But what about chefs? They spend their working lives in front of their stoves. Is Thanksgiving a “busman’s holiday” for them? Or do they kick back and let others handle the cooking? I talked to five local chefs to find out what they do – and don’t do – on Thanksgiving.
Chip Kennedy, 5 Flavors Catering
Chip Kennedy, executive chef for 5 Flavors Catering, makes, hands down, the most atypical Thanksgiving dish I’ve heard of:
“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. My dad and I always make a pot of venison chili together using my dad’s very old recipe. We eat it along with our meal. I’ve tried to put my own spin on it several times, but it’s never as good as his. For once in my life, I stick to the recipe! Other than that, I let my mom cook. She does the turkey and sides. Mom is an excellent cook – that’s where I get it. I also make corn bread. Other than that, I let everyone else cook so I can relax and enjoy what it feels like to be catered to.”
Augie Mrozowski, Augie’s Front Burner
Chef/owner of Augie’s Front Burner, Augie Mrozowski’s Thanksgiving menu features some dishes that reflect his German/Polish background:
“I make Thanksgiving dinner at home with mostly my wife’s family – my parents are gone. My father started my career. He was the St. Nicholas Hotel’s chef. Every holiday we had goose or duck and wild rice. For Thanksgiving we always had sweet-sour red cabbage, which I still make. [See recipe next page.]
“Now we have many other things for Thanksgiving, including cranberry strawberry sauce, my favorite seven-layer salad, the dressing and corn. There are noodles, all kinds of pies, and fresh-baked rolls or bread.
Of course we have turkey, but sometimes also prime rib slow-roasted on the grill – it depends how many show up. Best of all are the leftovers. For days we eat and eat; it’s a time when chefs can really enjoy the meal.”
Jordan Coffey, American Harvest Eatery
American Harvest’s creative young chef, Jordan Coffey, has two Thanksgiving dinners, but only prepares one of them:
“As the only chef in my family, instead of enjoying one of my few guaranteed days off each year, I always end up doing the cooking. What should be a day off that I could just spend drinking beer and gorging becomes another day of preparation and cooking.
“But I can’t pretend I’m upset about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I sincerely enjoy it; it’s even become rather ceremonial for me. I make my shopping list, go to the store, prep, drink beer while I’m cooking, and a few hours later the feast is ready.
“As a married man, I now attend two Thanksgivings. My wife’s dad is a retired chef; he’s been preparing Thanksgiving his way for decades. It’s nice to go to my in-laws’ and join in another chef’s holiday routine. There are fresh-baked breads and rows upon rows of pecan, pumpkin and sweet potato pies. Two generations of chefs spend a few hours trading Thanksgiving recipes and restaurant stories.
Both meals have become tradition, and I appreciate the ability to share the day with my family – even if I am somehow tricked into working the entire day!”
Cynthia Hinton, Blue Stem Bakery
Cynthia Hinton, who is in the process of closing her Blue Stem Bakery in Elkhart and moving to Springfield, says, “My dad does most of the cooking. I just get to show up with something and help.” More often than not, Hinton shows up with her pumpkin cheesecake [see recipe next page] – a spinoff of her dad’s recipe. What makes it extra special is the biscotti crust made with candied ginger, almonds and orange zest. Hinton makes biscotti that include those ingredients, but the variation in the recipe here adds them to purchased biscotti.
Larry Langley, The Sangamo Club
The Sangamo Club’s longtime chef, Larry Langley, is the only chef I talked with who’ll be going to work on Thanksgiving. At least it’s a short day; the club offers a buffet for its members from 11:30-1 p.m. So, will Langley go home and start preparing his family’s feast?
“No, we’re going to my sister-in-law’s,” he told me.
Contact Julianne Glatz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Augie Mrozowski’s sweet-sour red cabbage
- 4 T. bacon drippings
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 lbs. (about 8 c.) shredded red cabbage
- 4 c. cubed apples, unpeeled
- 1/2 c. cider vinegar
- 1/2 c. honey or firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
- 2 -3 bay leaves
- 1/2 c. water
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the bacon drippings in a large pot over high heat. Add the onions and sauté a few minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, stirring occasionally. Cook for 25-30 minutes for tender cabbage, or for as little as 15 minutes for a crisp bite. Serve hot, or refrigerate and reheat the following day.
Jordan Coffey’s loaded potato
and sweet corn chowder
- 1 lb. diced bacon
- 1 diced leek, white part only
- 1 diced onion
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 c. sweet corn kernels
- 1 qt. chicken stock or broth
- 2 peeled and diced russet potatoes
- 1c. heavy cream
- 2 T. cornstarch
- 4 T. water
- 2 c. grated sharp cheddar (Don’t use pre-grated cheese; it’s coated with a substance that keeps the shreds separate, and won’t melt into the soup.)
- 2 T. Frank’s red hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 c. chopped green onion
In a wide stock or soup pot, sauté the bacon over medium heat. Stir and cook until crispy. Drain off almost all of the bacon fat and reserve for another use.
Add the onion, garlic, leek and corn and continue to sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring consistently until the vegetables are golden brown.
Slowly add the stock, scraping the golden brown goodies from the bottom of the pan.
Add the potatoes and simmer on medium heat until the potatoes are tender. While the potatoes cook, whisk the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl to form a slurry; set aside. Add the cream, increase the heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Once the soup is boiling, slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry until the soup thickens. You may not need all the slurry – the soup shouldn’t be too thick. Reduce the heat to low as soon as it’s thickened.
Fold in the cheese and hot sauce until the cheese is entirely melted.
Season with salt and pepper to taste; add green onions at the very end.
Cynthia Hinton’s pumpkin cheesecake
with ginger/almond/orange biscotti crust
- 1 3/4 c. biscotti crumbs
- 1/4 c. lightly toasted slivered almonds
- 1 T. grated orange zest
- 1 T. minced candied ginger, available at Food Fantasies
- 1/2 c. butter
- 1/2 c. sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Pat the mixture evenly onto the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 2 T. cornstarch
- 1 1/2 lbs. cream cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 c. cooked, puréed pumpkin
- 2/3 c. evaporated milk
- 1 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Put the sugars and cornstarch into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low until they’re combined. Add the cream cheese. Mix on high until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the pumpkin, evaporated milk and pie spice; beat together.
Pour the mixture into the prepared crust. Place the pan in a deep roasting pan and pour in enough simmering water to reach 2/3 up the sides of the springform. Carefully place in the 350° oven and bake for one hour. Chill before serving.