For this quintessential American holiday, I asked food and wine luminaries for their Thanksgiving meal plans, thoughts, memories and advice.
RR: WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE THANKSGIVING EXPERIENCE, WHETHER FABULOUS OR FIASCO?
DANA COWIN: (Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine Magazine)
My most memorable Thanksgiving fiasco took place about 20 years ago. I made a huge spinach side dish from scratch. My cousin came in to taste it and spit it out immediately. "Did you wash the spinach first?" she asked, still trying to get the sand out of her mouth. Clearly the answer was no. We rinsed it and rinsed it and rinsed it and then doctored it with cream and a little nutmeg. It was quite the rescue operation--and also a big success.
DANNY MEYER: (Preeminent restaurateur/author/visionary behind landmarks such as Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park and the Shake Shack.)
I'll never forget the Thanksgivings of my youth - mostly spent at our grandparent's home in St. Louis. The cooking was really good and I'd usually overdose on appetizers even before dinner was served. Those were the days when it was a big deal to watch the Dallas Cowboys or Detroit Lions football games and we'd sit around and eat for hours before dinner. One year my grandmother made a huge, 5-pound steak tartare as an appetizer and formed into a mold that was the shape of a turkey. She called it beef that gobbled. Raw beef that gobbled.
ANTHONY GIGLIO: (Correspondent/connoisseur and author of Food & Wine Magazine's Wine Guide 2009, Cocktails in New York, and Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide)
The center of the universe was our basement (today people call the heart of the home the Great Room -- that was our basement). My father's mom Madeline would move in for a week in advance to join my mom's mom Rose (who lived upstairs) to prepare apple pies, strudels, Neapolitan breads called "oreganato" (infused with paprika and oregano and garlic), stuffing, lasagna, "wedding soup," antipasti, and finally, the Turkey. It was a weeklong production that I marveled at and happily collaborated in. Those women inspired me to cook and I am a better man today because of them.
Chef BILL TELEPAN: (Culinary Institute of America graduate, apprenticed with legends Alain Chapel, Daniel Boulud, Gilbert Le Coze and Alfred Portale prior to opening his namesake restaurant in Manhattan.)
The first restaurant Thanksgiving I did, we had 400 'covers' at Gotham Bar and Grill, and were ready to open when we realized the 'amuse' soup that everyone would get went sour. I made the fastest, largest soup I have ever made in my life.
RR: YOUR THANKSGIVING ADVICE, PLEASE.
DANA COWIN: Get some strong flavors in the Thanksgiving meal--to avoid tasting like nursery food. I like to have something spicy or something ethnic thrown in the mix. Also, every Thanksgiving should have one dish from your past (for me that's mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top) and one dish you've never tried so you link your past to your future, holding memories close but creating new ones.
DANA COWIN'S Five steps to Thanksgiving serenity
1. Prep most of the meal ahead to avoid having to deal with a hungry, antsy crowd.
2. Provide ample drinks, alcoholic and not.
3. Give some options for people who hate turkey.
4. Make enough for leftovers and hand out containers so guests can take food home.
5. Don't be a martyr about cleaning up. Let your family help!
Chef CHRISTOPHER LEE: (Executive Chef at New York's Aureole; one of Food & Wine magazine's "Best New Chefs" and past James Beard "Rising Star Chef of the Year")
Do not overcook the turkey! Most recipes will say to cook the turkey until a thermometer reads 165; that is perfect for a dry turkey. They never account for carryover cooking, so pull the turkey out at 160 degrees and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. Also, use the giblets in the gravy -- badass.
RR: HELP US PICK THE WINES PLEASE, FELLAS.
GARY VAYNERCHUK: (His passion for wine, palpable energy, extraordinary work ethic and marketing savvy have made him an internet and media superstar and NY Times bestselling author of Crush It.)
Versatile wines that go with all the different food on the table. I want people to try new things. If you always drink Cabernet or Pinot Grigio, please try something different!
GARY VAYNERCHUK'S Recommendations
Burgaud Beaujolais Village Chateau Thulon 2007 ($12) - Not the sweet grapey Beaujolais Nouveau, this is the real stuff!
Jean Louis Chave Offerus St. Joseph 2006 ($22) - Big and blustery Syrah from the Northern Rhone.
Chehalem Dry Riesling Reserve 2007 ($19) - Riesling is a classic Thanksgiving play. This is dry as a bone and so refreshing.
Stefanini Soave Il Selese 2008 ($11) - Italian whites are an underrated Thanksgiving choice; Soave is making a big comeback.
Neyers Zinfandel Pato Ranch 2006 ($18) - There will be many Zins on tables this year and this polished effort brings thunder under 20 bones.
J. Hofstatter Gewurztraminer Kolbenhof 2006 ($40) - "Gewurz" has always been a favorite of mine with turkey and this incredibly exotic wine will blow your socks off.
ANTHONY GIGLIO: Given all the savory and spicy flavors on our table (we Italian-Americans serve about six courses before the turkey!) I typically pour crisp, not-too-dry Rieslings (typically German) to pair with just about everything as the house white, and Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels for the house reds, the former because it pairs beautifully with practically every dish, the latter because it's one of America's few singular expressions of a grape that we consider our own (because there's no equivalent in Europe). This year, however, I'm switching things up a bit...
ANTHONY GIGLIO'S SELECTIONS
Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino 2004 ($60)
Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino 2004 ($90)
Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino 2004 ($65)
Rosso di Montalcino 2007 ($30)
Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2004 ($75)
Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino Campo del Drago 2004 ($75)
Rosso di Montalcino 2007 ($20)
Domaine Mittnacht Freres Riesling Alsace 2007 ($18)
Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling Alsace 2007 ($40)
Paul Blanck Riesling Alsace 2007 ($20)
Paul Zinck Grand Cru Eichberg Riesling Alsace 2005 ($40)
Trimbach Riesling Alsace 2006 ($18)
DANNY MEYER: Thanksgiving is the night I most enjoy drinking Cru Beaujolais. Goes down the hatch easily and is the ideal mate for turkey and cranberry sauce!
RR:WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?
CORINNE TRANG: (Dubbed "The Julia Child of Asian cuisine" by the Washington Post; award-winning author of five cookbooks on the subject.)
The sides! They're always different, though we do get two kinds of cranberry sauce on the table, my friend Nancy likes to make hers with oranges, while I like to spice mine up with freshly grated ginger. I also love to poach quince in Armagnac and white wine with thyme and rosemary. And then there's my new favorite, a roasted porcini with baby red bliss potatoes with fresh herbs. I also love the broccoli rabe, pancetta, and Parmesan bread stuffing I make. The sides are definitely what I look forward to, though the neck and thigh of the bird are pretty scrumptious too. I love it all!
Chef CESARE CASELLA: (Acclaimed chef of Salumeria Rosi, author and Dean of Italian Studies at the French Culinary Institute)
The holidays are for spending time with the family, so if I'm cooking, it needs to be something easy. I like to be lazy during the holidays, so I would probably prepare turkey roasted on a spit outside in the cold. As it slow roasts, I could sit back and drink something warm like vin brulée with clove, orange . . . delicious! I would also roast chestnuts. My ideal Thanksgiving meal is turducken - turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken. For the sides - Thanksgiving is the time to open all the jars and preserved food from the year like mushrooms and summer vegetables. Sformato - savory custard - makes a great holiday side dish, and my favorite versions are made with cardoons or artichokes.
DANNY MEYER: We'll be entertaining 18 family members in our apartment. I look forward to taking a run after all the cooking is done and before all the guests arrive. I always wake up exhausted on Thanksgiving morning, and that run sets me up for a good evening.
BILL TELEPAN: The best part is when you start eating, all the cooking is done and everyone gets to dig in. Second best part: the nap!
RR: HELP US PUT AN ASIAN SPIN ON THE MEAL.
CORINNE TRANG: 1) Ginger in the cranberry sauce; 2) walnut-miso salad dressing for tossed leafy greens including tatsoy, mizuna, baby bok choy, and Thai basil leaves along with larger leaves such as radicchio and oak leaf, for example; 3) sticky rice, shiitake, and Chinese sausage stuffing for the bird.
RR: WHAT IS THE MOST POPULAR TURKEY RECIPE FROM FOOD & WINE MAGAZINE?
DANA COWIN: It's Bacon-Roasted Turkey with Sweet-Onion Gravy--no doubt people love it because it has BACON.
RR: I'D LIKE TO SERVE A COCKTAIL BEFORE THE MEAL.
ANTHONY GIGLIO: If you have the time, patience and passion to concoct a punch for your guests, there is no single better drink idea for a host to consider when he or she intends to enjoy their guests' company without the demanding distraction of playing bartender.
(Makes approximately 12 four- to five-ounce servings.)
18 oz. Citrus Vodka
6 oz. Grand Marnier
9 oz. Grapefruit Juice
60 mint leaves (from about 10 sprigs of mint)
1 bottle (750-ml) Moscato D' Asti (chilled)
Combine first four ingredients in a large pitcher and allow to steep in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Then, fine-strain the mixture through a sieve into a punch bowl. Add a large block of ice and the Moscato D'Asti and stir thoroughly. Serve in chilled Champagne coupes, and garnish each drink with a grapefruit twist.
RR: NAME FIVE PEOPLE YOU'D WANT TO HAVE AT YOUR THANKSGIVING TABLE.
George Washington because he was one of America's most successful whiskey distillers--maybe he'd BYOW.
David Chang because he'd stick around after the meal and do something amazing (and Asian-ish) with the leftovers.
Michelle Obama because she's becoming an American locavore hero.
Julia Child because she's Julia child.
My father because he was a great conversationalist and a great man.
Walt Disney, Notorious Big, Vince McMann, Al Toon (former NY Jet), Bobby Shifrin (cousin)
RR: WHAT'S THE BEST TASTING DISH TO MAKE WITH THE FEWEST INGREDIENTS AND LEAST EFFORT?
BILL TELEPAN: If you cook Brussels sprouts really well with just some duck fat, a little onion and garlic, I could eat a whole bowl.
RR: MY STOMACH HURTS ALREADY. ANY DIGESTIF YOU COULD RECOMMEND?
ANTHONY GIGLIO: I'm a big fan of Amaro, the not-so-bitter Italian "bitters" like Amaro Lucano, Cynar, Ramazzotti; I pour them over one large ice cube in a rocks glass and sip them after the meal. If I really over-do it, I'll take one long gulp of Grappa, like one of the many made by the beautiful team of women at Nonino in Friuli, in Northeast Italy.
RR: WHAT WILL YOU BE SERVING AT YOUR NEW RESTAURANT (MAIALINO)?
DANNY MEYER: I presume we'll be doing that Thanksgiving classic, Spaghetti alla Carbonara.
RR: WHAT IS THE BEST DISH TO MAKE WITH LEFTOVERS?
Christopher Lee: Turkey Pot Pies. I love taking all the leftovers from Thanksgiving - mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney, stuffing, broccoli, turkey and of course gravy. Then I stuff it all in a pie tin and cover it with crusting pie dough.
RR: WHAT DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE?
BILL TELEPAN: I know with enough wine, all meals end up fine.
CORINNE TRANG: Nothing. That's either scary or exciting. I'll take the latter.
GARY VAYNERCHUK: That good beats evil.
RR:My THANKSGIVING PLAYLIST Something for everyone's taste.
As always, my friends: ""Life is short. Never waste a meal."©