As families throughout the US prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving we ask Belmond’s leading chefs from across the country to share their top tips.
Perfect the Classics
It’s universally agreed that a plump, succulent turkey is the cornerstone of any successful Thanksgiving feast. Chef Michelle Weaver of Belmond Charleston Place ensures hers is flawless with a very traditional recipe. She makes sure to slather the meat both inside and out with a paste of unsalted butter and fresh rosemary, sage and thyme. Adding fresh quartered lemons and onions before roasting adds a depth of flavour to the meat from the inside. This is completed with a rich, classic gravy, enhanced by more fresh herbs, kosher salt and a cup-and-a-half of turkey-pan drippings.
Chef Sylvain Delpique of the famous ‘21’ restaurant in New York City also has his own recommendations for getting top marks. “Order your turkey fresh, preferably organic, from a local farm or butcher two to three weeks in advance.” He advises, “You want a turkey that has never been frozen; roast it whole to an internal temperature of 146 degrees and let it rest for an hour before carving.” If you take these steps, the focal-point of your menu is sure to be flavourful and mouthwatering.
Make the Sides Your Star
However, the bird doesn’t have to be the star of the show; a selection of delicious side dishes can elevate your dinner to top-tier culinary perfection. Chef Weaver makes her menu truly unique with classic Southern specialities, a surefire way to impress guests at Charleston Grill. Her delicious cornbread stuffing is made even more tantalising with the addition of diced bacon and toasted pecans. Scallion peppercorn biscuits, made with buttermilk and parmesan, are the perfect hearty accompaniment to soak up the delicious gravy.
Chef Delpique also believes that a unique side dish can dramatically improve the overall appeal of a traditional dinner. “Dillan, my son, is a very picky eater, but he loves my sweet potato purée which he mixes with a bit of the cranberry marmalade. As it turns out, he is on to something.” He explains, “For ‘21’ and at home, I add a secret ingredient to my cranberry marmalade—Grand Marnier. The orange essence balances nicely with the tart berry. Combine those flavors with the earthy sweetness of the sweet potato and you have a wonderful side dish.”
A Sweet Finale
A delicious dessert can be the crowning glory of your Thanksgiving repertoire. The classic pumpkin pie is always sure to go down a storm, but our chefs have a few recommendations for those wishing to kick things up a notch and really wow their guests. Chef Marcelo Machado Amaral of Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond in St. Michaels recommends taking the classic flavours of the season—pumpkin, ginger and vanilla—and reworking them into something daring and sophisticated. To spoil guests at the hotel, he takes these traditional flavours and create a mille feuille, made with spiced pumpkin butter and fleur de sel caramel, dusted with ginger graham cracker ‘soil’ with vanilla chantilly cream, served in a sophisticated stemless wine glass. The only limit is your imagination.
Time and Place
To get the fullest flavours, all of our chefs advocate opting for seasonal and locally-grown ingredients to truly pin your menu together. Chef Roberto Hernandez of Belmond El Encanto is a true champion of locally-sourcing all the parts for his renowned Thanksgiving menu. Guests at the hotel can expect organic pumpkins from nearby Santa Barbara farms in the sinfully delicious Pumpkin Crème Brûlée, while Central Coast classic Fuyu persimmons provide a decadent caramel-like sweetness. Diners can also spoil themselves with a festive large format bottle of Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, which pairs perfectly with the hotel’s Diestel Farms Traditional Turkey dinner.
Prepare in Advance
Ultimately, our chefs advise that the best Thanksgiving is one where you can relax and savour the company of your guests. The best way to ensure this is to plan ahead and prepare as much as you can in advance. “Plan your menu ahead of time and take your time prepping everything correctly” advises Chef Weaver, “this will result in not only stress-free cooking, but in a thoroughly enjoyable dinner.”
Chef Amaral also underlines the importance of advance planning, but tells fellow cooks not to shy away from seeking help where they can. It helps strengthen the sense of community among friends and family, and also ensures the cook gets to enjoy the holiday as well. “Remember to ask for help! Whether it’s with decoration, beverages, or serving; if you are the one doing all the cooking, make sure you also have time to enjoy and celebrate the day.”