November 7, 2012

Soup to Nuts: When chefs give thanks

We polled several of southern Maine's best-known cooks to learn how they observe Thanksgiving, with some entertaining, heart-warming, even surprising results.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier

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Sam Hayward

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My daughter Emily and I have for years made a tart tatin. She never really realized, I think, until she was about 17 that that wasn't just a traditional apple pie. We do the normal stuff. We have a pumpkin pie or something like that, although we usually roast our own pumpkin. We're not too big on canned pumpkin.

Guilty pleasure: I'm probably not likely to eat stuffing very often, but on Thanksgiving I'm good for the stuffing, and my guilty pleasure is definitely the sandwich slathered with mayonnaise (and made with leftovers). If you make the gravy right with a good turkey stock, you can actually make a slice of the gravy when it's cold -- that probably sounds really bad -- so you can put it on your bread, then your cranberry sauce and then your turkey and then your stuffing. That's a really good turkey sandwich. 

HARDING SMITH, The Front Room, the Corner Room and the Grill Room, Portland

Well, it definitely is not a day off, but more of a busman's holiday. It's different though. It doesn't have any of that stress associated with our kitchens, cooking at a nice pace, having friends and family join in with the prep. Sipping wine, watching football, all while cooking, is not quite like being at work.

I usually always do the turkey. I like to roast one and fry one. One year that I didn't we went to someone else's house, and they took the turkey out of the freezer in the morning. Suffice it to say we did not have turkey on the table by dinner time. I always find small organic birds, they are so much better than those big old things. And every year since I can remember, I have made wild mushroom and sausage stuffing, and of course roasted brussel sprouts. Everyone always brings a side dish of some sort. My mom makes killer pecan pie. It really is about being with family and friends and being thankful for all that we have. 

LISA KOSTOPOULOS, The Good Table, Cape Elizabeth

We close The Good Table so we can house my extended family here. It varies between 28 and 40 people. I have invested a lot of time teaching my young nieces and nephews and my cousin's kids how to use the dishwasher. There were many years when using "Mr. Hobart" was a thrill to the kids. Now that they are all of late high school and college age, the thrill is gone, but they still do the dishes.

My parents take care of the turkeys. It took me five years to convince them that brining was not evil. Now we brine, and it is always the best bird ever. Mom makes a special glaze and bastes it all morning. My mother also makes her father's stuffing, and I usually fiddle with a new one every year -- some good, some just alright.

It is a holiday for me, though unfortunately I still have to be "the boss" and let everyone know where things go and keep an eye on all things being reheated. I am in charge of the gravy (the least glamorous but one of the most important parts of Thanksgiving), the bloody Marys, the mashed sweet potatoes and the beloved pecan pie. I make an extra one for my parents to take home.

Guilty pleasure: The guilty pleasure is probably eating five to six thin slices of pie. All the female cousins are really, really good at making pie. 

ADAM WHITE, The Salt Exchange, Portland

Thanksgiving is THE holiday for my family. It's the one day most of my siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, cousins, in-laws and friends get together for the gratitude of life and family. The pleasure of little feet, young adults and sharing certain accomplishments are all celebrated among the hugs, laughter, tears and memories of people and history past. And of course, food, food, lots of food.

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David Turin

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Harding Smith

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Lisa Kostopoulos

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Chris Bassett


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