Chefs Reveal Thanksgiving Plans… and Plans That Went Awry

Red Bourbon Turkeys
Red Bourbon Turkeys Photo: Griggstown Quail Farm

Turkey time is just around the corner and it’s one of the few days of the year that amateur chefs have to deal with just as many mouths to feed as professional ones. So while regular folk are freaking out over how to keep that turkey from turning into an oversized hockey puck and forgetting to take the giblets out of the bird before adding the stuffing, we found out how local chefs are spending their Thanksgivings. We also poked around to see if they had any Thanksgiving day disasters of their own to share. Read on to see which chef would rather put on sweat pants and go for dim sum instead of turkey, which chef’s mother-in-law destroys his deep-fried poultry masterpieces and which chef’s brussels sprouts provided a digestive challenge for his family.

Peter McAndrews, chef-owner Modo Mio: “I don’t really have any horror stories - other than I usually go to my mother-in-law’s every year - that’s a horror story! Every year I brine a turkey and fry it and bring it to my mother-in-law’s and then it sits there for three or four hours and this beautiful turkey I made turns into something dry and awful. It boils my blood. This year though, I’m cooking Thanksgiving at our house - it’ll be 25 people, my wife’s family. I think it’s un-American to go out to a restaurant on Thanksgiving, unless maybe it’s just you and someone else. It’s a day to sit around with friends and family and uncles and aunts you don’t like. The other thing that’s crazy is we have to make different things for all the kids kids now - that’s a horror story! They have such discerning palates - we have to make dishes without parsley in them or whatever. Even my kids! I never thought in my lifetime that would come to fruition.”

Lynn Rinaldi, chef-owner of Paradiso: “This year we’re going out to dinner - we waited until the last minute to make reservations, so it was kind of a problem, but we’re going to Smith & Wollensky - just my husband [chef-owner of Izumi Corey Baver] and I. If it were up to me, I’d go to Ocean Harbor for dim sum because I could wear sweatpants and crawl right back into bed! My husband just looked at me like I’m crazy when I said that. No real Thanksgiving horror stories, but one year I had just flew back from France and I had a stomach bug the day before and Thanksgiving Day. I had to make dinner for the whole family and then I just sat there and watched them eat. It was rough!”

Evan Turney, chef-owner Varga Bar: “I’m going home to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving this year and so is my sister [Bindi chef-owner Marcie Turney]; I usually cook Thanksgiving, but we’re both cooking it this year. We’re brining a 28-pound turkey for two days - we do it with apple cider, clove, allspice, orange zest and star anise. We also stuff truffle butter underneath the skin with thyme, whole sage and rosemary and then slow cook it for a long time - the sugar from the cider gives it a nice crisp skin. Then there’s Italian sausage, pecan and cranberry stuffing, plus a cranberry sauce with Bosc pears, vanilla bean and orange zest. Here’s kind of a horror story from last year… I made Brussels sprouts. They were delicious, but I guess I didn’t cook them quite long enough and they had a bit of a bite to them. About twenty minutes after we were done eating them, everyone at the table had major gas. It was hilarious and became a good family story.

Eric Paraskevas, chef of Terra: “I always go home to my mother’s house in State College for Thanksgiving and she will never let me cook! I don’t know why, but she doesn’t. It’s kind of a horror story since I’m always following her around and saying “don’t do this, don’t do that, you’re doing it wrong!” I’m kind of critical. But this year I can’t make it home and I get kind of homesick when I don’t, so we’re doing a family-style Thanksgiving here at the restaurant and it’s an homage to my mom. I’m making what she normally cooks, but putting my spin on it. We’re serving from 3 p.m to 9 p.m. and then I’ll have the staff sit down and have a service for us. If we can’t get home and see our families, at least we can have a nice time here.”

Anne Coll, chef of Meritage: “I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving for everyone since I was really young and I’ll be cooking it this year with my boyfriend and his family at his mother’s house. I’ll be brining a turkey and then I debone it, stuff it and rewrap it, so it looks like a turkey, but it doesn’t have any bones. I’ll also make roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, a soup from butternut squash from my garden, with apples and ginger and a fresh cranberry chutney made with raw cranberries, Grand Marnier, ginger and orange. I haven’t decided just yet what’s for dessert. I’ll probably make a pie with butternut squash - I like it better for pie filling because it has less water. And something with chocolate - we have to have a flourless chocolate cake of some sort.”

Chefs Reveal Thanksgiving Plans… and Plans That Went Awry