Last Minute Thanksgiving: Local Chefs Offer Up Their Favorite Recipes

Still deciding on what to do with those brussel sprouts? Need some stuffing inspiration? Local chefs have got you covered.

Forget that this Thursday is Thanksgiving? We won’t judge you, but your family and friends might if you show up to dinner empty-handed. We chatted with several local chefs to create an ultimate Thanksgiving menu of dishes that they love to serve both at their restaurants and at home. Use the recipes ahead, and your guests will think they’re eating straight from Boston’s restaurant kitchens, which in a way, they are. You just don’t have to tell them that. —by Samantha Wood

TURKEY AND GRAVY: Jason Bond, Bondir

Photo via Jason Bond

“I grew up on gravy, as you might guess from the beginning of my Grandmother Cortez’ cookbook (see above photo). My favorite was just gravy on bread.  The turkey was something you just had, out of tradition, one day a year.  The rest of the year we had my grandfather’s tough beef, so gravy saved the day.”

The Turkey

Buy a fresh turkey and digital thermometer. (Dwell Time coffee shop in Cambridge sells one for $10.) ?A day or two before Thanksgiving, wash your hands and sprinkle your turkey with a mix of salt, pepper and herbs. Be fairly generous, because turkeys are big and it will take a couple days for the salt to season the meat.

Put it into your refrigerator uncovered to allow the skin to dry. The salt will draw out moisture and melt, but then the meat will draw it back in along with the herb flavors.

The morning of Thanksgiving, preheat your oven to 325 F. Wash your hands again.  Make a stuffing by frying sage leaves in butter, then adding chopped celery and leeks. Salt that and cook until soft. Stir in cubed bread and toss to mix. Add enough stock or water to make a moist pudding texture. Season again with salt, nutmeg, and a good dose of ground white pepper.

Remove the giblets from the turkey. Put some of the hot stuffing into the turkey, but not too much. Put the rest into a baking dish. Tie the turkey legs together to keep the stuffing from falling out while it bakes. Place the turkey and the dish of stuffing in the oven, both uncovered. Rub a little butter or duck fat over the turkey skin first if you want something to brag about, but you don’t really need it.

Cook the stuffing until it looks brown. Take it out. The turkey should take about three hours in the oven, depending on the size.

options for taking turkey out of the oven:

USDA style
: Use your clean thermometer and check the temperature of the turkey in the thickest part of the thigh. When it reaches 165 F, pull your turkey out of the oven and let it rest in a warm place for an hour before you serve it. Cool the leftovers to 70 F and refrigerate within four hours of taking the turkey out of the oven.

Method two
: Temp your turkey to 142 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh meat. Maintain that temperature for 20 minutes and then remove your turkey from the oven. Rest one hour and proceed as above.

Final heavy duty style
: Temp your turkey to an internal 142 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast meat. After that has been maintained for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and rest 30 minutes. Carve the thighs off of the turkey and return to the oven and cook to an internal temperature of 142 degrees F. Remove from the oven and rest half an hour before serving.

The Gravy

Place the neck and 2 quarts water into a stockpot with a dash of salt, peppercorns, and some celery leaves. Allow to simmer one hour, or in a pressure cooker, bring up to steaming, and turn off heat to allow pressure to reduce naturally, about one hour, but better concentration.

Chop the liver, heart, and gizzard. Brown in a couple tablespoons of butter. Add salt and pepper. When the color is a rich brown, add another half pound of butter. Melt this and then slowly whisk in flour to make a smooth paste. Flour should be about equal to the amount of butter you used.? Next, slowly whisk in your strained turkey neck stock and also any juices that have come out of the turkey during resting. Whisk from the center out to avoid making lumps. Check seasoning and serve it up.


Photo via Leah DuBois

“I picked this dish because it can be serve hot or cold. The flavors of sweet potato, cranberry and vanilla are so comforting that you can almost forget about turkey!”

1 large sweet potato roasted
1 small butternut squash
1 eastham turnip
1 small eggplant
1 red onion

3 garlic cloves
vanilla bean

cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup brown sugar

Roast sweet potato whole at 350 for 2 hours or until cake tester tender. Allow to cool, peel and cut in 1 inch disks.

Peel and cube butternut and eastham turnip. Scrape vanilla bean seeds and toss with cubes, EVOO, and salt. Roast until tender at 350 F.

Dice eggplant and red onion. Mince garlic and toss with EVOO and salt. Roast until tender at 350 F.

Simmer brown sugar and cranberry juice in a small sauce pot until syrup consistency, about 15 minutes.

Using a ring mold, alternate sweet potato and roasted veggies to create a stack. Remove ring mold, drizzle with cranberry syrup. Garnish with baby lettuces, toasted walnuts, or vegan bacon.

“This is one of my favorite stuffings. It uses day-old canned biscuits (if there are any left) as the bread. The biscuits being as rich and flaky as they are give the stuffing a luxurious flavor.”

Serves 10

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound spicy pork bulk sausage
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
2 packages of canned biscuits (Pre-baked and allowed to cool—made the day before is best)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage; sauté until cooked through and brown, breaking into pieces with spoon. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl. Add celery and next six ingredients to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add mixture to sausage.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a glass or teflon baking dish. Using a large knife, cut the day-old biscuits into 1/2 inch pieces. Add biscuits to sausage mixture.

Whisk milk, broth, and butter in bowl to blend. Mix into stuffing; season stuffing with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs; transfer to prepared dish. Bake uncovered until cooked through and brown, about 50 minutes.

POTATO AND APPLE MILLE-FEUILLE: Josh Lewin, Beacon Hill Bistro

Photo via Josh Lewin

“This was inspired by a traditional Dutch dish called Hete Bliksem (Hot Lightning). Its name in English can be a little misleading, because it is not at all spicy. Traditionally it is either a mash, or sometimes a hash. We serve ours as a mille-feuille because we prefer the presentation and the texture. Also traditionally, bacon or sausage is included.”

Serves 6
4 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced thin
4 Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin length-wise
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, all stems removed, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Toss all ingredients together in a mixing bowl so that potato and apple are evenly coated with butter and seasonings.?Starting with potato,alternately layer with apples, lining the entire baking dish. Press down lightly to compress before adding each additional layer.

Cover with foil and bake until a cake tester or wooden skewer passes through the mille-feuille without any resistance, about 40 minutes.

CHINESE WATER SPINACH: Karen Akunowicz, Myers + Chang

Photo via Karen Akunowicz

“This yummy Chinese dish is often on the menu at Myers + Chang as one of our rotating Market Greens, and Joanne [Chang]’s mother helped us to perfect it! My partner LJ is a vegetarian, and this is their favorite dish, so we are bringing it as our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner this year. It is a great vegan replacement for green bean casserole or any other au gratin dish.”

1 bundle or 1 pound water spinach
3-4 cubes fermented bean curd whisked with a quarter of a cup of warm water. (You can use a blender if you have one available. You want to create a sauce-like consistency.)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Cut off the end of the stems that are tough (1-2 inches). Cut each strand of water spinach into 1-2 inches. Wash the water spinach thoroughly. Drain it well in a colander.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil.

Keep the heat on high, add in garlic.

When the garlic turns golden brown, add in the water spinach and keep tossing until it is almost cooked. Wet bean curd and stir for about 10 seconds. (Never cover the skillet or wok with a lid while cooking water spinach or it will turn yellow instead of green.)

Add the pureed fermented tofu sauce.

Serve alone or over rice.

“There are a couple of reasons why I chose this dish. The first is that it is simple and doesn’t require a lot of resources kitchen-wise, which is always a plus on T-day. The second is that it combines two of my favorite things. I love both Brussels sprouts and blue cheese and they play really well together. It’s a simple and easy crowd-pleaser.”

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, washed and halved.
1/4 pound of blue cheese, crumbled (I’ll be using Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hills, because it’s delicious and it melts quite nicely.)

There are two ways to go about making this side. ?First and easiest is to toss the Brussels sprouts in a little extra virgin olive oil with a little salt and put them in a baking dish and roast them uncovered in a 500 F degree oven until they’ve started to brown but still have a little crunch. Then sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese over the sprouts. Return them to the oven and bake until the cheese starts to melt.

Second, which is more convenient considering the oven tends to be a bit overloaded on Thanksgiving, is to roast them in a pan on the range. Toss in olive oil and salt to taste. Preheat a pan on med-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan and cook in the pan stirring frequently to cook them evenly and prevent them from burning. Once they are browned and still a little crunchy, sprinkle the cheese over them and put the pan in the oven until the cheese melts.

“Bread pudding has always been sort of a strange love of mine, so I grew up making a lot of variations – sweet and savory – for my family. A warm chunk of bread pudding just has a very uncomplicated, comforting and nostalgic feel.”

Serves 8

Pumpkin Bread
Yield: 1 half sheet tray or 12 x 17 inch jellyroll/baking pan
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup pumpkin puree (from Red Kuri or Butternut squash)
½ cup chocolate chips, optional

Prepare the baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment and nonstick spray.

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Reserve.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolk, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Scrape after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree and vanilla; mix until completely incorporated.

Add in the reserved dry ingredients, mixing only until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly onto prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden and springs back, about 10-15 minutes. Cool completely at room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours. Cut into ½ inch cubes.

Bread Pudding
Yield: 1 quarter sheet tray or 8 x 8 inch baking pan
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
½ cup pumpkin puree (or from Red Kuri or Butternut squash)
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Toast the bread cubes in the oven until they are crispy, but not burnt, about 10-15 minutes. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine the heavy cream, milk, vanilla and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly temper the eggs with the hot milk, whisking as you combine the two. Whisk in the cinnamon and nutmeg. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Pour the liquid over the bread cubes in a large bowl. Let sit for about 1 hour to completely soak all of the bread with the liquid.

Grease a baking dish with either non-stick baking spray or butter. Place the soaked bread cubes into the prepared baking dish and gently press to create and even layer on the top. Bake in the preheated oven until the custard is set and bread is puffed and golden brown on top, about 40 minutes. Can eat warm.

BUTTERSCOTCH PIE: Jared Bacheller, L’Espalier
“It’s just a pie that is a little bit out of the norm for Thanksgiving and has gained popularity over the years. Now it’s a must-have.  Also, it’s pretty easy to make, which is key when balancing the full Thanksgiving menu.”

1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 oz can evaporated milk
4 each egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
Whisk together the brown sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, yolks and half of the evaporated milk.

Whisk in the remaining milk and vanilla.

Slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Boil for 5 minutes, then cool directly covered in plastic.? Fill a pre-baked pie shell. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with brown sugar.

“I grew up about 50 miles south of Kentucky, and because hot browns were so popular, many variations existed in local diners and even gas stations. Some versions including ham or sausage existed in parts of Virginia often served on a biscuit or grits instead of toast. Besides needing an excuse to add cheese, gravy, and bacon to your leftover turkey sandwich, I think Thanksgiving is the perfect time to revisit this Southern classic.”

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sharp yellow or white cheddar cheese
1-1.5 pounds leftover turkey breast or leg, sliced
4 thick slices of pan de mie bread, buttered and toasted
8 slices of tasso ham or other good quality smoky bacon
4 ea. scallion, chopped for garnish
bourbon barrel-smoked paprika for garnish (or any smoked paprika)

Make a roux by melting butter in a sauce pan and whisking in flour until a thick paste forms. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking continuously, for two minutes and the roux is a light blonde color. Add milk slowly, whisking to combine and ensuring there are no lumps. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Once sauce reaches a simmer, allow to cook for ten minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Build hot browns by placing toasted slices of bread in an oven-safe dish (you can use one dish for hot browns or individual dishes). On top of toasted bread, add sliced turkey. Pour cheese sauce over each hot brown. Place under broiler until cheese sauce is brown and bubbly.

Remove from oven. Top each hot brown with tasso ham and garnish with cut scallions and smoked paprika.

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