Cooking

A Texan Thanksgiving

Chef Jack Gilmore's tips for a down-home Thanskgiving feast

It's that time again—you know what we're talking about. With Turkey Day nearly upon us, 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. Last week we spoke to Renee Erickson, and today we're chatting with Jack Gilmore, chef/owner of Jack Allen's Kitchen in Austin and author of Jack Allen's Kitchen: Celebrating the Tastes of Texas (Jack Allen's Kitchen Restaurants, $40).

What are your tips on planning a Thanksgiving cooking timeline? I start preparing for Thanksgiving in early November, which is when I order turkeys and hams from my farmers. Then I spend some time working on the sides, leaving the cooking of the main courses until last. I like to get as many people involved in the cooking as I can to help with slicing, dicing, chopping and stirring.

What dishes are okay to cook ahead of time, and what's okay to cook at the last minute? Ahead of time is anything served cold, like chutney, salad or cranberry sauce. You can also peel and chop all your vegetables and brine your turkey in advance. Gravy is good to cook last-minute since you have to wait for all of the drippings anyway. The last thing out of my oven? Killer bread rolls.

What are your go-to dishes? Tamale-jalapeño cornbread dressing, oyster dressing and giblet gravy.

What are your tips for working in an unfamiliar kitchen? Stay organized. Put the booze down. And get familiar with your space before crunch time.

RELATED   Renee Erickson's Tips for a No-Stress Holiday »

How do you decorate for Thanksgiving? Very rustic. The only things that matter are food, friends and family.

What's on your cooking playlist? Texas country. And my wife, LuAnn, throws in some Christmas music.

What's on the booze list? Good Pinot Noir and Super Texan from local winery Flat Creek Estate. And my son will bring some craft beer.

How do you deal with inevitable family drama? Thanksgiving is a day of peace and family. Family drama should not be part of it. So just turn the other cheek and act like you're having a good time! As for the day after Thanksgiving...it's on.

How do you deal with overly drunk guests? It always happens, but all you have to do is make sure they get fed well.

What do you do with leftovers? Leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. For breakfast on Friday morning, take leftover ham and blacken it. Then form mashed potatoes into little patties you can brown on the stovetop. Use sweet potatoes in a hash topped with eggs. For dinner, we'll make turkey and dressing meatballs with maple giblet gravy: Take the leftover turkey and chop it up, mix it with diced celery and onion, Dijon mustard, leftover tamale-jalapeño cornbread dressing, Worcestershire sauce and eggs, and make it into meatballs. It's the best.

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