Los Angeles | November 19, 2021 4:07 pm

What Four First-Generation LA Chefs Are Cooking on Thanksgiving

You’ve got the turkey handled — these chefs have your five-star sides

Jean Georges Vongerichten's butternut squash
Jean Georges Vongerichten's butternut squash
Jean-Georges

Turkey’s the top choice for Thanksgiving tables across the country. That holds up for the many immigrants among our country’s top chefs — but what do they serve to accompany the bird?

We asked some of our favorite L.A. chefs — all of whom hail from outside the U.S. — to share their favorite side-dish Thanksgiving recipes, just in time for you to serve them to your family on November 25.

Butternut Squash with Balsamic and Chile Panko Crumbs
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Jean-Georges Beverly Hills

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten immigrated to the U.S. from France back in the ’80s and never looked back. Famed for his original flagship restaurant, Manhattan’s Jean-Georges, he now has nearly 40 restaurants worldwide, including JoJo, Matador Room, and ABC Kitchen. The master chef tells us that Thanksgiving is an American holiday he’s wholeheartedly embraced. “I have totally adopted this holiday and look forward to my ever-growing family getting together at my house,” he says.

Chef’s secret: “I came up with the technique of boiling a squash whole while watching a movie with my children many years ago. I didn’t want to miss the good parts of the movie — and my children didn’t want to pause the movie for me while I tended the stove. The squash ended up cooking beautifully, becoming juicy and tender with zero effort. Boiling the squash keeps it much lighter, compared to if it was roasted. You still get all of the flavors and it pairs very well with the other Thanksgiving dishes (turkey, turkey gravy, etc.). For a crunch, I add panko crumbs to balance out the soft texture of the squash. For some spice, I add chile, and for a kick, I add balsamic vinegar. I always have to have a level of spice and acidity in my dishes.”

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash (about 2½ pounds) 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1 cup panko crumbs 
1½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves 
½ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes 
¼ cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Method

Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add the whole squash and cook, partially covered, until tender, about 45 minutes. (A knife will pierce the flesh very easily when cooked.) Drain, cool slightly, then remove and discard the stem and peel. Reserve the seeds, removing and discarding the strings. 

Transfer the flesh to a large serving dish and mash with a fork into an even layer. Drizzle the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the oil over the squash, and season with salt and pepper. 

Heat 3 tablespoons of the squash seeds in a large skillet over medium-low heat until dry. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt and toast, tossing occasionally. When the seeds begin to pop, partially cover the pan. Continue toasting until golden brown, about 3 minutes, then transfer to a plate. 

In the same skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, then toss in the crumbs. When well coated, stir in the thyme, chile and ¼ teaspoon salt. Toast, tossing occasionally until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and toasted seeds. Spread the crumb mixture over the squash in an even layer and serve immediately.

Gemma's stuffing with fruit
Gemma Gray’s stuffing with fruit
Casa del Mar

Stuffing with Fruits
Gemma Gray, Executive Chef at Casa del Mar Hotel Santa Monica

Gemma Gray’s Spanish background serves her well as the force behind Casa del Mar’s Mediterranean-Californian cuisine; it was also instrumental in her time working with fellow Spaniard José Andrés at his popular L.A. hotspot Tres. Since immigrating to SoCal, she has discovered that Thanksgiving is one of her favorite American holidays. “To me, Thanksgiving is a chance to celebrate family time with loved ones, along with a beautiful feast of seasonal foods prepared in both traditional and non-traditional styles. Since I came to America, I have been preparing Thanksgiving dinner along with my husband and mother-in-law. We cook beautiful collard greens, yams, stuffing, and turkey as a family — without ever forgetting a fun sweet potato pie,” Gray reveals. 

One of her favorite side dishes is the turkey stuffing. “It is the perfect vehicle for gravy and turkey jus and uses seasonal herbs that make me feel at home,” she says. “I like to make mine with fruits like apple, cranberry, orange zest, and my favorite seasonal ingredient, chestnuts. If you have ever spent time in Spain or Italy, you know the gorgeous smell of chestnuts roasting on open coals sitting along alleys and sidewalks. To me, this is the quintessential Thanksgiving side. Not only does it make me feel at home on Thanksgiving, but it jogs my memory of fireplaces, family and friends.”

Ingredients

18 to 24 ounces bread cubes (use good quality bread; we use a mix of cornbread, country bread and baguettes, and we toast them)
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups diced ¼-inch Spanish onion 
2 cups diced ¼-inch celery
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, cut in ¼-inch pieces
½ a leek, cut in ¼-inch pieces
1 cup mix of chopped mushrooms (cremini, morel, chanterelles) 
1 cup diced mix of seasonal potatoes, blanched (Okinawa, yams, boniato)
2 ounces pignolias (pine nuts)
4 ounces chestnuts (roasted)
1 cup apples (Granny Smith, Envy, or Jazz)
2 ounces dried apricots
Orange zest
Kosher salt and pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
A mixture of fresh herbs minced (sage, chives, parsley, thyme leaves, oregano leaves)

Method

Cut bread into cubes — the size of your cubes can be small or large as you like. Place cubed bread in a large baking dish and into a 325° F oven, toasting them until they are like croutons. 

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add all the vegetables — onions, garlic, carrots, celery and leeks, with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until all veggies are translucent and soft, add the blanched potato mix and toss. 

In another pan, add a little olive oil and butter and bloom dried apricots (use cranberries if you like); add mushrooms and sauté, then add nuts. When done, add to the vegetable mixture and toss in all the chopped herbs and orange zest.

Pour the mixture into the toasted bread cubes; stir and fold into the bread cubes until thoroughly combined.

Salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth and add to bread mixture; fold gently until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake until internal temperature in the center of the dressing reads 160° F, about 20 minutes

Continue to bake dressing, uncovered, until set and top is browned and crisp, 30–35 minutes.

Sagar Gosh’s Tandoori chicken
Arth Bar

Tandoori Chicken 
Chef Sagar Ghosh of Arth Bar + Kitchen

He may be transplanted to Culver City in Southern California, but India native Sagar Ghosh is still cooking up wonderful renditions of both traditional and non-traditional dishes from all over his home country at Arth Bar + Kitchen. He likes to put a bit of a twist onto his Thanksgiving table by making tandoori chicken. “Being in the U.S. for Thanksgiving is unique for me because my immediate family is in India, and so I don’t have the opportunity to be with them. It is an important holiday for me in the U.S. because it is a time where I can come together with my friends here to fill that void and celebrate the holiday with them. Thanksgiving is also important to me as a chef, as it allows me to put my own flare on traditional American holiday dishes,” he reveals.

Ingredients

1.5 pounds skinless whole chicken
4 ounces ginger garlic paste
4 ounces lemon juice 
2 ounces Kashmiri red chili powder  
Salt to taste
8 ounces hung curd  (Greek yogurt)
2 ounces Deghi chili powder 
2 ounces roasted gram flour 
1 ounce Kasoori methi powder 
2 ounces garam masala spice blend
2 ounces mustard oil 
2 ounces coriander powder 
8 ounces unsalted melted butter 
1 ounces chaat masala powder

Method

The marination process is a two-step process. First we marinate the chicken with ginger garlic paste, salt and lemon juice. We then keep it overnight so the chicken can soak in all the juices. This is basically Indian-style brining.

After this, the second step is to marinate the chicken again with hung yogurt, chili powder, salt, lemon juice and garam masala. To begin, make incisions with a sharp knife on the chicken breast, legs, and thighs. Apply a mixture of one teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, one tablespoon lemon juice and salt over the chicken and set aside for an hour.

For the marinade, tie up yogurt in a piece of muslin and hang over a bowl for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the thick yogurt from the muslin into a bowl and add the following spices: red chili powder, salt, ginger garlic paste, lemon juice, garam masala powder, mustard oil, coriander powder, Kasoori methi powder, and roasted gram flour, then mix everything well.

Evenly mix the previously mentioned spices over the chicken and marinate for 3 to 4 hours in a refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place the chicken on a rack set over a shallow roasting pan or jelly roll pan for 15 minutes.

Baste chicken with a little butter and cook for another 5 minutes. When done, remove and set aside.

Sprinkle with chat masala powder and serve with onion rings and lemon wedges.

Chef Brendan Collins's stuffing
Chef Brendan Collins’s sage and onion stuffing
Fia Santa Monica

Sage and Onion Stuffing with Sausage and Pecans
Chef Brendan Collins of Fia Restaurant Santa Monica

English chef Brendan Collins comes to his own restaurant Fia by way of stints at Michelin-starred places like Melisse (Santa Monica) and Quo Vadis (London). Now settled in Santa Monica, Collins compares American Thanksgiving to a classic English holiday. “Thanksgiving was an easy American tradition for me to assimilate to, as it’s pretty much the same as Christmas Day lunch back in England. I was very fortunate on my first Thanksgiving to be invited to a friend’s family home to get a full and authentic look at how important Thanksgiving is to America. That’s a tradition I’ve carried on with my wife and daughter, and friends. When I’m not working in the restaurant, that is!” 

“The trick to this stuffing comes with the chicken bouillon cubes, as they work as the main seasoning and give the stuffing a beautiful savory umami flavor,” Collins says. “It’s a very traditional English stuffing that I Americanized to great effect. I’m pretty sure this will be your go-to stuffing in future.”

Ingredients

1 small loaf brioche, diced and slightly dried out
1 small onion, diced
4 tablespoons chopped sage (fresh is best)\
2 4-ounce pork sausages, cooked and diced 
¼ pound butter 
1 pint chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes 
¼ cup chopped pecans 
2 whole eggs

Method

In a medium heat pan, melt the butter and slowly cook the onions, until translucent. Don’t caramelize them — it will make the stuffing too sweet.

Add sage and cook for about a minute, then allow to cool. 

Transfer onions to a large bowl, add the brioche and toss. Crumble the bouillon cubes and add the stock, sausage and pecans, giving it a good mix, squishing the bread to incorporate the mix. Add the eggs and mix again 

Place in a baking dish and cook at 350˚F for 20 minutes or until cooked throughout.