What Famous Chefs Eat on Thanksgiving (Slideshow)
"It's pretty traditional," Colicchio told us about his Thanksgiving meal. "I do Brussels sprouts with bacon and onions; I do a stuffing that has a lot of fennel and golden raisin bread, pork belly, and lots of breakfast sausage in it; I usually do a roasted mixed root vegetables, with some artichokes, carrots, and some squash. I make a traditional gravy, I make my own cranberry sauce. It's fairly traditional at the Colicchio household."
As for the turkey, Colicchio is against brining. "I think brining dries it out," he said. "I'll have an argument with anybody who wants to have it. I load up a ton of butter and lots of herbs under the skin, and this way it really does self-baste. I like to baste it, once it starts going, every 10 to 15 minutes."
The centerpiece of Alton Brown’s Thanksgiving dinner is, of course, turkey, and he adheres to the recipe that he made famous in 1999. "My recipe addresses the primary complaints of turkey: dryness and seasoning," he told us. His day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich is also a very important part of the festivities: "The perfect Thanksgiving sandwich isn’t served on Thanksgiving, but the day after," Brown told us when we asked for his recipe. "You have to give the turkey time to cool and rest. Now, most turkey sandwiches are made like a traditional cold-cut sandwich, but that’s not how I make mine. I make a turkey salad sandwich. I always have deviled eggs on my Thanksgiving table, and I chop up those leftover deviled eggs, mix it into the chopped turkey with some stuffing, bind it all together with cranberry sauce, and put it all on a bun," he said. "Buns are the way to go. It’s awesome. You get all the flavors of Thanksgiving, but in a sandwich."
The Sandwich King host might be best known for his bread-bound creations, and on Thanksgiving his favorite dish is an old family tradition. "There’s always a pasta course, with homemade ravioli, and my grandma’s sausage bread, which is pizza dough, rolled up with sausage, salami, pepperoni, and cheese, then browned in the oven."
While it’s not something you see on every Thanksgiving table, no Mauro family Thanksgiving is complete without it.
"That sausage bread is my favorite thing in the world," he added.
The chef, best known as the former chef behind Miami’s Yardbird and now hard at work on Root & Bone, opening early next year, told us that this year he’ll be heading back down to Florida to be with his family. "My exact meal isn’t completely planned yet, but a couple of days ahead of time I’ll start brining the turkey, and I usually roast it with some sort of compound butter," he told us. "For some reason, I really like a traditional cranberry, like the canned stuff in the Jell-O mold, most likely because it reminds me of my childhood. I’ll most likely also be making a fig and goat cheese bread pudding, a fig soufflé, and a spicy sausage and cornbread stuffing."
Batali’s partner in crime will actually be spending Thanksgiving in Germany this year, so he joked that he’ll be having "a very avant-garde, sprachen Thanksgiving."
"Normally, Thanksgiving is sauerkraut and choucroute," he added. "We come from Northeastern Italy, so we eat a lot of pork with sauerkraut in it. Prosciutto, tomato, mozzarella, lasagna Bolognese with green béchamel, and veal Bolognese, baccala whipped with garlic and olive oil, and then turkey, but only if we get to it. Those are the kind of dishes that pop out and speak 'Thanksgiving' to me."
And like all Thanksgiving devotees, Bastianich knows that the day after is almost as big a deal as the day itself, and he’s got a thorough plan of attack. "You know, it's a whole process," he said. "You start with baccala and champagne for breakfast, and then tortellini and brodo for lunch, then turkey leftovers."
The king of Italian cooking chooses a different region of Italy to highlight each year, and this year’s focus will be on the region between Montepulciano and Arezzo, he told us. "Instead of roasting a turkey, I’ll be making a turkey porchetta," he said. "I’ll take a 20-pound turkey, debone it, then use the legs and thighs, along with pancetta and pork fat, to make a sausage, which I’ll stuff it with. Then I’ll roll the whole thing up and roast it in my pizza oven for an hour and a half. And because I have the bones I’ll roast them, too, and make a stock with them, which I’ll use to make a gravy, with some fennel in it, then I’ll serve it with a fennel gratin."
Now that’s the right way to prepare a turkey!
But that’s not all: "On the side we’ll have fregole, a gratin of cavolo nero, bruschetta, and ravioli," he added. "And I’ll be washing it down with a whole lot of '97 brunello."
"For me, Thanksgiving is all about family and friends getting together," Besh told us. "It’s the tradition of a menu never changing, and looking forward to the oyster dressing, the crabmeat and mirliton dressing, the Andouille cornmeal dressing — we just live by our sides — and down here in my neck of the woods we call stuffings dressings, so you have all these different kinds of stuffing, mainly seafood-driven, and almost nothing without a little bit of bacon or sausage in it."
And while the dressings might be the most anticipated items on the table, tradition doesn’t end there. "One tradition that we always have is to cook an extra turkey so we have it for the gumbo the day after Thanksgiving," he said. "Thanksgiving is one day, and we so look forward to the leftover turkey gumbo that we cook an extra turkey just to make sure we’ll have plenty left over, and both of those carcasses are used for rich turkey broth."
Any other items always on Besh’s Thanksgiving table? "There’s also the baked sweet potatoes cooked down with butter and steamed cane syrup," he added. "We always have a bisque or a soup of some kind, so a lot times it might be a wild duck gumbo or an oyster stew."
Tyler Florence never makes the same turkey twice, and usually makes his recipe up "at the grocery store," he told us. "This year I’ll be getting a couple of walnut-fed turkeys from Niman Ranch, and I’ll be breaking one down, brining it, and using it smoked in a gumbo. For the other, I’ll be making a Ballantine: it’ll be spatchcocked, deboned, and I’ll be mixing the dark meat with foie gras, pistachio, and truffles and turning it into a forcemeat to stuff into the white meat."
While it sounds pretty labor-intensive, "I love the process," he said. "I really get into the ceremony of it."
"I'm going to make Mediterranean Thanksgiving," Flay told us. "You know duck a l’orange? I'm going to do turkey a l’tangerine and sage. I'm also going to do a country bread stuffing with goat cheese and kale; toasted polenta with roasted cauliflower and feta cheese; and cranberries with honey, black peppers, and some fresh mint. To me it should look like Thanksgiving, always. But it can taste like other places in the world."
While his Thanksgiving themes span the world, there are some dishes that make it onto the table every year. "One of the dishes that has become a staple in my house no matter what theme we pick is mashed potatoes with a green chile queso sauce," he told us. "I make really classic mashed potatoes with butter, cream, and salt and pepper, then I put them in a bowl and make a big giant well and I make a Southwestern-style cheese sauce with lots of roasted green chiles in it. Then I put it in the middle of the well, so you take some of the potatoes, you get some of the green sauce as well."
Sounds delicious! Another item that’s always on his table is a cauliflower and goat cheese gratin.