Nov 19, 2023 - Food and Drink

From the perfect turkey to picking a wine, Twin Cities chefs dish their top Thanksgiving tips

Illustration of a turkey eating pie.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Preparing the big meal can intimidate and overwhelm even the most seasoned home cooks.

  • But the difference between a great meal and a disaster doesn't just come down to kitchen skills.

Driving the news: We asked some of the Twin Cities' top chefs and restaurateurs to share their tips for a smooth and delicious feast.

The big takeaway: Prep, prep and prep some more. Make a menu, make a shopping list, make components (or full dishes when possible) as early as you can. Many said they start days in advance.

  • "[That way,] the day of, you're not prepping, but you're busy cooking," Union Hmong Kitchen's Yia Vang said. "Enjoy that part!"

Zoom in: Here are some more pro tips:

πŸ¦ƒ Cook the turkey breast side down to keep the white meat tender and juicier, says Mike DeCamp of Jester Concepts. Breaking down the bird to cook the legs and the breast in different ways is also a recipe for success.

  • "That messes up the presentation a little bit but I prefer to have the best main dish as possible," he said.

πŸ§‚ Aaron Uban of Momento recommends a rub of salt, chili pepper, herbs and oil β€” "let it sit for a day before roasting" β€” and letting the bird rest for 30 minutes before serving.

  • Get comfortable with your thermometer to avoid overcooking, Momento adds: "Trust it implicitly."

🍷 Charlie Broder of Broders' Pasta Bar and Broders' Cucina Italiana, suggests buying enough wine for two to three 5-ounce glasses β€” about a half bottle β€” per person. The formula may vary based on your guests β€” his family drinks closer to a bottle a person "because we celebrate for many hours."

  • While lots of wines go well with the meal given the variety of dishes, he recommends avoiding large-bodied, high-alcohol (14.5%-plus) oaky reds.

πŸ₯‚ "Quality entry-level champagne is always successful," Broder said of what guests could bring the host. Burgundy, Soave and Etna Rosso are also safe bets.

  • Looking for something special? Ask staff at an independent wine shop for a recommendation for a bottle with a small grower with a story to share.

πŸ₯§ Don't save (making) the dessert for last. Anne Andrus, the baking pro behind Honey & Rye and Bakehouse, suggests piecing together your pie days in advance, too.

1. Keep ingredients cold before starting. She'll even put the flour and bowl in the fridge for 20 minutes if she has time.

2. Don't overmix the dough β€” look for "more of a shaggy texture than a completely uniform one."

3. Let the dough rest for at least an hour before rolling it out. Letting the gluten relax "allows more elasticity in the dough," making it easier to roll and preventing it from "springing back" in the pie tin.

  • "If you notice that it seems like your crust shrinks after baking it, it would indicate that it [needed] more rest," she said.

❀️ The bottom line: The most important ingredient for the day is something that starts outside the kitchen.

  • "A thankful heart and attitude," Ono Hawaiian Plates' Warren Seta said. "Enjoying all the blessings around you, both big and small."

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