Just don’t ask them to cook
How professional chefs do the Thanksgiving feast
By Amy Diaz firstname.lastname@example.org
When you’re a professional chef, holidays present a particular problem — cooking for a living is grueling, and a day when your restaurant is actually closed is a blessing to many chefs, but do you want to be tethered to the stove at home?
You certainly aren’t going to eat jarred gravy and Stove Top. What’s a chef to do?
“There is no up-at-the-crack of dawn to put a turkey in the oven for me,” said Michael Dussault, executive chef at Manhattan on Pearl, Nashua.
Dussault works often works seven days a week turning out tapas at this downtown eatery, so he welcomes a day when the restaurant is closed. As for a traditional holiday dinner, he has a simple, modified version in mind.
Dussault is stopping by the deli to pick up five pounds of Thanksgiving turkey (a seasonal specialty item found at delis in major supermarkets), ingredients to make stuffing and gravy and several loaves of Wonder Bread. On Thanksgiving, he plans on sleeping until he wakes up, then lounging on the couch watching football and eating hot turkey sandwiches.
“Nothing beats Wonder Bread for a hot turkey sandwich. I find not cooking a big meal to be easier, because the way I am, if I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, it would have to be over the top, a great feast. I am opting to relax instead,” he said.
For Jeff Paige, chef and co-owner of Cotton in Manchester, Thanksgiving and Christmas are two days where he lets others — mainly his mother and his wife — do the cooking while he does repairs on his restaurant.
“Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two days I typically don’t cook. My mom or Peaches do all the cooking except for the gravy. So actually I do cook a tiny bit, just traditional gravy made from the pan drippings,” Paige said.
Also taking advantage of a rare day when his restaurant is closed, Angelo Bruno, chef and owner of Mangia in Hooksett, plans on kicking back on the couch watching the Macy’s Day parade with his fiancé while a pork loin that has been marinated in olive oil, salt and pepper for 24 hours, roasts in the oven. He’ll serve it with simple herbed roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables.
“It is a lazy day for me, that is the plan. I close Mangia because Thanksgiving is not an Italian holiday and even if I cooked traditional Thanksgiving meal, it wouldn’t be the same. So I take the day off,” Bruno said.
Z Food & Drink, newcomer to downtown Manchester, is closed on Thanksgiving, so co-owners Tom Puskarich and Maureen Cidzik are taking the opportunity to entertain Cidzik’s family at the restaurant.
Z staff is prepping Thanksgiving dinner all week and Puskarich will prepare a dinner for 18 solo on Thanksgiving.
“Why wouldn’t I have it in the restaurant? I have a commercial kitchen, a commercial dishwasher and enough of everything. Plus, when we go home later, our house is clean,” Puskarich said. Last year Puskarich and Cidzik hosted Thanksgiving dinner at their Manchester home, before they opened the restaurant. This year, it is the first time in the last 10 years that all of Cidzik’s siblings have been in the same place at the same time, so they opted for the restaurant.
For the menu, Puskarich has ordered an organic, free range turkey, will whip up several side dishes at his whim, all improvised based on what is fresh.
“I have been told in no uncertain terms not to change the recipe [to his mother’s stuffing]. At all. No freelance creativity here, just follow the recipe, so I am,” he said with a laugh.