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Chefs' favorite Thanksgiving recipes

Six dishes that put a professional twist on a traditional meal
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Gerard's Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Herbs de Provence
This brilliantly simple twist on classic sweet potatoes comes from Gabrielle chef Greg Sonnier's older brother Gerard.  Serves 10 or more.

6 lbs. sweet potatoes (peeled and medium diced)
1 cup extra virgin sweet olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped basil
1 tbsp. tarragon
1 tbsp. rosemary
1 tsbp. oregano
sea salt
Cracked black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (a convection oven works best).

2) Toss sweet potatoes in olive oil.

3) Add fresh herbs and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

4) Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and roast until outsides brown and insides soft, about 25 to 35 minutes.

From: Greg and Mary Sonnier, Gabrielle Restaurant, New Orleans, La.

Stuffed Chicken Legs with Wild Mushrooms, Chestnuts and McIntosh applesTired of turkey? Timothy Dean suggests this elegant autumn take on chicken. Caul fat can be found at many butcher stores and specialty meat counters. A butcher may be able to debone the legs for you if you can't find them already deboned. For mushrooms, seek out seasonal varieties like chanterelles or hen of the woods.  Serves 2.

2 chicken legs, deboned, with leg and thigh attached
2/5 lb. wild mushrooms
2/5 lb. fresh chestnuts
2/5 lb. fresh McIntosh apples
¼ lb. caul fat
1 chicken breast
¾ cup heavy cream
Sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste
Butchers twine
2/5 cup olive oil

To prepare chicken mousse:

1) Cut chicken breast into small cubes.

2) Place in food processor and pulse. Add ¾ cup of heavy cream, and continue to pulse until smooth. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

3) Remove mousse with rubber spatula and chill for 20 minutes.

To prepare chicken leg:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place caul fat in a container of cold water. Brush the mushrooms clean. Dice the apples and chestnuts.

2) In a small mixing bowl, add cleaned mushrooms, diced apples and fresh chestnuts. Fold in chicken mousse, and add salt and pepper to taste.

3) Remove caul fat from cold water and spread evenly. Place chicken leg on top of caul fat, and add the stuffing inside the leg. Wrap caul fat tightly and secure with butchers twine.

4) In an ovenproof medium sauté pan, add olive oil and place over medium-high to high heat. Place stuffed chicken legs, one at a time if necessary. Make sure to turn the legs until all sides are golden brown.

5) Place the sauté pan with the stuffed legs inside the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove, and allow to rest for a few minutes.

6) Remove butchers twine, slice the legs and serve.

From: Timothy Dean, Timothy Dean Bistro, Baltimore, Md.

Mom's Chinese Sticky RiceThis recipe, prepared by San Francisco chef Arnold Eric Wong's mother, was a staple of Thanksgiving family dinners, though it also would be served on other holidays, including Christmas and the Chinese New Year. Serves 10 or more.

2 ½ lbs. sweet white rice
½ lb. Chinese sausage, sliced thin
½ lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
¼ lb. fresh water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
½ bunch cilantro, minced
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup dark soy sauce
¼ cup oyster sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
salt to taste
sesame seeds (optional)

1) Steam rice, either with a rice cooker, or by placing cheesecloth into a perforated pan or steamer placed atop a pot of boiling water, then covering the pan or steamer.

2) After the rice is fully cooked and tender, spread out onto a sheet pan to cool. As the rice will be extremely sticky, keep a bowl of water near by to wet your hands, which makes it easier to handle and mix the rice.

3) Place the sausage, mushrooms, water chestnuts, green onions, cilantro and sesame seeds, if using, together in a bowl.

4) Place all the liquid ingredients — soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil — in a bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

5) When the rice has cooled enough to handle, toss the vegetables and sausage with the liquid dressing. Then immediately combine the mixture with the rice, using your hands if necessary. Make sure that the two are incorporated evenly and thoroughly, so that the rice no longer has any white spots.

6) Serve immediately, or steam again to reheat, as necessary.

From: Arnold Eric Wong, EOS and Bacar, San Francisco, Calif.

King Boletus Stuffing
Seattle chef Tom Douglas refuses to stuff his turkey, and a stuffing like this certainly deserves to be cooked on its own. He bases this recipe on the boletus mushrooms found in the Pacific Northwest, close relatives of Italian porcini. But you can use chanterelles, shiitakes, crimini or any combination of wild mushrooms. Serves 8.

1 loaf European-style rustic bread, about 1 pound
3 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the pan
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned, tough stems removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries, soaked in hot water 15 minutes and drained
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage
2 cups chicken stock, hot

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a large shallow baking dish, such as a 9 x 13-inch pan, and set aside.

2) To toast the bread, cut the crusts off the loaf, then cut the bread into 1 1/2-inch chunks. You should have about 8 cups of bread cubes. In a bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Salt the bread out on a baking sheet and toast until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

3) To make the duxelles, place the porcini in a small heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Steep until soft, about 20 minutes. Rub the porcini to remove any grit, then remove them from the water, coarsely chop and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve or a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a small saucepan. Bring the soaking liquid to a boil over high heat, reduce the liquid until syrupy, and set aside. (You should have about 1/4 cup porcini syrup.) Melt five tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the finely chopped mushrooms and cook until softened.  Add the porcini syrup and the chopped porcini, and season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Cook the duxelles until soft and paste-like, stirring occasionally and turning the heat down if needed to prevent scorching as the liquid evaporates, 15 to 20 minutes total cooking time. Remove the duxelles from the heat and set aside.

4) Melt the remaining three tablespoons butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and sauté the celery and onion until soft but not brown, about five minutes. Remove from the heat.

5) In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread, the duxelles, the celery and onion, the hazelnuts, cranberries or cherries, herbs and chicken stock. Stir everything together well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan. Cover the pan with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 35 minutes until the top is crusty and golden. Serve the stuffing directly from the baking dish.

Note: The unbaked stuffing can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated a day ahead. Bake as directed above, allowing just a few minutes extra baking time.

From: "Tom's Big Dinners," by Tom Douglas, with Ed Levine, Shelley Lance and Jackie Cross (Morrow).

Oyster Stew in Scallop CreamFrank Lee, executive chef at Charleston's Slightly North of Broad, based this Thanksgiving-menu staple on his father's somewhat more basic oyster pie. Gone are the saltines crumbled on top, scalded milk is replaced with a more luxurious scallop cream, and leeks and apple-smoked bacon add extra layers of flavor. But the spirit is the same. Serves 4.

Prepare the scallop cream:

4 shallots
1 lb. scallops
1 Tbs. butter
2 cups white wine
Oyster liquor (optional)

2 cups cream
Pinch of salt

1) In a sauté pan, sweat shallots over medium heat with butter, scallops and salt until golden-brown, sticky and caramelized.

2) Deglaze with 2 cups white wine and any oyster liquor on hand, reduce until sticky again, add cream. 

3) Simmer slowly for 15-20 minutes, strain and discard scallops. Reserve cream.

Prepare the stew:

¼ lb. apple-smoked bacon
1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
One pint of shucked oysters
1 large leek, light green or white, enough for 1 cup sliced
1 tsp. butter
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup chopped chives

Pinch of salt

1) Cut apple-smoked bacon into small dice.

2) Render the bacon gently for two minutes over medium-high heat. Discard rendered fat and save the lardons of bacon. Set aside.

3) Meantime, in a medium saucepan, sweat 1 cup of the leeks in a teaspoon of butter and a pinch of salt over medium heat. Add potatoes and cook until sticky.

4) Add the chicken stock.  Cook until tender, set aside off heat.

5) Return a sauté pan with the scallop cream to medium heat, and add the potatoes, leeks and bacon. Cook until the mixture bubbles.

6) Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the oysters, and heat gently until the oysters just crinkle.

7) Add chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

From: Frank Lee, Slightly North of Broad, Charleston, S.C.

Cranberry Citrus Sauce
Arnold Eric Wong, executive chef at San Francisco's EOS and Bacar, draws on fresh citrus for a zingy alternative to the standard cranberry mixture.  Wong calls for all organic ingredients, if possible. Serves 4 to 6.

12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
1 fresh orange, juiced
1 fresh Meyer lemon, juiced
zest from the orange
zest from the lemon
1 cup orange flower or wildflower honey

1) Combine all the ingredients into a nonreactive sauce pot over medium heat. Bring to a slow boil.

2) Stir constantly to avoid burning.

3) Cook about 20 minutes, or until the berries begin to burst.

4) Remove from heat and chill to room temperature.

From: Arnold Eric Wong, EOS and Bacar, San Francisco, Calif.