Thanksgiving is closing in on us. Which means home cooks across the country are crafting Thanksgiving menus and confronting the annual paradox: how do you respect tradition and keep things interesting?
So this week, Brendan headed over to Bon Appétit magazine to speak with Editor-in-Chief Adam Rappaport. Their new issue has a 40-page feature where they tackle everything from pre-meal rituals to how to deal with leftovers. While Adam can’t give away all the Bon Appétit tricks, he did share a few tips with Brendan to help tweak your turkey day. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Plan to pre-game a maximum of 2 hours before the feast.
Adam Rapoport: I’m a firm believer that the pre-game is the best part of the day, if done right. You’re talking at least an hour, maybe two, and you’re excited to see everyone. You’re not arguing yet. Your crazy uncle isn’t really drunk yet.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.
Adam Rapoport: So, it’s kind of like, you know, it’s just everything is good.
Brendan Francis Newnam: There’s a lot of hope.
Adam Rapoport: Yes, exactly! There’s hope.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, yeah, so this is like, two to three hours before, maybe, a football game’s on…
Adam Rapoport: I would say three hours is dangerous. Because, if you’re drinking, three hours is a long time.
This all, then, gets back to a: what time’s dinner? Optimally, I like that the sun is down but just down, like, maybe 5 p.m. or so. The pre-game, I would say it starts at 3 p.m., assuming that not everyone’s going to get to the house at exactly 3 p.m.
Start off with a light buzz from a boozy punch to avoid bad form.
Adam Rapoport: [3 p.m. is] ample time to snack without filling up too much and to drink without getting too drunk, and we sort of endorse a lighter beverage.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You made a suggestion about a punch.
Adam Rapoport: Yeah, we say drink like an adult. You want a drink in hand, perhaps a slight buzz, but getting blitzed before the meal is just bad form.
“Our sherry tonic punch is flavorful, but low-octane guaranteeing hours of easy, breezy sipping.” Wow, who writes this stuff? But I think that’s an important thing to mind because in theory, you haven’t eaten yet.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s clever. I think, if you’re mixing drinks, your uncle can maybe pour a little too much. But when the punch is already made, it feels festive, and you’re in tight control, at least at the beginning.
Adam Rapoport: I hadn’t thought about that, but I like that, too.
Add a little sherry, soy sauce, and sugar on your traditional turkey.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I don’t think I want my turkey to get too weird. I think in this issue you have one where the chicken’s already parted, and it’s almost like a braise.
Adam Rapoport: So, the dark meat… actually, what’s great about dark meat — like any sort of sort of dark meat — is that, if you braise it like a stew, all of a sudden it becomes fall-apart tender. It’s like coq au vin.
Brendan Francis Newnam: But that’s not Thanksgiving to me. If someone handed me a plate of parted turkey…
Adam Rapoport: Well, no. I think what you can do is this: we also have a classic lacquered and glazed turkey.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That is food porn of the highest order.
Adam Rapoport: Yeah, and this what we kind of refer to as our “Norman Rockwell turkey,” but it’s a little bit updated in that we sort of glaze it with sherry wine and soy sauce, and a little brown sugar. So, it looks classic American, but the flavor profile, as we say…
Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s a little Pacific flavor.
Adam Rapoport: Yeah, exactly. It’s a little bit more exotic.
Make the Skrillex of sides.
Adam Rapoport: The sides is where we get a little crazy. However, once again, you can get crazy with your side dishes if you already have your mashed potatoes and stuffing. You know, you need that traditional base.
And then, I think, you can sort of take your vegetable sides and whatnot and inject some Asian or Indian or Southwestern.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I like that. This is like being a DJ, like, you’ve got to play the classics at the wedding, right? You need to play the “Electric Slide” or Michael Jackson, but then you can throw in your new cuts, Skrillex. So, the side dish that caught my eye is…
Adam Rapoport: Oh, the agrodolce, the Winter Squash Agrodolce.
Brendan Francis Newnam: First, what a beautiful word. What’s going on there? It looks so tasty.
Adam Rapoport: Well, that’s a cool, sort of like, the half-moons of winter squash roasted and glazed in agrodolce, which is actually a very traditional, old school Italian ingredient. I guess it’s kind of like the sweet and sour sauce of Italy.
You know, what so many cultures understand is balance, and if you have sweet, you want spicy. If you have acid, you want fat. And it’s just getting that balance and sort of glazing the vegetables with it.
Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s a beautiful looking dish, maybe a good way to get rid of your decorative gourds.
Adam Rapoport: Yeah, exactly. What to do with all those gourds that have been sitting on my table for like, the last month and a half?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, you turn them into agrodolce.
When you’re sick of sandwiches, go for a dip.
Adam Rapoport: The best thing about Thanksgiving is the two hours before dinner and the day after.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly.
Adam Rapoport: Yeah. No, I’m a huge leftover fan. Then we also have a really fun article in the new issue on leftover sandwiches.
And I’m normally like, now, I’m like, “Oh, wheat bread, multi-grain” sort of guy. I like bread with texture, but turkey sandwich, just give me classic white bread, you know?
Brendan Francis Newnam: White bread, yeah, potato roll or white bread or something.
Adam Rapoport: Love a potato roll or pullman loaf or something. I love lots of mayonnaise. I can go through, like, a jar of Hellman’s in a day after Thanksgiving. Turkey, lettuce, that’s it, you know? But we have some fun ideas. The one I love is the Turkey Pho Dip.
Take the turkey carcass, you make a turkey broth, but you sort of do it in a Vietnamese-style with cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger, and all that good stuff.
Meanwhile, you get some French bread; you take your turkey; you’d get some bean sprouts, some chilies, some lime; kind of a “banh mi.” And you take that, and you dip it into the pho broth.
One more thing to be thankful for? The Cheesegiving.
Adam Rapoport: We have this other one, The Cheesegiving, which scares the hell out of me.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m not going to lie. I saw The Cheese-giving, and at first, I was like, “That’s absolutely…” and then I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Can you explain what this is?
Adam Rapoport: Inspired by Adam Mesnick of Deli Board in San Francisco, a chef there. You melt a bunch of butter in a pan with garlic. You sauté it.
You throw the turkey — the shredded turkey — in there, and then it says, “Add six ounces of chopped white American cheese.” That’s about two singles per sandwich. “Stirring until melted,” so it becomes this, like, gorgeous mess. And then you spoon it onto a roll.
Brendan Francis Newnam: This is like the sweatpants of food right here. It’s like, “I give up.”
Adam Rapoport: Yeah, with mayonnaise and leftover cranberry sauce. Oh, and some leftover mashed potatoes because, why not? The thing is, we sort of like, “Oh, that’s disgusting!” But you would eat the entire thing.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Completely. If someone presented that in front of you while watching Sports Center…
Adam Rapoport: It would be done before I knew it.