Growing up, I hated Thanksgiving food. Blasphemy, I know. The turkey was too dry, the rolls too bland, and the green bean casserole too – well, green bean casserole. It wasn’t until one Thanksgiving when I was in high school when my mom decided to host (rather than my aunt), that I finally understood the obsession. My mom moved away from more traditional recipes and instead cooked dishes with a little flare: white rolls became orange-glazed cranberry bread, boxed stuffing turned into challah stuffing with chestnuts, and green bean casserole became roasted brussels sprouts with labneh and lemon zest.
Since then, I’ve found the most memorable Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving meals to be those that bring together the recipes and traditions of people from different cultures or places. For many, “American” Thanksgiving dinner has morphed into a delightfully eclectic mix of foods and flavors that go far beyond the traditional.
This year, as I scoured cookbooks and blogs to find the perfect side dish, I started to wonder what professional cooks — both from the U.S. and abroad — bring to their own Thanksgiving. To find out, I turned to the experts: our local Greenpoint chefs. I reached out to several neighborhood restaurants and asked their head chef to share what they plan to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, along with their best cooking tips and favorite traditions. Read on to learn what unique dishes our local chefs are making this year and find the full recipes here.
Who: Alberto Astudillo, Executive Chef
Favorite Tradition: Being from Spain, I’d never celebrated Thanksgiving before I came here 10 years ago. To be honest, I didn’t care about how to cook Thanksgiving dishes until l met my wife 4 years ago. She is a Thanksgiving meal expert with her own recipes passed down for generations in her family. Because l’m not allowed to even touch the turkey, l thought about how l could contribute a Thanksgiving dish with a Spanish touch. Now that we have kids, it’s especially important to share both cultures with them.
Expert Tip: If you know that someone can make something better than you, just let them do it.
Who: Jared Ferguson, Head Chef
This is my grandmother Andrea’s recipe for savory corn pudding. It was always funny seeing corn in the fall but that’s Texas weather for you.
Favorite Tradition: Personally, Thanksgiving has always been about the foodways and traditions of the South and Southwest. Growing up in Texas, we filled the holiday table with non-traditional staples like smoked brisket, tamales, and regional-specific casseroles. Corn pudding was always one of those that really stuck with me. It borders both sweet and savory and can be taken in either direction based on the cook’s hand at seasoning, and can be topped with either streusel — for a sweeter, dessert-y experience — or crowned with green onions and cheese for a more savory dish.
One of my family’s favorite traditions for the day is to crack open a bottle of Wild Turkey on the morning of and obnoxiously blurt out “Gobble! Gobble!” every time we take shots. Never gets old. Well kinda.
Expert Tip: I’ve always abided by the rule that as much as can be done ahead of the day should be done. Adopting lists and Mise en Place kits, just like in a restaurant, is the best way to go. The corn pudding can also be made a couple days in advance and reheated with foil on top in a low oven (275°F) until it’s heated all the way through.
Who: Edy Massih, Chef and Owner
This a new recipe, but it’s been a hit. I’ve loved making it for the Edy’s Grocer Thanksgiving special menu this year and can’t wait to make it when I go back home for the holidays. These Lebanese-inspired stuffing muffins (aka “Stuffins”) are made with chopped pistachios and spicy fig jam from our mezze fridge here in Brooklyn. A Middle Eastern twist on a Thanksgiving classic, these Stuffins have a spicy fig kick for extra flavor and they’re super easy to make!
Favorite Tradition: Setting the table with my family.
Expert Tip: Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and sharing a meal, so I’d recommend starting the night with shareable finger foods like these Stuffins or a cheese and mezze board — something easily enjoyable that feels super communal before getting into the mains.
Who: Yusuf Lovett, Executive Chef
Dish: Guinness soda bread
I’m from the U.K. and every Thanksgiving I make Guinness soda bread. This bread is robust and makes great, hearty sandwiches. It’s long lasting and easy to make — an excellent staple for the fall household and definitely for an epic day or two after Thanksgiving turkey sando!
Favorite Tradition: My favourite part of the holiday is leftovers, in particular sandwich leftovers.