We talked to three culinary luminaries who rose to the top of their field and asked them to share their special Thanksgiving recipes. Below, check out how Thomas Keller, Alice Waters and Tom Douglas prepare their feast.
Keller, owner of restaurants such as The French Laundry, Bouchon and Per Se, is known for his exceptionally high standards. He is distinguished as the first American-born chef to receive multiple three-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide, as well as the first American male chef to receive a Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France. Keller is also a recipient of multiple James Beard Awards.
Keller shared the following recipe from his Yountville, California, restaurant Ad Hoc, which opened in 2006 to showcase the American comfort food of his childhood. For Keller, Thanksgiving is all about home, wherever that may be.
“Our lives are enriched when we share meals together. That’s what Ad Hoc is all about — food is meant to be served from big bowls and platters passed hand to hand at the table,” Keller told HuffPost via email. “It’s the food that makes you feel good, especially around the holidays. For me, the holidays should always be about home, literally and figuratively.”
“Encourage your guests to prepare dishes that preserve traditions and celebrate in a way that feels right for everyone,” he said. “Bring mementos or family treasures to the table. Whatever makes you happy. There are no rules. We make food memories by balancing nourishment with joy and excitement for those eating what we prepare. So when it’s time to sit down to a feast with your family and friends, be sure to pause and relish in the ritual of passing food and sharing stories, and embrace this gift.”
Ad Hoc Cranberry Sauce
Recipe courtesy of Thomas Keller
1 pound fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons honey
1. Place all ingredients into a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
2. Allow cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature; transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made up to four days ahead.
Waters is an American chef, activist and best-selling author. The owner of Chez Panisse, founded on the concept of serving only fresh locally sourced ingredients, Waters is a multiple James Beard Award recipient as well as a recipient of The French Legion of Honor Award.
Waters shares her winning recipe for preparing turkey and roasted squash: “If we can give up the idea of having an entire bird brought to the table and carved there, we can cook a turkey perfectly,” Waters told HuffPost via email.
Alice Waters’ Thanksgiving Turkey And Roasted Squash
Waters’ instructions as told to HuffPost:
“In whole-turkey recipes, the breast meat always gets overcooked. But my favorite method right now is to take the legs off and braise them separately, then use the two breasts to make a roulade: You create a roll with your stuffing in between the breasts, tie it all up, and braise that as well. It’s sort of a Ballotine-style turkey breast. When you cook your turkey this way, it’s so delicious: The legs are tenderized, the breast is beautifully done, the stuffing is moistened with the juices from the turkey, and when you cut each slice of breast with the stuffing inside, you give a perfect serving to everyone’s plate.
“It was so gratifying to prepare our turkey that way last year, and I’m certainly going to do it again this year because the results are so flavorful. It works especially well with heritage breeds, where the birds are always a little bit tougher. Buying heritage breeds is absolutely important, and it’s in the spirit and purpose of Thanksgiving.
“For a Thanksgiving side, I love gently roasted squashes. You can use a number of different varietals, as long as they have skin that’s delicate enough to leave on for roasting. I like to cut them in slices so you can still see the shape of the squash. Then I roast them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 to 30 minutes depending on their size, until they’re extremely tender but not brown. Sometimes I find the browning overwhelms the subtle taste of squash, and I like to have them very gently done; I’ll add a little water to the tray to keep the squash from getting too dark. It’s a really lovely way to prepare them.”
Douglas’ talent and creativity as a chef and best-selling author have left an indelible mark on Pacific Northwest cuisine, creating an empire of no less than thirteen full-service restaurants. Douglas, a multiple James Beard Award recipient, owns and operates his farm out of Prosser, Washington, which supplies on average 1,500 pounds of produce per week for use in his restaurants. Douglas also developed a product line, hosts a weekly radio show and runs a year-round cooking school named The Hot Stove Society, taught by industry professionals.
Tom’s slow-roasted turkey gravy is a family tradition. “When getting together with family for Thanksgiving dinner, it’s all about the gravy,” Douglas told HuffPost. “I like to share this recipe with my family; carry on the tradition, so to speak.”
Tom’s Slow-Roasted Turkey with Browned Onion Gravy
Recipe courtesy of Tom Douglas
One 15-pound turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole coffee beans
1 tablespoon bacon fat (optional)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter, cubed.
1 medium sweet onion, peeled, cut in half, and julienned
10 garlic cloves, peeled
20 fresh sage leaves
5 fresh sprigs of sage, whole
2 tablespoon tomato paste
5 cups chicken stock, hot
1/4 cup of dry white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Season the turkey, including inside the cavity, generously with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the whole coffee beans and the five whole sprigs of sage.
2. In a heavy-bottomed roasting pan, arrange the cubed butter, sage leaves, bacon fat, garlic cloves, and onion in an even layer. Place the turkey on top of the mixture and put the pan in the oven.
3. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey thigh reads 165 degrees F, roughly 2 1/2 hours. The onion should be browned and caramelized.
4. Tip the turkey up to drain the juices from the cavity into the roasting pan, trying not to let the coffee beans spill out. Then remove the turkey from the pan and set aside in a platter to rest.
5. Place the roasting pan on two burners over medium-high heat. Add the tomato paste and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce until the mixture resembles a paste; the mixture should be a dark, golden brown. Gradually sprinkle in the flour, whisking constantly. Continue whisking for about three minutes, until the flour is well combined and any lumps of tomato paste are smooth. Add the chicken stock 1 cup at a time, stirring well and letting the mixture come back to a simmer between each addition. Whisk in any juices from the platter that have collected around the turkey and the wine. Reduce the gravy until thick enough to coat a spoon. If the gravy is too thick, add an additional cup of stock and cook to desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. If you prefer a smooth gravy, you can strain it or blend it with an immersion blender.