiest dinners to prepare. And the best way to roast it is Barbara Kafka's method.

And while the turkey is in the oven you can get your vegetables ready. (ie peel potatoes, snap the ends off green beans, cut up a rutabaga, etc.) Make sure if you peel the potatoes early that you cover them with water. Otherwise they turn black. When the turkey is done, just remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. Longer won't hurt it either. It will stay hot tented with foil. I bake my stuffing separate from the turkey. So when the turkey comes out of the oven you can put the casserole with the stuffing/dressing in to bake or you can bake it earlier and just warm it up, or you can have it baking in a second oven if you have one.

Gravy is easy too. After you remove the turkey from the roasting pan you should have lots of drippings, fat and brown bits. Just heat the pan and add some flour. Cook for a few minutes and add turkey or chicken broth to the pan. Season well with pepper and salt and I like to add a little fresh chopped sage. Let it simmer on low to meld the flavours.

PUt the potatoes on to cook. Time the rest of your veggies so that they are done just after the potatoes. They can be finishing up cooking while you mash the potatoes. Now all you have to do is slice the turkey and you are ready to eat.

Home Cookin Chapter: Recipes From Thibeault's Table

Source:Barbara Kafka
Roasting A Simple Art

Many Thanksgivings at my house have proved the high-heat method to be ideal. A fifteen-pound turkey at room temperature takes two hours to roast. However, it may take several hours for the turkey to reach room temperature. While the turkey is sitting out, cover it loosely with a towel, otherwise the skin will dry out. I prefer a fifteen-pound turkey as it isn't too heavy for me to handle. It usually gives lots of good leftovers and is generally available.

There are certain things to think of to ensure success before beginning: Remove the giblet bag from the interior of the bird. Remove the wing tips. Put everything except the livers into a pot and start Basic Fowl Giblet Gravy. By the time the bird is roasted, the gravy will be done. Use the liver in the dressing/stuffing or store in the freezer, covered with milk. Make sure there is a pan big enough for the turkey without it's touching the sides of the pan. Do not truss.

Consider whether the bird should be stuffed or the stuffing served as dressing baked separately. If stuffing, think in terms of twelve cups of stuffing for a 15 pound bird, which will allow the big cavity to be stuffed and some more stuffing to be crammed under the skin flap at the neck. I seldom stuff because there are real food safety questions about the bird and its stuffing sitting out at room temperature.

The oven must be very clean before roasting, or cooking at this high temperature will cause unpleasant smoke. In any case, there will be some smoke, so turn on the fan or open a window. Don't put the oven rack too high or the skin on the breast will get over cooked. For a twenty-pound turkey, the rack should be in the lowest position. Always put the turkey in legs first - dark meat takes longer to cook and the rear of the oven is the hottest area.

If the top skin seems to be getting too dark, slip a doubled piece of aluminum foil on top of it. Don't move the turkey. Use an oven mitt to protect hands and forearms. Remove the foil with the same oven mitt ten minutes before the turkey comes out.

Large turkeys are most easily removed from the pan by holding them with two pot holders, which will need to be washed. After the meal, get out a large stockpot to boil up the carcass and leftover bones for turkey soup and stock.

15 pound turkey, thawed, if necessary and at room temperature, wing tips removed, reserving giblets and neck for gravy, liver for stuffing.

Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 cup water or basic turkey/chicken stock

. Place oven rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to

Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat dry. Sprinkle the outside with
pepper. If stuffing, stuff cavity and crop, securing openings with
long metal skewers. Lace them. Do not truss.

Put turkey in an 18 X 13 X2 inch roasting pan, breast side up. Put in
oven legs first. Roast until the leg joint near the backbone wiggles
easily, about 2 hours. After 20 minutes, move the turkey around with a
wooden spatula to keep from sticking. Remove the turkey to a large
platter. Let sit 20 minutes before carving.

Pour off grease from roasting pan and put pan on top of the stove. Add
water or stock. Bring to a boil while scraping bottom of pan
vigorously with a wooden spoon, loosening all the crisp bits in the
bottom of the pan. These add intensity to the gravy. Let reduce by
half. Serve on the side in a sauceboat or add to giblet gravy.

9 pounds
stuffed 1 hour 45 minutes
unstuffed 1 hour 15 minutes

12 pounds
stuffed 1 hour 50 minutes
unstuffed 1 hour 20 minutes

15 pounds
stuffed 2 hours 30 minutes
unstuffed 2 hours

20 pounds
stuffed 3 hours 30 minutes
unstuffed 3 hours

    Bookmark   October 9, 2007 at 10:04AM
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Here's an easy recipie for roast turkey that makes your house smell DIVINE and looks really impressive to boot. (oh yeah, and it tastes good too) I wish you lots of luck with your Thanksgiving dinner!

Garlic and Herb Roast Turkey
one 12 pound Turkey (if you need a larger turkey than this just increase the other ingredients to compensate)
3/4 cup olive oil
3 Tabelspoons minced garlic
2 Tabelspoons fresh rosemary
1 Tabelspoon Fresh Basil (i've left this out and just used an extra tabelspoon or rosemary before)
1 Tabelspoon dried Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients except Turkey together in a small bowl. Loosen skin on turkey around breast (this is much easier than it sounds) Rub garlic/spice mixture on turkey under skin. Also rub mixture inside cavity and on top of skin. (Although the recipie doesn't say to, at this point I like to put some oranges or/and onions cut into large pieces inside the cavity to help keep it moist while roasting.) Roast Turkey at 325 degrees in a roasting pan 20 minutes per pound or about 4 hours. Make sure meat thermometer reaches 180. Some people put aluminum foil over the turkey while it's cooking to keep it from drying out, but I haven't found it necessary to do that with this recipie. Besides I like the skin a little crisp.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2007 at 2:33PM
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And don't forget to remove the innerds from the front and back ends before cooking. Guess how I learned *that* lesson the first turkey I cooked? LOL

    Bookmark   October 9, 2007 at 3:44PM
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You've gotten some great responses. I do a 20 lb turkey as well as a turkey breast or two for 12-15 guests. Fortunately, I have a double oven, but I often do the breasts early in the morning and park them and then slice them. They are then wrapped well and refrigerated until dinner. You can gently reheat them in the oven after you pull your whole bird out. Keep the sliced breasts in heavy duty foil and let them warm on a low heated oven. You may want to put some of the juices from the roasting pan over the slices before refrigerating them.

The whole turkey can be done and then removed for the oven and set aside for up to an hour. I have found that the longer it sits, the easier it is to slice. Make sure you cover it well with foil. The rule of thumb is not to have it out for more than 2 hours, so if it is sitting out for 3/4 to 1 hour, you still have an hour or more for service of dinner.

Another piece of advice I will give is to invest in the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit magazine. There are always interesting turkey recipes as well as sides. I use it every year and have been using that magazine as a reference for more than 20 years.

I do the Thanksgiving dinner every year, and while there are certain side dishes that you must offer, it is nice if you have the same crowd every year to do some different/unusual offerings in the way of side dishes.

I plan my dinner around the two ovens and number of burners on my stove. I prep everything on Wednesday that can be chopped, i.e.; celery, onion for stuffing, etc. Roast the beets if I am serving roasted beets, anything that can be done ahead without affecting the taste or outcome of a dish, I do ahead. If I am serving some sort of green bean side, I blanch the beans early in the day and saute according to whatever recipe I am doing right before I serve them. I peel my potatoes for mashed potatoes the night before and put them in water in a large stock pot.

Lists, organization, planning and very precise preparation timing are the keys to the whole dinner coming together. The more organized you are, the more relaxed you will be executing a great menu. I plan for at least a month, tweeking my menu, which wines I will be serving, deciding on serving platters, china, crystal and the like. I have several different lists, grocery, menu, guest list, things to do to prepare the dining room table. There is really alot involved in having a dinner turn out well, whether it be for 8 or 28.

Most of all remember to relax for an hour before your guests arrive. If you are organized, it will be no problem. The hostess sets the mood of the dinner. If you are completely frazzled, your guests will not be at ease. Take a nice soak and have a glass of wine or a cola with a slice of lemon - whichever is your style.

Good luck to you and Happy Thanksgiving.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2007 at 7:08PM
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I agree with Seagrass. Have the guests bring a dish to share. Have some bring sides like mashed potatoes & gravy, that green bean casserole, sweet potatoes; have some bring desserts; have some bring appetizers; have some bring wine and beverages. If they don't want to bring a dish to pass, have them come and help you set up before hand. This will take a lot of the pressure off of you.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 10:23AM
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I tried the home page link at your MY PAGE and it didn't work. I wondered what climate you have. If you live in a mild climate, assign a couple of men to BBQ the turkey/s (unstuffed).

The first time I baked a turkey I couldn't find the giblets, etc. inside the bird. After cooking there they were --- in the neck cavity!!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 10:28PM
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Wow! What wonderful ideas. I just can't thank you all enough. Fortunately, everyone invited will be bringing a side dish, a dessert or wine, so that leaves the turkey for my DH and me. Seagrass, I'd really like to have your "do ahead" mash potatoes recipe. Could you please post it here for me? Thanks again to everyone!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 2:39AM
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These can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. The recipe makes about 12 servings. When I double it, I prepare and bake it in 2 batches. I've been making them for years. I know that mashed potatoes are really easy to make, but this lets you take one more thing out of the "last minute" category. I put them and other make ahead casseroles in the oven after I take the turkey out. Then they heat up while I make the gravy and serve the first course soup. Again, don't put a cold glass or pottery dish straight into the oven - let it come to room temp so it doesn't crack.


6 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut up
1 cup sour cream
6 oz. Philly cream cheese (two 3 oz. packages) - room temp
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup milk
3 teaspoons onion salt
pepper to taste
an additional 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter for the top

Lightly butter a 9 x 14 oval baking dish. Boil potatoes until tender - drain. Use an electric mixer - mash potatoes in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients using 5 tablespoons of the butter. Transfer to the prepared dish. Slice remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and place on top of potatoes. Can be made ahead at this point, cover and refrigerate.

If making ahead, bring to room temperature. Uncover and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 9:02AM
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Will somebody be bringing the dressing for the turkey or will you be making it (since it kind of goes with the birdie)? Just in case - here's Marilyn's recipe that I now make every year - Marilyn uses cornbread but I substitute regular bread instead of cornbread, but that's just my preference.

Bread and Sausage Stuffing (Marilyn)

2 pounds white bread
2# pork sausage
6 stalks celery; chopped
2 onions; chopped
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic; minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 eggs
6 cups chicken stock

Cut bread into cubes and lay out to dry. In a large skillet, cook sausage until well browned; place in a large mixing bowl along with drippings. Cook onions and celery in butter until tender but not brown. Add all ingredients to the large bowl along with the sausage. Stir together well and pour into a greased 9X13X2-inch baking dish and bake at 350° for 30 to 45 minutes until puffed and golden but not too dry.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 9:53AM
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I panicked a couple of years ago when I had to do my first turkey because I am a vegetarian and had no experience. Also, I had eaten some memorably bad/dry turkeys. However, I do agree that roasting a turkey, or chicken for that matter is extrememly easy, although I personally feel that doing a huge bird is not. I think that's the problem. I think taste-wise and ease wise, doing two small turkeys is much preferable to doing one large bird. And you can make a nice presentation with two birds, don't get stuck in the rut of the one big turkey on the platter stereotype. I make small birds now every year for my family, have not had a problem yet. Whatever prep. style you feel comfortable with is fine. I like mine stuffed with an oranges or apple, celery, an onion, and fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are fantastic stuffed inside a bird. I use rosemary and thyme. Sage is good too, I'm just not a big sage fan.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 11:01AM
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I found this in my files while looking for something else so I thought I'd post it.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
Makes about 2 quarts
For more flavor, after roasting the turkey you can skim the drippings from the pan and add them to the gravy just before serving. It's best to discard the strong-tasting liver before using the giblets. This recipe makes enough to accompany a large turkey and still have plenty for leftovers.

6 turkey drumsticks, thighs, or wings
reserved turkey giblets
reserved turkey neck
2 carrots , chopped coarse
1 head garlic , halved
2 ribs celery , chopped coarse
2 onions , chopped coarse
Vegetable oil spray
10cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups dry white wine
12 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Table salt and ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Place giblets, neck, drumsticks, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in roasting pan, spray with vegetable oil, and toss well. Roast, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
2. Transfer contents of roasting pan to Dutch oven. Add broth, wine, and thyme and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced by half, about 1 1/2 hours. Pour through fine-mesh strainer into large container (discard solids), cover stock with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until fat congeals, at least 2 hours.
3. Using soup spoon, skim fat and reserve. Heat 1/2 cup fat in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until bubbling. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until honey colored, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in stock, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Gravy can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.) Reheat gravy in saucepan over medium heat until bubbling.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 11:54AM
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Woodie - thanks for posting that. I'm going to save it. I absolutely hate making gravy at the last minute. I'll save the pan drippings from the turkey and deal with them later, but the older I get the more I just want to get on with the meal and enjoy my guests LOL!


    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 9:57PM
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Well, noone has suggested this so I will. I'm in MA and there is a turkey farm nearby that will roast the turkey for you. Also, most of the grocery stores around here offer full dinners, place your order and relax.

Personally, I like to fry my turkey, saving the legs and wings for broth, but if I do roast it, brining works best for me.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 12:35PM
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You might want to consider brining your turkey before cooking. I normally smoke or deep fry a 22lb bird for Thanksgiving every year, and ever since I started brining them, the family makes sure "...You're going to brine the turkey this year too, aren't you Dad?" It really makes for a moist, flavorful bird.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 2:55PM
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lamalu - is it Bob's Turkey Farm in Lancaster??? I bought my turkeys from them for years when we lived in Harvard. And their pot pies are to die for. I can't wait to get back to the States. I'm going to buy loads of pot pies LOL!


    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 3:14PM
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beachlily z9a

Woodie, you are a genius! I never make gravy at Thanksgiving because of the chaos at the end of the cooking process. I'm going to get turkey parts this week and use your recipe! What a lifesaver!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 7:54PM
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we cook a 20lb and we cook an extra turkey breast on the side so we have extra meat

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 9:22AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

We usually have 20+ at Thanksgiving and this is what works for me because I like to do as much as possible ahead:

Buy 2 smallish (12-14lb) turkeys. Cheap turkeys are fine. The small ones go fast so look as soon as they go on sale.
Cook one the day before and make your gravy. This is the "back up" turkey, for leftovers and possible seconds. Slice it and put it on a platter with some broth.

Buy a spiral sliced ham. It will impress all those thinking turkey is the only meat and it is generally much appreciated. You can bake it in a crock pot if necessary or, even better, a roaster oven.

Serve the second turkey hot from the oven and slice to order.
Like a carving buffet! I have never had to use the turkey form the previous day because I also have the ham. However, it IS nice to have to give people leftovers to take home and, of course, the gravy is done.

All the side dishes? Make your stuffing now and freeze. It reheats great. Mashed potatoes will keep warm for hours and cranberry sauce can be made 3 days ahead.
Roll dough can be made the night before and baked that morning..or made earlier and frozen.

Ok, I do get up really early and make pies because I like fresh pies, but the dough can be made 2 days before and kept in the refrigerator tightly wrapped.
We like marinated asparagus..nice to have a cold vegetable made the day before.
And I'm really blessed to have relatives who bring most everything else even if it is green bean casserole. They like it though!

And the best part- dh will clean while I cook.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 4:32PM
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You all have given me wonderful recipes and great ideas. Thank you so much.

BUMBLEEEZ: could you please share your marinated asparagus recipe? It sounds delicious. Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 2:20AM
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seagrass: The turkey farm I'm thinking of is Raymond's Turkey Farm in Methuen, MA, close to Salem, NH. There was another I liked in East Kingston, NH but they sold the land to developers. :-(

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 9:31AM
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May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have never a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 12:50PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Kat, I don't have a recipe. I just mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sugar together until it tastes good. Add a bit of dijon mustard and some salt and pepper and a pinch of thyme. Make about a cup of this for 1 pound of asparagus.
Cook the trimmed asparagus until still crisp and while warm and now in a dish, pour over the vinaigrette. Refrigerate overnight and let sit out for while before serving. I usually garnish with either basil and/or lemon.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 1:27PM
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beachlily z9a

Woodie, I made your recipe for Make Ahead Turkey Gravy. It is delicious and finally, finally, my Thanksgiving dinner with include turkey gravy. Thank you ever so much!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 11:04PM
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Hi, Beachlily, I'm so glad you like the recipe, I do too! I just need to set the record straight that its not realy my own recipe, LOL, I saved it cut out from some magazine, don't know which one, I'm sorry to say. I just don't want anybody to sue me for anything :)
It is such a comforting feeling to know that you've got the gravy all set and ready to go at the last minute!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 11:19PM
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