The Chefs’ Thanksgiving

Talented chefs at favorite local restaurants share recipes, tips and personal Thanksgiving memories.

Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau

Thanksgiving is the one holiday in which food is truly the star. With turkey as the centerpiece for many a family triumph (or disaster), the sides and desserts spill forth in every direction and make for fond, even if overstuffed, memories. Most families have traditions they follow year after year.

Still, with an ever-increasing interest in eating seasonally, locally and fresh as fresh can be, there are many ways to brighten up even the most steadfast dishes. MB reached out to some of the best chefs on both sides of the Bay to tell us what they’re preparing this year. Time to kick your Thanksgiving gameplan up a notch.

Tarragon and Apple Glazed Turkey

Recipe by Chef Adrian Yots, Thyme on Section
“My wife’s family and my family get together to share the meal. Everyone pitches in and brings a dish or two that they are famous for, and the day usually turns into a feast with naps!”

1 18-pound turkey, giblet packet removed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 large yellow onions
1 small bunch celery
3 Granny Smith apples
8 cloves garlic
1 bunch rosemary
1 bunch fresh tarragon (dried may be substituted)
peel of 1 orange
3 cups white wine
Apple Tarragon Glaze (see below)

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly rinse the turkey and pat dry. Brush  turkey, inside and out, with extra virgin olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Roughly slice onions, celery and apples. Place half the mixture in the bottom of a roasting pan and the other half inside the cavity of the turkey. Divide garlic cloves, 6 sprigs of rosemary and 6 sprigs of tarragon between the roasting pan and the inside of the turkey. Add the orange peel to the cavity of the turkey, and place the turkey in the roasting pan on top of the vegetable mixture.
3. Add enough white wine to cover the bottom of the roasting pan, about 3 cups. Carefully cover the turkey with aluminum foil, tenting so it does not touch the skin. (Two sheets of foil, overlapped on the edges and crimped, may be required.)
4. Place turkey in the oven and cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is achieved. During the last 15 minutes, remove foil and apply the Apple Tarragon Glaze, repeatedly brushing the turkey. Cook until a deep golden brown color is achieved. Watch carefully as the sugar in the glaze will color the turkey quickly.
5. Remove turkey from oven and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, strain off the pan drippings and use for optional gravy. Serves 10.

Apple Tarragon Glaze

1 12-ounce jar apple jelly
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and melt over low heat. Hold at room temperature until ready to baste turkey. Yields 1 1/2 cups.

Warm Apple Cider

Recipe by Kyle Kinder, Tongue & Groove Drinkery
“Nothing says ‘happy Thanksgiving with family’ like whiskey!”

2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
4 – 5 whole black peppercorns
1 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon whole allspice
5 whole Granny Smith apples, sliced and seeded
2 quarts unfiltered, all-natural apple cider
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 orange, sliced
1 liter rye whiskey, such as Bulleit
cinnamon sticks and strips of orange zest, for garnish

1. Place cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, star anise, nutmeg, allspice and apples in electric crockpot set to high. Let simmer lightly, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
2. Add cider and brown sugar and stir until sugar dissolves completely. Place orange slices on top. Cover and cook on low for 2 – 3 hours or until heated through.
3. Reduce heat to warm, add whiskey and stir. Use a fine mesh strainer to discard debris.
4. Garnish with cinnamon stick and orange zest. Yields 2 quarts.

Shrimp Toast with Butternut Squash and Mustard Green Salsa Verde

Recipe by Chef Chris Rainosek, The Noble South
“I come from a family where seasonal side dishes rule Thanksgiving. The combination of hearty fall produce with fresh, local citrus really opens up a lot of flavor combinations.”

1 butternut squash
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup diced sweet onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped small
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
juice of 1 lemon
1 egg white
5 slices thick white bread
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
Mustard Green Salsa Verde (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split the butternut squash from top to bottom, remove seeds and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until tender, about 35 minutes.
2. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat of the squash with a spoon and place in a food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Puree till smooth. Set aside.
3. Sauté sweet onion and garlic in a pan until soft, 3 minutes. Set aside.
4. In a food processor, place shrimp, parsley, green onion, cooked onion and garlic, paprika, allspice, cayenne, salt, black pepper, lemon juice and egg white. Pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl until mixture is well combined and a paste consistency, about 1 minute. Put mixture in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. Lightly toast white bread. Cut off crusts. Spread a thin layer of the butternut squash puree on one side. Top the puree with the shrimp mixture, making a layer as thick as the bread. Cut each piece of toast into 4 triangles.
6. Heat 1/2 inch oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, place toast shrimp-side down and fry till crispy. Serve hot or room temperature topped with Mustard Green Salsa Verde. Serves 8.

Mustard Green Salsa Verde

1 large Granny Smith apple
3 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/2 tablespoon chili flakes
pinch of salt, to taste
1 1/2 cup packed chopped mustard greens
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
pinch of salt and black pepper

1. Peel apple and grate on a box grater onto layered paper towels. Squeeze paper towels to remove excess liquid.
2. Finely chop garlic and chili flakes together with a pinch of salt until a paste forms.
3. Combine grated apple, garlic and chili flake mixture and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Fall Vegetable Gratin

Recipe by Chef Arwen Rice, Red or white
“I like to do savory sweet potato or squash dishes because savory ingredients shine more so than something drenched in sugar. I save my sweet tooth for all the pie I can eat!”

2 large butternut squash
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 1/2 pounds carrots or parsnips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 chipotle peppers, diced and seeded
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
1 cup cream
1/4 cup butter
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and put facedown on a sheet pan lined with foil and sprayed with a little cooking spray. Roast for 25 minutes or until a knife inserts easily into the thickest part. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
2. Put the sweet potatoes, carrots or parsnips and a sprinkling of salt in a large pot and fill with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 25 minutes or until soft. Drain and let cool slightly.
3. Peel the cooled butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots and cut into medium chunks and put into a large bowl.
4. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until softened. Add the chipotles, salt and pepper and cook for another minute. Add this to the squash mixture.
5. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the cream is warm. Pour into squash mixture and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth.
6. Scoop mixture into a greased, oven-safe pan and top with grated cheddar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly. Serve warm. Serves 8.

Oyster, Tasso Cornbread Dressing

Recipe by Chef Bill Briand, Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina
“Thanksgiving is all about family, and I alternate between spending it with my two families — either being my mothers prep cook or spending it with my Fisher’s family, which I dearly love.”

1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, cooked according to package directions and cooled
2 1/2 pounds diced tasso ham
2 cups diced yellow onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock
1 pound chopped oysters, liquor reserved
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. Prepare Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix according to package directions. Allow to cool completely. Crumble cornbread and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add tasso. Cook until fat is rendered, then add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté until translucent. Add salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, stock, oysters and oyster liquor. Simmer for 15 minutes at medium-high heat, stirring regularly.
3. Slowly add crumbled cornbread until you get a stuffing consistency. Add hot sauce, lemon juice, green onions and parsley. Put stuffing mixture in a greased casserole dish and allow to cool.
4. Bake stuffing uncovered until hot and crispy on top, about 45 minutes. Serves 8.

Holiday Rolls

Recipe by Jennifer Haffner, Warehouse Bakery & Donuts

7 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
egg wash (1 egg and a splash of buttermilk)
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

1. Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Create a well in the center and add wet ingredients (except egg wash), mixing with a rubber spatula until the dough is stiff enough to turn out on a floured surface.
2. Knead the dough until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes. If using a mixer, using the dough hook, mix on first speed for 3 minutes and second speed for 2 minutes. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into small golf-ball-size pieces. After shaping, place on a baking pan and cover with a tea towel to let rise again, 30 to 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together egg wash in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash. Sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds on top, if desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until deep golden brown. Makes 24 rolls.

Carrot Cake

Recipe by Pam Roberts and Paula Bentley, Bake my Day
“Thanksgiving is one of my most loved days of the year because it’s all about being with family and enjoying each other ­— and of course, it’s also about the food! It’s the one holiday of the year when everyone makes the effort to come together (it’s a big family — usually more than 80 people) to enjoy all our best homemade family recipes.” – Pam Roberts

2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated carrot
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 9-inch cake pans with baking spray.
2. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. Set aside.
3. Using hand or stand mixer, mix oil, sugar and eggs until well blended.
4. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture a little at a time until well blended. Add vanilla and mix well. Add carrots, then add pecans.
5. Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tester comes out clean.
6. Cool cakes completely. Frost with Cream Cheese Icing (see below). Makes 1 three-layer cake.

Cream Cheese Icing

2 sticks butter
16 ounces cream cheese
2 pounds sifted confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Using hand or stand mixer, cream butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Slowly add confectioners sugar and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and mix well.
2. Frost cake immediately or store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

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