Celebrate Thanksgiving like a Chef: Tips from The Hungry Traveler

The Hungry Traveler shares her fave tips & recipes for a Thanksgiving feast

By: Jordan Hamons, The Hungry Traveler

I get overwhelmed around Thanksgiving. Between the magazines, blogs, and cooking websites it’s hard to navigate through all of the recipes, advice, and ideas. While I get excited to try new recipes and make a huge meal, I try to restrain myself and stick to the basics. As much as I love cooking, relaxing and spending time with friends and family is way more fun. After a few years of stressing myself out, I’ve developed a list of traditional, foolproof recipes that I go back to every year.

I spend Thanksgiving with my mom and we go to dinner at my neighbor Chris’s house. We start the meal by scratching off lottery tickets and then dig into Thanksgiving staples, complemented with kielbasa and sauerkraut as a nod to my neighbor’s Polish heritage. We usually add a few new dishes that may or may not make the cut and reappear the next year. Here’s what’s going to be on my Thanksgiving table this year:

It’s only natural that we start by talking about turkey.

Taking on Turkey

Photo: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

You should consider brining your turkey. This guide from Serious Eats breaks down the brining process.

Have you ever heard of spatchcocking a turkey? While you won’t get the picturesque bird to present and carve at the table, this is the fastest and easiest method for cooking your Thanksgiving turkey. As a chef, I’m all about presentation but when it’s Thanksgiving, make your life a little easier since you’re just going to carve the turkey anyways. The tradeoff of juicy meat and crisp skin beats a centerpiece any day.

Crazy for Cranberries

 Photo: Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

I never reached for the cranberry sauce until I decided to make it last year. Now I’m hooked! Cranberry sauce is quick and easy to prepare and a great option if you’re a novice in the kitchen. Volunteer to bring the cranberry sauce and you’ll impress your friends and family.

I love this version from David Tanis because it adds some much needed kick to the meal. I like it spicy so I tend to increase the amount of jalapeño and cayenne, but you can always tone it down if your family doesn’t like spice.

This recipe from Alton Brown also offers a great classic option –

It’s All Gravy

Photo: Ina Garten

Of course, you’ll also need gravy for your turkey. This is another case where it’s worth it to make your own and avoid the jars or cans. Start with this traditional recipe from Ina Garten.

Well I can Mash-Potato ♬

Photo: Ina Garten

While we’re at it, go ahead and make Ina’s Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes to go with the gravy.

Of course, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without also having sweet potato casserole. This is a nice traditional recipe from The New York Times.

Stuffed on Stuffing

Photo: The Pioneer Woman

I never cook my stuffing inside of the turkey. Instead, cook it on the side in a separate pan and make a unique dressing such as this Cornbread, Apple, and Sausage version from Ree Drummond.

 Bring Out the Beans!

 Photo: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

While it’s not my favorite, my neighbors wouldn’t be happy if we didn’t have Green Bean Cassarole on the table. I like this take on tradition from Serious Eats.

Keep on Rollin’

Photo: The Food Network

My mom found this recipe in Food Network Magazine a few years ago and these Parkerhouse Rolls have been mandatory at every Thanksgiving. Aside from the pie, it’s the dish I look forward to the most. Be sure to brush them with melted butter and sprinkle them with Maldon Salt (or another flaky salt) when they come out of the oven.

Fresh New Favorites

Photo: J. Blue Apron

It’s nice to have something fresh and light to contrast all of the traditional Thanksgiving sides. Last year my mom made this Apple Kohlrabi Salad from Blue Apron and it was a big hit with everyone. It’s quick to put together and the unique flavor combination will nicely complement your traditional Thanksgiving favorites.

My Oh My It’s Pumpkin Pie!

Photo: Smitten Kitchen

Pumpkin Pie is without a doubt my favorite part of Thanksgiving. I like to make my own pie crust and if you choose to do the same, be sure to check out these tips from Joy the Baker.

Once you get the crust down, make this classic Pumpkin Pie from Smitten Kitchen.

Last but not least, before you start cooking, read these tips from the geniuses at America’s Test Kitchen.

Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!!


The-Hungry-TravelerWhen she’s not writing about food and travel, Jordan Hamons spends her days working as a professional chef in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Food has always been her destination and she believes that eating well and traveling often lead to a life well lived.  She shares her favorite recipes and best travel tips at The Hungry Traveler.  For more from Jordan check out:

Blog: www.TheHungryTravelerBlog.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HungryTravelerBlog
Twitter: @JordanHamons
Instagram: @JordanHamons
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/JordanHamons

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