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Celebrity chefs share their best Thanksgiving menus

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What do people who cook for a living make on Thanksgiving? We were curious too, so we asked four cooking pros to share their ideal Thanksgiving menus and recipes. Even for chefs, Thanksgiving isn't the time for exotic ingredients or hard-to-pronounce dishes – they like comfort food like anyone else. But their styles of preparation are something to admire, and easy enough for all of us to try in our own kitchens.

Robb Garceau

butternut squash soupExecutive chef of Union Square Events, the catering arm of Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack restaurants in New York City

A deep-fried turkey has been the main course at Garceau's Thanksgiving dinners for more than a decade. But a few years ago, he introduced some competition for the bird: A whole wild striped bass, roasted with lemon, garlic, fennel tops, garlic and thyme. "It's given the turkey a run for its money," Garceau says.

Turkey: Deep-fried in peanut oil. "In 45 minutes, you can have a beautifully cooked turkey with crispy skin," he says. "It's fun too, because my friends and uncles, we all stand outside, frying a turkey and drinking some wine."

Sides: First course is a Blue Hubbard squash soup (recipe below). Other dishes include maple glazed root vegetables and bread pudding using raisin and fennel bread from Amy's Bread, the famed New York City bakery.

Dessert: Apple pie, custard pie and, most importantly, pumpkin pie. "That's never missed a holiday," he says.

Butternut squash soup recipe

Courtesy of Chef Robb Garceau

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 allspice berries
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 pounds peeled butternut squash, roughly chopped
  • 1 large Spanish onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 quarts roasted chicken stock (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, preferably grade B dark amber
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 walnut halves, toasted and broken into large pieces, for garnish
  • ¼ cup minced chives, for garnish
  • ½ cup Maytag blue cheese crumbles, for garnish
  • ½ cup poached quince or roasted butternut squash cubes, warm, for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, toast cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander, star anise and allspice berries until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Cool.
  2. Place cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander, star anise, allspice and thyme into the center of a round of cheesecloth. Gather the ends and tie, forming a spice sachet.
  3. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat olive oil until it begins to shimmer; add squash, onion, shallots, celery and garlic and cook gently until just tender but not brown, about 12 minutes.
  4. Add stock to vegetables, cover and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add spice sachet to pot and simmer, covered for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft to the touch and stock is fragrant.
  6. Remove pot from heat and remove spice sachet from soup. Blend soup in batches in a blender until smooth – use caution when blending hot liquids.
  7. Pass soup through a chinoise or fine sieve; season with salt, pepper and maple syrup to taste.
  8. Soup may be prepared 3 days in advance; gently warm over low heat until hot.
  9. To serve, distribute among bowls and garnish with walnuts, chives, blue cheese and poached quince.

For the chicken stock

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds fresh chicken wings, preferably organic
  • 3 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 large stalks of celery, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken wings in large heavy roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove pan from oven and add vegetables. Return pan to oven and roast 15 to 20 minutes longer, until vegetables are lightly caramelized and wings are deep golden brown.
  3. Remove pan from oven and place wings and vegetables into a 2 gallon stock pot. Add water to cover.
  4. Add bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns to pot, cover and bring water to a boil over high heat.
  5. Once water reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 4 hours.
  6. Carefully remove stock from heat and strain out solids. Discard solids.
  7. Cool stock to room temperature then cover and chill until needed.
  8. Stock can be made 3 days in advance; store in refrigerator until ready to use.

More Thanksgiving tips

A succulent Thanksgiving menu
Avoid Thanksgiving Day disasters
Terrific roast turkey from Sandra Lee

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