Food & Wine
November 01, 2008

Why has Thanksgiving become the most important food holiday of the year? Why isn’t it Mother’s Day or Memorial Day? Is it because the pilgrims were the original locavores, and channeling them makes Americans cook some of their best food ever? I’m not entirely sure. I just know that when the F&W staff gears up for the November issue each year, we focus on transforming fantastic American ingredients into great meals.

For our centerpiece Thanksgiving story, we visited Philadelphia chef Jose Garces, whose menu reflects not only North American traditions, but also South American ones inspired by his Ecuadoran heritage. His citrus-marinated turkey and spiced sweet potatoes were not on the pilgrims’ table, but who cares? They taste terrific.

A restaurant chef like Garces certainly knows how to prepare a big meal efficiently. But the rest of us may need help. In our “Ultimate Thanksgiving Planner,” F&W’s Test Kitchen shares five strategies—plus 17 mix-and-match recipes—for a fabulous, stress-free holiday feast.

In another celebration of American ingredients, we checked in with Steve Sando of California’s Rancho Gordo. Sando is committed to reintroducing North and South American heirloom beans to today’s cooks. His Rio Zape beans, eaten by the Hopi Indians of northeastern Arizona, predate the pilgrims by hundreds of years. We also profile forward-thinking men and women who are reviving the traditional art of butchery and highlighting underappreciated cuts. On one of the 29 days of November that isn’t Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll try the tomato-braised veal: It’s slightly smoky and utterly tender.

The more we move forward, the more we recognize the importance of the culinary past. And for this, I give thanks.

Where I’m Coming From

Notes From My Recent Expeditions:

Portland, ME
At 20-seat Bresca, the honey-glazed duck with Roman trading spices was full-flavored and perfectly cooked. 111 Middle St.; 207-772-1004.

El Camino
Brunswick, METhis simple Mexican restaurant is serious about sourcing ingredients locally. Its soft tacos, stuffed with grilled skirt steak rubbed with orange and ancho chiles, were delicious. 15 Cushing St.; 207-725-8228.

Brooklyn, NYI’m ever in search of the best fried chicken in NYC, and I found it at Egg. The skin was supercrispy, the meat was juicy and the starters, like the deviled eggs and country ham, were all amazing. 135 N. 5th St.; 718-302-5151.

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