Sure, sure, we’re all thankful for one thing or another, but let’s all be honest with ourselves for a moment. There are a slew of other, less abstract reasons we book our flights, clip our tickets, and fill our gas tanks on the last Thursday of November. There are about 10 to 15 things that bring us together with people we haven’t seen in months, and they all fit miraculously on grandma’s table. We go home for that tartest of homemade cranberry sauce. We maintain civil tableside manners with the most difficult of relatives for an annual taste of those perfectly creamed potatoes, which we just can’t seem to replicate. We brave the eye-watering offense of the worst sulfurous application since mustard gas—deviled eggs—in order to snag that first carve of smoked turkey and honey-baked ham. And when it’s all done, we’re somehow surprised year after year that there’s a whole other table reserved for the pies, puddings, cakes.
In those torturous moments just before we’re allowed to lather everything in gravy, our basest instincts suggest that there’s only one reason for the season. We do Thanksgiving for the food.
With this in mind, we asked three of the Queen City’s most recognized chefs which things they’ll be devouring first this Thursday. Their favorites may sound awfully familiar…and they may surprise you, if you’re not from around here.
Rooster’s, The King’s Kitchen
Turkey gravy has always been my favorite part of any Thanksgiving meal. I’ve had turkey fat gravy on the table my whole life. My daddy called it whitewash.
You combine your turkey giblets and neckbones with chicken stock, milk, cream, carrots, onions, and celery. Throw in butter and flour to make a roux, and that’s pretty much it, aside from adding some salt and pepper. It’s a country thing with French principles.
Green Bean Casserole is absolutely at the top of my list. Nothing gourmet, just the old school version with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions on top.
Shiitake & brioche dressing with turkey gravy is in my top five. I’ve made this every year since my wife and I got married 12 years ago. It’s a staple at our house.
Sweet & spicy kale is perhaps not your typical Thanksgiving food, but it always has a spot on our table. Kale is quickly braised (for 20 minutes) with cider vinegar, brown sugar, and a dash of soy sauce, then the pot liquor is strained off and reduced to a syrup. The kale is then sautéed and tossed in the syrup.
Smoked turkey and stuffing is a must at the Kindred household. We always smoke our turkeys on the Weber grill with charcoal. We get the turkeys from New Town Farms, then stuff them with my wife Katy’s stuffing, which gives it a killer smoky flavor.
My wife’s Meyer lemon tart is another favorite. She makes it with lemons from my mom’s Meyer lemon tree that we brought back to NC from when we lived in San Francisco. They always ripen just in time to make the tart.
Finally, my grandma’s turkey neck and giblet gravy makes an appearance every year. My aunt makes a special turkey in the oven for her gravy because grandma refuses to use my smoked turkey for it!