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Home cooks can get stuck in a rut when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner thanks in part to the holiday being one so steeped in tradition.
Everyone at the dinner table has his or her own opinions, favorite recipes and expectations-- all adding pressure on the home cook. This pressure can even manifest into guilt if the home cook tries to put his or her own twist on the meal. Let's be honest, nobody wants to upstage grandma's recipes.
Updating Thanksgiving doesn't have to mean out with the old and in with the new, and thankfully Le Cordon Bleu offered up one of their best to help out.
"Food is an incredible medium to create and place your own signature on-- just understand flavors, make the dish before the big day to try it and improve it and put lots of love into it," explains Chef Edward Leonard, an executive chef at Le Cordon Bleu.
Chef Leonard boasts and impressive resume, including bringing home the gold in the highly competitive Culinary Olympics. As team chef of the American Culinary Federation’s Team USA from 1998 to 2008, he led a team of American chefs to cook on
an international stage every four years-- winning the coveted world hot food championship in 2004.
The certified master chef has been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving recently, thinking of ways to balance the old with the new. Chef Leonard suggests deconstructing classic meals and putting them back together for an interesting way to reinvent tried-and-true classics.
"A simple way to shake up this year's Thanksgiving feast is to incorporate modern flavors," says the chef. "Using new culinary techniques to create innovative dishes can update the traditional feast for a memorable meal everyone is sure to enjoy."
The success of any dish depends on its flavors and this is one area where the home cook can look for inspiration.
"The home cook should look to incorporate combinations of great flavors that work into fresh food that everyone loves," Chef Leonard says. "For example, roast Brussels sprouts in duck fat from start to finish, incorporate a great extra virgin olive oil in the mashed potatoes or use Cippolini onions rather than pearl onions: peel them, toss with olive oil, butter and sugar and roast them until tender."
The problem with traditional Thanksgiving recipes is that they can feel dated, calling for ingredients from a time when emphasis wasn’t placed on fresh and natural.
"Home cooks can take one item and make it their own," says Chef Leonard. "Do that something special to create the wow factor and the twist without reinventing the wheel. This could be as simple as making that sweet potato casserole and instead of bagged marshmallows on top using real handmade marshmallows from a confectionery store or bakery. It could be no marshmallows on those sweet potatoes, but instead, they are folded with pecan butter and then baked with cobbler dough on top. It could be finishing those mashed potatoes with parmesan cream and extra virgin olive oil over the cream and butter."
Home cooks can also turn to modern ingredients to add their own twist to the big day. A great opportunity for this argues Chef Leonard is the traditional stuffing.
"Try using turkey sausage or bacon in the stuffing. Use bread, such as brioche, for a really moist, slightly sweet and buttery flavor that is to die for! Use shallots instead of onions and peel the celery," explains the chef. "A touch of roasted apple or pear along with the spicy sausage is a great combination."