After spending long days and nights feeding us during the holidays, what happens when chefs turn off the lights in their professional kitchens and head home to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for their own families?
We presume they’re not ordering out pizza and popping open the first of a six-pack of beer. To prove our point, we talked to several local chefs and found out we’re right--there was nary an empty pizza box or beer can in sight.
Indeed, Tammy Pham, executive chef and co-owner with her husband Sam Chung of Asparagus in Merrillville, doesn’t even pull the cork on a bottle of wine. She loves to make cocktails instead.
“Wednesday night while I am prepping my turkey and side dishes, I like to enjoy a hot butter rum,” she says about the drink she makes. “I make it with Grand Marnier, spiced rum, hot water and my butter mix.”
This year, Pham is cooking a big meal since her son Saffron, who is a freshman at Eastman College of Music, is home for his first break.
“He is looking forward to my home cooked food," Pham said. “Thanksgiving day I will be having lots of family and friends gather at my place so I will make sure I have plenty of fun cocktails and some good wine. Usually, the men all drink old fashioneds. My husband Sam Chung makes a good one with Luxardo cherries and Journeyman last Feather Rye Whisky. He ages it in a small barrel like he does at Asparagus.”
For Ryan Glowacki, who with his mother Diane, owns the White Rhino Bar & Grill in Dyer, everything starts with the main course.
And the center of the main course is the brined turkey he makes every year.
“Cooking a turkey can be intimidating for some people,” Glowacki said. “If you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s 'Christmas Vacation' you know you don’t want to end up with a Clark Griswold turkey. The brine and injection will help you make a great turkey every time as it adds a bit of tenderness and also helps keep the turkey moist,” he added.
"As a chef I don’t take my work home with me,” said Angela McCrovitz, caterer, and owner of the Lobster Party Truck, and hostess of the Madison Rose Bed & Breakfast. “As much as I cook like any culinary star, I prefer something quick and easy or actually have someone else do the cooking. As a chef, we lead frenetic lives and try to man fast-paced kitchens for an ungodly number of hours on our feet. The work is exhausting and laborious yet gratifying and impassioned.”
At home, she said, her palate doesn’t demand the caliber of food she serves in the restaurant.
“I like simple, elegant and easy to make foods,” she said. “My favorite for Thanksgiving is my Honey Ginger Roasted Rainbow Carrots. They are sweet and savory, roasted in honey, maple syrup, ginger and brown sugar with a spot of chili sauce.”
Try the following recipes.
Chef Tammy Pham's Holiday Cocktails
1 ounce Rum Chata
1 ounce vanilla vodka
1 ounce Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
1/2 ounce butterscotch liquor
Tammy Pham’s Pumpkin Puree (recipe below)
DIRECTIONS: Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and gently shake.
Tammy Pham’s Pumpkin Puree
2 nice size spoonsful roasted pumpkin
Sweetened condensed milk, to taste
Pumpkin pie spice, to taste
DIRECTIONS: Blend roasted pumpkin with sweetened condensed milk to make a puree; add pumpkin pie spice to taste.
2 ounces Brandy
2 ounces vodka per drink
1 ounce X Rated Fusion Liqueur
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 slice lime
DIRECTIONS: A few days before making this cocktail, marinate a fig in brandy and the cinnamon stick in vodka.
When ready to make the martini, discard cinnamon stick and pour vodka into a cocktail shaker with ice. Add X Rated Fusion Liqueur and Grand Marnier. Add the juice of the lime slice. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with marinated fig.
Ryan Glowacki’s Holiday Turkey
14-16 pound turkey
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 gallon stock - Chicken or Vegetable
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons whole allspice
Iced water, just enough to cover the turkey, approximately 1 gallon.
For Butter Based Injection, combine in a microwave safe container
1 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
Salt to taste
Aromatics - Optional
1 apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cup water
A handful of fresh herbs. sage, rosemary, and/or thyme.
DIRECTIONS: Combine and microwave for 5 minutes.
If your turkey is frozen, thaw in a refrigerator for up to 3 days. The day before cooking, combine the vegetable stock, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice, and ginger in a large pot over medium high heat. Stir to dissolve. Remove the brine from the heat and let it cool. Place the turkey in a large pot or container and add the brine mixture and iced water. Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for 12-16 hours.
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse. Place the turkey on the roasting rack. Be sure the injection mixture is just slightly warm, but not hot. Using a meat injector, inject the turkey with the mixture. Optionally, allow the turkey to rest, refrigerated, to marinate. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Optionally, insert the warmed aromatic mixture into the cavity. Dry the outside of the turkey and rub generously with oil. Tuck the wings underneath the turkey and roast for about 20-30 minutes.
Ovens vary, especially at high heat. Be sure to keep an eye on the brownness to be sure it is cooking evenly. If it is not, move the roasting pan around the oven every 7-8 minutes. Next, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook until the turkey measures 160 degrees internally. Approximately 2 1/2 hours. Use a temperature probe with an alarm if you have one available.
Check the turkey every 30 minutes for color. A foil tent can be used to slow browning if needed or an increased oven temperature can be used to increase browning. Once the turkey is done, tent and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Angela McCrovitz’s Honey Ginger Roasted Rainbow Carrots
1 pound rainbow carrots whole, leave the tips on
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon chili sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 390 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Bake for 20 minutes turning and then another 20 minutes.
In a small bowl whisk the honey olive oil, maple syrup, ginger, chili sauce, brown sugar, salt, pepper and toss the carrots in mixture and bake until tender.
May be garnished with chopped mint or tuxedo sesame seeds. Also, you may sprinkle Parmesan or feta for additional flavor.