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Love It or Hate It? Chefs Dish on Thanksgiving Foods

By Kelly Dobkin
November 25, 2013

No meal seems to be as polarizing as Thanksgiving. For every diner who sings the praises of the ultimate American comfort-food feast, three others will gripe about dry turkey and bland, starchy sides. We asked a few chefs to share their most beloved and hated Turkey Day foods and uncovered some unexpected results. Which former Top Chef Masters competitor prefers canned cranberry sauce to homemade? Read on to find out.

  • Iron Chef Jose Garces, Philadelphia

    "My favorite Thanksgiving dish is a creamy potato gratin that I make with layers of Yukon Gold potatoes, Gruyère cheese and a roasted garlic cream. The dish is baked, creating a golden brown crust on top and melty, cheesy interior. It's an extremely comforting dish."

  • Chef-Owner Anita Lo, Annisa, NYC

    "I really don't like homemade cranberry sauce. I don't hate it, but I'm not a fan of the texture of the skins, and I find it usually overpowering to the rest of the meal. I grew up with the canned stuff - sliced to retain that pretty tin-can-mold look. I'll admit I like the can."

  • Chef Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park, Prato, Winter Park, FL

    "I have a strong dislike for the classic sweet potato with marshmallow fluff, it's just too sweet for me! Also, Thanksgiving always reminds me of beets - I always thought a beet was in the shape of a can, and wiggled, and was not very tasty. It wasn't until I was 19 that I had a beet salad and discovered its true beauty! Now I make a dish of fresh beets every year."

  • Executive Chef/Partner Michael Ferraro, Delicatessen, NYC

    “Turkey tortellini soup with Parmesan is a must at my family’s Thanksgiving. It’s always made by my father, and it's served for Thanksgiving every year with the whole family of brothers, nieces and nephews around. Being a first-generation American, this dish represents my Italian roots combined with this American holiday.”

  • Executive Chef Richard Kuo, Pearl & Ash, NYC

    "I always look forward to a great mashed potato and tons of gravy. You can never have enough gravy. That and bean casserole and mushrooms, because I love beans and I love mushrooms. That being said, I have never been able to acquire a taste for sweet potatoes and marshmallow. Maybe one day!"

  • Glenn Harris, The Smith, NYC

    My favorite Thanksgiving dish is stuffing, by far. With the addition of a well-seasoned pork sausage, a great stuffing can't be beat. At The Smith, we've been making ours with Granny Smith apples, sage, turkey stock, cream, and a mix of ciabatta, brioche and croissant bread for 12 years. Cranberry sauce in a can is my least favorite Thanksgiving food, for the obvious reasons."

  • Shane Lyons, Distilled, NYC

    "Growing up, my mom used to have monkey bread ready in the morning on Thanksgiving day. It would be the thing that we munched on throughout the morning and early afternoon before the feast. If you have never tried monkey bread, it's the best part of a sticky bun and only the best part. Luscious balls of just-cooked dough stuck together with brown sugar and butter."

  • Frank McMahon, Hank's Seafood, Charleston, SC

    "My favorite is what I call, 'Not-my-mother's Brussels sprouts': they are carefully cleaned and parboiled in salted water, shocked in ice water to retain the vibrant green color, and then sautéed with bacon lardons, finely diced onions, and finished with a touch of butter."

  • Chef/Partner Laurent Tourondel, Arlington Club, NYC

    ”Cranberries always remind me of Thanksgiving. Coming from France I didn’t grow up with the holiday, but I love it. I love how it’s a way for everyone to come together and eat and enjoy each other’s company.” 

  • Executive Chef Sean Kinoshita, TAO Asian Bistro, Las Vegas

    “My favorite thing to eat is stuffing. I don’t like anything fancy - no nuts, no giblets, no cranberries. I just like a simple mix of carrot, onion and celery sautéed till it melts. Then I add the diced bread and sauté in butter until it’s all mixed well and incorporated. Next I add well-seasoned chicken stock and mix until it is all a little saturated. I place it in a flat baking pan and cook till the top is crispy. I like a nice, crispy crust on my stuffing (with gravy, of course).”

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