Cooking

Helping Harold

Harold Dieterle's advice on Thanksgiving timing, wining and brining

It's the day before Thanksgiving, so you may already have a full game plan for tomorrow (even if it's a last-minute one). But if you're still working out the kinks in your cooking schedule or just looking for some kind words of reassurance, Harold Dieterle is here for you. The chef/owner of Perilla and Kin Shop in New York and author of Harold Dieterle's Kitchen Notebook (Grand Central Life & Style, $32) talks turkey timing, unabashedly loving canned cranberry sauce and how to handle too-tipsy family.

What's the best way to schedule your Thanksgiving cooking? "Plan your time around your turkey. I brine my birds overnight with water, salt and sugar, and sometimes fresh herbs like sage or thyme. Once it's cooked, you should plan to give yourself 30 to 45 minutes to let the turkey rest, make gravy and cook green vegetables (more on that below). My dad is out of his mind: He wakes up at 6 a.m. day-of and cooks the bird three or four hours before we're going to eat. I still don't understand why."

Which parts of the meal are okay to cook ahead of time? "You won't really hurt anybody by reheating mashed potatoes or sweet potato purée while the bird is cooking. Cranberries get done ahead of time as well—I'm all about the Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce. There aren't too many canned products I'm into, but the jelly texture is just something that brings me back to my childhood. There's a rumor in my family that my grandfather took Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, melted it down and then reformed it into its own mold."

And which parts should you cook at the last minute? "Save the green vegetables for last—I'm a stickler and I want my vegetables just-greened. I think a lot of people have bad Brussels sprouts memories because of Thanksgiving, when your aunt would just cook the sh*t out of them, and they'd be army-green and decomposed. That's not delicious."

What are your go-to dishes? "Chestnut stuffing, sautéed brussels sprouts leaves and lasagna. The lasagna thing is the Italian side of me. When you go to my Italian family's house for Thanksgiving, before you even sit down and think about the turkey you start out with some antipasti, and then you have a whole lasagna course."

What are your tips for working in unfamiliar kitchens? "You just have to be nosy and find out where everything is before you start cooking. Be like, 'Is it okay if I just start rummaging through all of your drawers?' The last thing you want to do is think you have the gravy boat all sorted, and then it never makes an appearance."

What's on your cooking playlist? "Rolling Stones, Beastie Boys, the Beatles, Oasis."

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What's on the booze list? "Hendricks Gin and and lots of wine. For whites, I like to drink Albariño, or maybe white Burgundy if we're going to go a little heavier. For red, I like Burgundy or Barolo—something that's good with turkey, good with lasagna, good with everything."

How do you deal with family drama? "Drink more gin."

How do you deal with overly drunk guests? "I'm a bit of an antagonist, so when people start drinking more, we start playing cards or board games. I get really competitive and see if I can get them to drink a little more if they're losing."

What do you do with leftovers? "Give everything to the guests to take home except turkey, stuffing and cranberry. Those are reserved for leftover sandwiches."

What happens the next morning? "Pop two Advils and drink some water with Alka-Seltzer."

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