Ruth Reichl has become the first rock star food writer. I know, because when I walk down the street with her, people ask her for autographs. From her stints as a restaurant critic, first for the Los Angeles Times and then for the New York Times (where she became famous for her elaborate disguises to elude recognition in restaurants), she created the story-based, narrative-driven restaurant review. Now from her perch as the editor in chief of Gourmet, certainly the best known of the food glossies, she has succeeded in making a formerly stodgy magazine utterly contemporary without losing its gravitas and relevance. We caught up with her on the phone a few days ago to talk turkey. We found out there's hell to pay if you bring a dish to her Thanksgiving. And she couldn't disagree more with Christopher Kimball about how to approach turkey day.
Find out what Ruth Reichl is cooking at her Thanksgiving after the jump.
Thanksgiving is every food editor's nightmare. Every year we have to come up with ways to do it different, ways to make exciting all over again.
So did you end up getting excited this year?
We just sort of bumped into it. In our test kitchen we have one Italian woman and one Asian woman, and they started telling us about dishes they were going to be serving at their Thanksgivings, which are truly cross-cultural affairs. A lot of them sounded great, so we just went with them. Then we added a traditional Thanksgiving with a few twists and a vegetarian Thanksgiving menu. We figured we had all the bases covered at that point.
So what were the great dishes you discovered in the process?
The grappa cranberry mold from the Italian menu is amazing. There isn't one person from the magazine not making that this year. The Chinese stuffing is really, really good. The Japanese sweet potatoes are the simplest, most delicious sweet potatoes I've ever eaten. And the stir-fried baby bok choy is so fresh and light it complements so many other richer Thanksgiving dishes.
So what's the Reichl Thanksgiving like?
It's my favorite holiday. It's five solid days of feeding people and hanging out. What could be better than that? We have 20 people at our house in the country, friends from New York City and all over the country, and of course my husband, Michael, and my son. People are sleeping in blow-up beds. It's like a five-day pajama party.
So what bird would be found at the Reichl Thanksgiving?
We have two birds, a giant one and a small one, because Michael is always worried about running out of food. His insistence on the giant bird is why there's a section in this month's Gourmet about how to roast a giant turkey.
What's your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?
The pies. I'm a baker. I get up at four in the morning and make four or five pies, pumpkin, apple, some kind of nut pie, a couple of pies out of the magazine. This year I'm going to make the cranberry almond crostata and the ricotta tart from the Italian menu. The crust is key for the pies. I use a combination of transfat-free Crisco and butter.
How do you feel about sharing the cooking responsibilities for Thanksgiving?
I don't want anyone bringing anything. For me, Thanksgiving gives me the chance to focus exclusively on one thing—cooking. And that's what I want to do. I want my guests to sit back, relax, and enjoy the food. Now if they want to help with the dishes, that's another story.
Many more recipes from the pages of Gourmet can be found on the Gourmet Magazine website.