Thanksgiving Favorites from San Diego's Best Chefs

November 21, 2012

Question - what kind of cook are you? Whether you are the make ahead type, an adventurous culinarian with finely honed skills, or a first-timer stuck in the spotlight this Thanksgiving, these tips from San Diego’s well-known chefs will serve up a nice helping of, well…help this year for the ultimate foodie holiday!

Chef Kevin Templeton of barleymash
Executive Chef Kevin Templeton from Downtown hotspot barleymash suggests preparing as much as possible the day before Thanksgiving and always having a glass of wine in hand. Preparing sauces, stuffing and even chopping veggies can be completed earlier in the day or the day before. His most unique Thanksgiving memory - one year he cooked for a former flame’s family in Utah. As one might imagine, a professional chef could get conned into cooking easily, but that particular holiday, it came with a request - a completely sober Thanksgiving (aka - HELL). A chef is an artist and Templeton required that his kitchen canvas be off limits to folks while he cooked…and sipped his booze. The rest of the family enjoyed an alcohol-free holiday.

Encinitas based Union Kitchen and Tap’s Executive Chef, Jason Gethin says an important tip for Thanksgiving cooks is to give it a rest. He is not suggesting getting off one’s feet for awhile, he’s talking about the bird. Tom Turkey needs to rest for at least an hour before it is carved. Gethin says the rest helps the bird retain juices and flavor. While the bird is taking a break, use the oven to heat up the side dishes that were prepped earlier in the day.  His family’s weirdest side dish - oyster stuffing. Gethin says, “not really my favorite, but the East Coasters in my family love it.”

Chef Eli Freebairn of Uptown Tavern
With turkey taking center stage, Chef Eli Freebairn of Uptown Tavern in Hillcrest says he focuses on the desserts next. It’s his favorite part of the making the meal and his goat cheese panna cotta with blueberry sauce, honey candied nuts and dried fruits and cream anglaise was a hit last year. As for the star player, Freebairn wants to be sure turkeys aren’t overcomplicated, “don’t go online looking for the best turkey recipe, hit a bookstore or see if your favorite chef has a recipe.” His most unique Thanksgiving: “Our dog, Chummly, went missing. The whole family spent the evening running around looking for him and while the turkey was burning in the oven,” says Freebairn. The family had a side dish only-supper and Chummly eventually came home safely.

These experts wouldn’t leave you hanging when it comes to leftovers this Thanksgiving. Even if you’ve got to let your belt out a few notches, Chef Eli Freebairn at Uptown Tavern suggests rolling the sliced turkey and stuffing into a roulade, typically a European dish consisting of a slice of meat rolled around a filling, such as cheese, vegetables or other meats. Freebairn says he’d “roll it up, add some whiskey soaked cranberries and do a sage gravy,” but that’s his chef side talking. At home, he just might grab two slices of white bread and you know the rest.  Chef Kevin Templeton from barleymash says his favorite way use leftovers is a creation called the Turkey Bowl. “Start with a deep skillet, line the bottom with olive oil and then add a layer of mashed potatoes, then a layer of green beans, a layer of stuffing,  and finally a layer of sliced turkey,” says Templeton. Smother that concoction with gravy and put it in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and “top it with some good ol’ buffalo wing sauce and maybe an over easy egg.”

In case you’d rather visit these fine establishments instead of getting your own apron out:
-barleymash is open at 9:30am on Thanksgiving Day, serving a great turkey special. For more information, call (619) 255-7373.
-Union Kitchen and Tap is serving a special Thanksgiving dinner from 5-9pm on Thanksgiving Day for $44.95. For reservations, call (760) 230-2337.
-Uptown Tavern is serving a special Thanksgiving meal along with a full menu and drink specials and opens at 4pm on Thanksgiving Day. For more information, call (619) 241-2710.

To all those in SanDiegoVille and beyond, have a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving.  Let's try and be thankful for what we have rather than mentally preparing for the consumerist focus of the next holiday.