Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so we reached out to some of our favorite chefs to get their tips on creating a cooking plan, handling holiday dilemmas, and of course, dealing with poorly behaved family members. First up: Renee Erickson, chef/owner of The Whale Wins and The Walrus and the Carpenter in Seattle and author of the just-released A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus: Menus & Stories (Sasquatch Books, $40).
What are your tips on planning a Thanksgiving cooking time frame? Less is more. Five or six dishes is the right amount—pick your favorites.
What dishes are okay to cook ahead of time? I make my stuffing bread in advance, toast it and keep it in a Ziploc. The brine can be made a few days early, too.
What are your go-to dishes? The classics. I brine and break down the bird. I like to control the cooking of each part, and don't really care about the giant bird on the table. I love stuffing with sausage, walnuts, oysters and tons of herbs. I'm also a big fan of nontraditional vegetable dishes, like a super decadent and perfect-with-turkey kale gratin with sharp cheddar cheeses.
How do you decorate for Thanksgiving? I like for the dishes, silver and linens to be the decoration. I love a crisp white tablecloth and beautiful food on a large antique platter.
What's on the booze list? Champagne, vermouth with soda and lemon peel, Alsatian dry Riesling, Cru Beaujolais and Oregon Pinot Noir.
How do you deal with backseat cooking? I'm pretty relaxed about that. But once you start, you can't stop.
How do you deal with inevitable family drama? Ha! I might go in the other room, or give them another glass of wine. But it always happens.
How do you deal with overly drunk guests? Thankfully, I don't have to often.
What do you do with leftovers? We divide it all up between family and guests. I love leftover turkey sandwiches, so I keep the turkey and stuffing. For breakfast the next day, I like to heat the stuffing up in a cast-iron pan, so it gets all crispy, and top it with a poached egg with turkey hash on the side. Only after that is it time for the massive cleanup.
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