News & Politics

What Do Local Chefs Make for Their Thanksgiving Dinners?

Chefs from Sou’Wester to Birch & Barley fill you on their favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

If you’ve ever wanted to go beyond the typical turkey and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, look to what chefs serve when they’re eating at home. Rachael Harriman of Sou’Wester tells how to create the stuffing her family has made for generations. Keep everyone sticking around for dessert with the cranberry-walnut pie that Buck’s Fishing & Camping chef Vickie Reh has been perfecting for more than 25 years.

All recipes serve six to eight.

Brian Wilson, Eola

Kabocha-Squash Soup With Spiced Crème Fraîche and Cocoa Powder

3 medium kabocha squash, about 6 pounds total
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
Thyme sprigs as needed
2 medium onions, diced
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 dash cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 cup Madeira or dry sherry
4 quarts light chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 cup crème fraîche
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1⁄8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Cocoa powder as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds. Slice into quarters. Place the squash into a shallow roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. Evenly distribute the butter over the squash, then drizzle it with a little olive oil. Top with a few thyme sprigs, cover the pan with foil, and roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the squash is just tender. Remove the foil and let the squash cool in the pan. Discard the thyme stems. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape all of the flesh from the skin and discard the skins. Reserve the flesh and any juices that have accumulated at the bottom of the roasting pan.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, begin heating 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and bay leaf. Add a pinch of salt and the cayenne. Sauté the vegetables gently until they’re just translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sherry vinegar and cook until it has completely evaporated. Add the Madeira or sherry and cook until it’s almost dry and a little syrupy. Add the reserved squash and juices, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to low. Stirring occasionally, cook the squash and vegetables together for 15 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring up to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat. Discard the bay leaf. Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Adjust the seasoning to taste. If the soup is too thick, thin with additional warm stock. If it’s too thin, simmer the puréed soup on the stove over medium heat until desired thickness. Mix the crème fraîche, heavy cream, nutmeg, and a small pinch of salt in a bowl.

To serve, ladle the soup into warm soup bowls, top with the crème fraîche, and dust with cocoa powder.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Pancetta, Almonds, and Mustard

2 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup skin-on chopped almond pieces
4 ounces pancetta, sliced thinly or diced to ¼-inch cubes
1 small shallot, diced
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¾ cup light olive oil plus more for drizzling the sheet pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the Brussels sprouts in half and remove any discolored or dirty outer leaves. Drizzle a sheet pan with olive oil. Place the Brussels sprouts, cut side down, on the pan and season with salt. Dot the pan with the butter. Roast in the oven until the sprouts are tender and the cut side has browned and slightly caramelized, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool. Cut each Brussels sprout in half again to make quarters. Place them in a large bowl and set aside.

Toast the almond pieces in a pan in the oven until just fragrant but not burned, about 5 minutes. Add the almonds to the bowl of Brussels sprouts.

Place a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat and cook the pancetta as you would bacon until it’s crisp and has rendered a good amount of fat. Remove the pancetta from the pan and add to the bowl with the sprouts and almonds. Turn the heat down to low and, in the same pan, add the diced shallot. Sauté the shallot without coloring until it’s tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in both mustards. Add the olive oil and stir to make a vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Mix the sprouts, almonds, and pancetta in the bowl to distribute evenly. Arrange the mixture on a serving platter and drizzle the warm vinaigrette over the top, using as much as desired. Save any remaining vinaigrette.
Rachael Harriman, Sou’Wester

Mom’s Thanksgiving Stuffing

1 Spanish onion, minced
2 celery stalks, minced
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound pork sausage
1 bunch fresh sage, chopped
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
14 ounces cubed bread
Canola oil for sautéing

Set a large pot with a small amount of canola oil over low heat. Sweat the onion and celery until translucent. Add the ground beef, pork sausage, sage, and garlic powder, and cook 80 percent of the way. In the meantime, place the bread in a bowl and lightly moisten it. Once the meat is almost finished cooking, add the bread. Continue until all the meat is cooked and the lightly moistened bread crumbs have soaked up the liquid in the pan. The stuffing is best if made a day ahead.

Vickie Reh, Buck’s Fishing & Camping

Carrots in Walnut Vinaigrette

Makes five cups.

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¾ cup cider vinegar
½ cup walnut oil
½ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 pinch white pepper
1 pound carrots (preferably different colors)

In a bowl, mix the mustard and vinegar. Whisk in the oils. Whisk in salt and pepper and season to taste.
Peel the carrots. Using a box grater or the shredding attachment on your food processor, shred the carrots. Dress the carrots with vinaigrette to taste. Season to taste and serve.

Cranberry-Walnut Pie

Makes one nine-inch pie.

1 9-inch pie crust, preferably homemade
3 large eggs
2⁄3 cup brown sugar
2⁄3 cup light corn syrup
½ stick butter (melted and cooled but still liquid)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups chopped cranberries
1¼ cups chopped walnuts
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Set the pie crust in a pie plate, cover with foil and pie weights (dried beans work well) and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and bake for 5 more minutes. Cool on a rack.

Lower the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and vanilla and blend until smooth. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts. Pour into the prebaked shell and bake on the oven’s middle rack for 40 minutes. Cool before slicing. Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Aunt Ruth’s Sour-Cream Cookies

½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
1¼ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup sour cream
½ cup grated coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

With beaters or in a stand mixer, mix the shortening, butter, sour cream, and sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix again. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Add coconut if desired. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured pastry board. Cut into desired shapes. Bake for 10 minutes—the bottoms should be lightly browned, but not the tops.
Kyle Bailey, Birch & Barley

Braised Turkey

Legs, thighs, and wings from 1 turkey
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
½ sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk celery
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed for sautéing

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Rub the legs, thighs, and wings from the turkey with butter and salt, and sear over medium-high heat to get a golden crust. Set aside.

Sauté the vegetables in olive oil over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with wine and let reduce. Add the stock and turkey to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook in the oven until tender and falling off the bone, between 1 and 2 hours. Reduce liquid by ¾ and reserve for stuffing.


¾ cup milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour

Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Using a large-holed cheese grater, press the batter through and into the water. Allow the spaetzle to cook until set. Scoop out and reserve.


3 stalks celery, chopped small
1 large carrot, chopped small
1 sweet onion, chopped small
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 recipe spaetzle (see above)
¼ cup chicken stock
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 leaves sage, chopped
2 teaspoons whole celery seed
Picked turkey from a roast as needed
Reserved braising liquid from turkey recipe above

Sauté the celery, carrot, and onion in butter and salt in a standard pot over medium heat. Add the spaetzle and cook over high heat, adding stock, until they’re plump and puffed. Stir in the garlic, herbs, and seasonings

Mix with any picked turkey, add a bit of the braising liquid, cover, and bake at 350 degrees until heated through. Serve with the turkey.

Staff Writer

Michael J. Gaynor has written about fake Navy SEALs, a town without cell phones, his Russian spy landlord, and many more weird and fascinating stories for the Washingtonian. He lives in DC, where his landlord is no longer a Russian spy.