Monday, November 14, 2011


   Unlike other holidays, Thanksgiving is really all about the food. More than that, the food is steeped in tradition — hundreds of years of it, in fact — but whose? The thing about Thanksgiving is: Not everyone does it the same. So we asked some of the some of the best chefs around what they think of Thanksgiving: what they love about it, what they hate about it, the personal practices they've turned into annual traditions. Don't forget to tell us about favorite tradition in the comments.

1. Marshmallows on the sweet-potato casserole?

2. Homemade cranberry sauce: Worth it, or never as good as the canned stuff?

A few words:

"Hate to say it, but the balance of sweet and tart, as well as the texture that comes from cranberry sauce in the can, is something that can't be replicated. Also, there's something to be said for the way it comes out of the can with the lines on the side. I also love using it to make my leftover sandwich the following day. Homemade cranberry sauce on the leftover sandwich just isn't the same thing." —Scott Conant, Scarpetta
 3. Have you ever ruined a Thanksgiving turkey?

A few words:
"I ruined 16 of them when I worked for a hotel in Frederick [in Maryland] around age 16 or 17. I set the temperature too high the night before, and they were ruined the next day. Didn't get fired, but it was the biggest lesson in the kitchen. Ever."—Bryan Voltaggio, Volt
"At the time I didn't think I ruined them, but my grandmother was not too happy. I was still in culinary school, and we had thanksgiving at my parents' house (usually it was at my grandmother's, but this was the first year at ours). I was so excited to make a roulade of turkey that I'd learned in culinary school, and my mother let me try it (she was so encouraging). I carefully roasted the roulade, and just as I removed it from the oven, my nana came up and saw the 'turkey.' She proclaimed, 'I don't know much, but I sure know that's not a turkey.' That definitely scarred me a touch. I vowed never to muck around with a bird on Thanksgiving again." —Colin Lynch, Menton
"Yes, but not from cooking. My dog grabbed it off the table, and when I got back from the kitchen, it was already eaten." —David Myers, Comme Ça

4. Somebody forgot to make stuffing. What do you do?


A few words:
"Eat more turkey." —Sang Yook, Father's Office
"Toast any bread you have in the house, toss it with onion cooked in butter along with any herbs and nuts you have on hand (maybe some dried fruit), and pour some gravy over it. Done."—Stephen Wambach, Epic

5. Which is the most essential Thanksgiving pie?

A few words:
"Minced meat pie. This was a necessary part of my upbringing. But if you're not into minced meat pie, then I'd say pumpkin." —Scott Conant
"None of the above. Kabocha squash pie." —Sean Park, O-Ku

6. Have you ever bought a pre-made pie crust?

A few words:
"Hell yes." —Michael Schulson, Sampan
"No way. My grandma would chase me out of the kitchen." —David Myers, Comme Ça
"Yes. I'm a sushi chef, not a pastry chef!"—Sean Park, O-Ku
"I bought a pie crust because I didn't know how to cook yet. I was 15 years old and it was a surprise for my mom."—Victor Casanova, Culina

7. The best alcoholic drink for Thanksgiving is...

A few words:
"All of the above in equal parts stirred and strained over crushed ice. Twist or cherry — your choice." —Colin Lynch, Menton

8. Mashed potatoes are best...

A few words:
"Mashed potatoes are best just left alone! I love to add butter and cream, and I make sure to whip them really well so as to incorporate air and make them light and fluffy (and smooth). Then season them really well with salt, and nothing else. Less is definitely more, especially when it comes to potatoes."—Michael Schulson, Sampan

9. What iconic Thanksgiving food would you get rid of?

Notable: Twenty percent of chefs would prefer to get rid of the turkey altogether
"Turkey is overrated. I'm frying a chicken for Thanksgiving instead." —Brandon Boudet, Dominick's
"Substitute the turkey with prime rib!" —Eric and Bruce Bromberg, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
"Turkey's white meat is almost always dry — you have to go through so much trouble to keep it moist, and in the end, it just tastes like bland chicken." —Nicholas Anderer, Maialino
"Say goodbye to candied yams. Something about the term just scares me." —Sunny Jin, Jory

10. What's your secret to a great Thanksgiving meal?

"Cheese popovers, cornbread, and sausage stuffing. And brined turkey." —David Burke, David Burke Townhouse
"Get someone else to cook it." —Sang Yoon, Father's Office
"Lots of booze. And friends." —Brandon Boudet, Dominick's
"Cooking the turkey in sous-vide, then roasting it in a very hot oven for ten minutes. And making sure the table decor has lots of fall foliage, chestnuts, and miniature pumpkins and squash. It never hurts to burn a few cinnamon sticks in a hot skillet, either." —Stephan Pyles, Samar
"Pork fat! You can never go wrong!" —Nicholas Stefanelli, Bibiana
"I make a court bouillon stock out of veggies and scraps and keep them on my stove while cooking. I use this juice to flavor everything, like gravy, stuffing, and pretty much anything that needs a little something added to it." —Rick Moonen, RM Seafood
"American spirits such as bourbon or whiskey."—Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy
"The Cowboys losing and seeing Jerry Jones's plastic face frown." —David Katz, Mémé
Note: Because of rounding, some percentages may not add up to 100.

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