Chefs’ Thanksgiving Traditions (Slideshow)
November 26, 2013
From what to serve at dinner to what to do later, we ask chefs what makes their Thanksgiving complete
Aarón Sánchez, Cooking Channel
“Well, my mom’s a chef so I was never allowed to do any of the big proteins; I was always relegated to the appetizers. And guess what? It’s still the same. So we’ll do scalloped potatoes, I’ll do chorizo with Brussels sprouts, and my mom makes a great Turkish zucchini with a pomegranate vinaigrette. But the turkey is all her, a ham, all her, and a prime rib, all her — hands off or [she'll] chew your arm off."
Bobby Flay, Food Network
"I mean, I don’t understand how people have Thanksgiving without turkey; to me it should be called Turkey Day."
Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network
"I didn’t grow up with Thanksgiving, being Italian, but I’ve been with my husband for 23 years and I’ve adopted his Thanksgiving traditions, and for the first time this year we’re making his mother’s stuffing and dressing recipe. But I think every year I try to have one dish that’s new and different, and I try to insert a little Italian into it. This year I’m doing a porchetta, sometimes I do turkey pot pie."
Guy Fieri, Food Network
"I cook my Thanksgiving dinner outdoors on my barbecue trailer, and it’s usually in the equivalent of four to six turkeys, a few prime ribs, a few hams, and I feed up to 60 to 80 people in my barn. Rain or shine. This is not rookie day. When you play Thanksgiving, you gotta brine those turkeys, and it’s a personal mission. It’s very Rambo-ish. No tying on the headband or anything like that, but coffee is very critical. That has to be prepared. And I usually don’t eat Thanksgiving until two hours after Thanksgiving; I’m cooking, and tasting, and after it’s all cold, then I have a plate. I love it."
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto
"Last year I made a 'pheasaducken.' I made a chicken, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a pheasant, and in between each layer was chorizo, and I sewed it up and I cooked it, so this year everyone is like what do you want to make for Thanksgiving? And they say pheasaducken. So it’s a new tradition."
Justin Warner, Do or Dine
"I generally eat by myself because I’m one of the New York City orphans, and I just go to Congee Village, and I just eat everything. I always order to the point where the waiter says, 'Are you sure?' And that’s when I cut it off, but I don’t stop until I get there. Like raw geoduck, and all that stuff."
Matt Christianson, Urban Farmer
"I cook Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant for approximately 600 people, and I absolutely have to make the turkey gravy, start to finish. Nobody else can touch it, that’s my thing. I just like the feel of it — I like to toast the flour to just the right nuttiness, I like to make the stock just right. What do you put over your dinner? Gravy. It’s the most important part. That and the cranberry sauce."
Matthew Lightner, Atera
"Well, you need egg noodles. I grew up and my mom used to make these homemade egg noodles. My sister will make them, my mom will, and I’ll make them in New York. We take some of the drippings from the turkey, almost like a gravy, and we’ll toss it with egg noodles with some lemon and parsley."
Stephanie Izard, Girl & The Goat
"Instead of having a turkey I’d much rather put a little suckling pig in the oven and my favorite part is just eating all the skin and yumminess off the head."
Dale Talde, Talde
"I come from a large family with a lot of women, and my mother is one of eight sisters, so traditionally the cooking is left to my aunts. I’ve tried to cook, but they’re very opinionated, and want to cook what they want to eat, so I get to relax and watch football. We have things like stewed oxtails with peanut, sour tamarind soup with shrimp and pork, my mom makes an amazing wonton soup, and my aunt makes stewed pork and beef with potatoes and plantains called estafado. We usually have a really bad turkey and really cold lumpy mashed potatoes, but of late, myself and my other cousins will make a great turkey and gravy and a proper stuffing."
Ted Allen, Chopped
"I insist on having a stuffing that’s made with bread and butter and sage. I don’t want oysters or sausage or anything weird like that; I want that salty, sage-y vehicle for butter and bread."
Thomas McNaughton, Flour + Water
"Every year we shut down the restaurant on that day, and I live right on top of the restaurant, so I’ll have friends over and we’ll make dinner and we alternate. One year it’ll be traditional, the next year will be, like, steaks."
Tom Douglas, Tom Douglas Restaurants
"We always have turkey but I stuff it with coffee beans, and that gives it a nice charcoal-y, smoky flavor. And I always serve it with a whole salmon, because we live in the Northwest, and my guess is when the Indians sat down for dinner with the people who were trying to kill them, they served salmon, not turkey."