Thanksgiving has evolved since Sarah Josepha Hale first wrote to President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 asking him to proclaim a Day of National Thanksgiving observed on the last Thursday of November. (One of her other claims to fame is the authorship of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.) Here are ways that chefs around the country are putting their own spin on fall specials and this traditional holiday meal.
• Feature new ethnic influences: At Balvanera Restaurant in New York City, chef Fernanco Navas offers a Thanksgiving menu influenced by Argentine cuisine and American tradition. The Industry Family Feast is an early turkey dinner on Wednesday for fellow hospitality families who may be working on Thanksgiving Day. There’s also a Thanksgiving Family Feast on November 26. In addition to the regular menu, specials include Carbonada, a soup of butternut squash, hominy and potatoes; duck and foie gras sausage with beluga lentils and carrots, Pavo Arrollado (chorizo and apple-stuffed turkey, quinoa stuffing) and Dulce de Leche Pecan Pie with mate-cocido ice cream.
• Regionalize the entrée: Maryland native Chef Mike Price of Market Table in NYC is offering a Thanksgiving entrée of Maryland Stuffed Ham, stuffed with cabbage, kale, onions and spicy seasonings. The dish features cured ham from Maryland.
• Celebrate the sides: At Presidio Social Club in San Francisco, Smashed Peas with Mint Oil are mashed to resemble colorful mashed potatoes. In Miami at Mignonette and Blue Collar, Chef Danny Serfer pays extra attention to veggie side dishes. He offers 15 choices at Mignonette each night, and 20 at Blue Collar. Ideas include sweet potato and plantain mash, roasted beets with goat cheese and spaghetti squash with Parmesan and butter.
• Move beyond pumpkin pie: At A16 Rockridge in Oakland, CA, pastry chef Hannah Buoye features Tomato Upside Down Cake for dessert, made with sweetened tomatoes, lemon curd, thyme cream and olive oil.
• Explore casual luxury: In addition to a traditional menu, Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group offers nontraditional Thanksgiving choices, including Jumbo Lump Crabcakes at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and Cheesesteak Eggrolls at Del Frisco’s Grille. Sweet Potato Casserole is a tradition side dish available at Sullivan’s Steakhouse.
• Cater to turkeyless tastes, too: Executive chef Mark Purdy is offering Thanksgiving guests a five-course menu ($95) that combines traditional elements with twists on classic dishes at Alizé at the Top of the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. For the fourth course, for instance, guests have a choice of Diestel Ranch Turkey, Veal Wellington or Pan-Roasted Tempeh.
• Add punch to the menu: At Punch Bowl Social, punch recipes blend five traditional elements: sour, sweet, strong, weak and spice. At Thanksgiving, the Plymouth Rocked—a spiced cranberry bourbon punch —is inspired by fall flavors. The punch combines housemade spiced cranberry syrup, apple tea, lemon juice, orange bitters and bourbon. It delivers a flavor profile of cranberries, nutmeg and cloves.
• Build on burgers: At Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar in Denver, executive chef Tim Kast features fall flavors in items such as the Lucky Pilgrim Burger. It’s a turkey burger with sausage-apple stuffing, sliced apples, Brie cheese and cranberry spread and a side of gravy.