Decked out in the dandyish style known as Harlem Proper, chef Marcus Samuelsson celebrates his favorite holiday (and his fantastic new cookbook) with spiced turkey and chocolate-peanut pie.
I’ve loved Thanksgiving ever since I moved to the US from Sweden, where I grew up. I think I get more choked up about this holiday than even the average first-generation American because I know how hard it was for me to make my way here and become a citizen. But I also understand why so many immigrants start to feel wary in early November, wondering if they’ll have any place to go for the holiday. So I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner for all of my friends from other countries ever since I was just starting out as a cook and lived in a tiny apartment in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, with a kitchen so small that I would stand at the stove and my butt would touch the counter behind me.
On Thanksgiving, I’m all about the sides. Mine are relatively traditional, like roasted squash with pecans and cranberries, but I think the classic turkey needs a little help. Could we have picked a more difficult animal to cook well? I season mine with a Moroccan spice blend called ras el hanout (“top of the shop” in Arabic), which can contain more than 30 ingredients, including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and turmeric. I baste it with a vibrant mix of four different citrus juices. If the meat ends up a little dry, that’s what the spiced pan juices are for. And I like to place little dishes of herbs like cilantro, basil and mint around the table. People can nibble them between courses to break up the heaviness.