Thanksgiving Talk with Food52's Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs


[Photograph: Sarah Shatz]

Each week Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs host recipe contests revolving around specific foods (everything from pancakes to lamb) on their site Food52. After testing the recipes, they announce the two tastiest finalists and the community votes on the winner. Naturally, they've been focusing on Thanksgiving lately. Elbow-deep in stuffing preparation, they paused to chat with us and share some of their favorite recipes for Thanksgiving sides, including celeriac puree, glazed brussels sprouts with browned butter and cream, potato leek au gratin, and pink greens.

bug-holiday-turkey-100px.pngWith Food52 in its first year, how did you two plan to attack Thanksgiving coverage? Merrill and Amanda: Well, we decided very quickly not to do turkey. It's such a personal thing. Instead we wanted to focus the two weekly challenges on sides. We recently did one on just brussels sprouts—they've experienced such a renaissance in restaurants over the last few years—and we're wrapping up the cranberry sauce and stuffing categories now.

Do you actually mean stuffing? Or what's technically known as dressing? Merrill: My family always made "dressing" (cooked outside of the bird) but still called it stuffing. We were pretty loosey goosey as far as naming goes. Amanda: Same. I'm a dressing person but growing up, we always called it stuffing. Though I'm open to the idea of referring to it as dressing.

After all this recipe testing, where will you be spending your actual Thanksgiving this year? Merrill: At my family's house in Maine. We ordered a heritage turkey and there will definitely be some football-watching after. Amanda: We're going to a friends' house just two blocks away. I've actually never hosted Thanksgiving myself. I just bring whatever the host asks me to.

How do you know what to bring as a guest? Amanda: There's this pumpkin chiffon mousse with gingersnap crust recipe from a Gourmet issue in 2001 that I love. It has a super intense pumpkin flavor, but with the lightness of mousse. It takes about twenty bowls to make but if that's all you have to bring, it's the perfect punctuation to the end of the meal. I haven't gotten my assignment yet for this year but if I get dessert, I'll definitely be making this again.

What's the favorite dish at the Stubbs household? Merrill: My mom always makes this great dish with cipollini onions, raisins, and pine nuts, where you cook it down until the onions become all soft. She doesn't have a technical name for it, just Tuscan Onion Goo, but I'd like to call it something more official like Tuscan Onion Confit.

Thanksgiving traditions? Amanda: As a food writer, I've always done something different each year. In 2000, I did a piece for the New York Times on American Thanksgiving traditions. I flew out to Huntington Beach, California, to celebrate with a Vietnamese family (where they had spring rolls to start and persimmons after the meal) and to the South where we had sweet potato pie. In some ways, Food52 reminds me of that experience since we're testing recipes from so many different regional home cooks.

What were some of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes in recent Food52 challenges?

Now, one of the best parts about Thanksgiving. Leftovers. What are your favorite morning-after concoctions? Merrill: For sure the leftovers sandwich with turkey, cranberry, and stuffing. Preferably on a big white country loaf, or whatever's lying around. Amanda: One member of the Food52 community, Melissa V., recommended a fried egg on top of stuffing. I tried it and it's great. The idea of frying an egg and throwing it on stuffing could never be bad.