Applewood Director of Dining Dishes on His Own Thanksgiving

Applewood Director of Dining Dishes on His Own Thanksgiving

Do you ever wonder what chefs and culinary professionals prepare in their own homes for the holidays?

Amidst the constant flurry of our Dining Services department, we corralled director Heath Braunstein to get the 411 on his family’s Thanksgiving plans this year.

He sat down with us this week for a rapid-fire Q & A about his holiday plans:

What are your plans for Thanksgiving this year?

We always host Thanksgiving at our home. There will be 13 of us celebrating this year!

What’s it like to be a professional foodie at Thanksgiving? Are you in charge at home?

Thanksgiving is a true family affair for us – I always prep, roast and carve the turkey and make fresh cranberry sauce (forget that canned stuff). My mother-in-law prepares her traditional cracker stuffing and my wife makes the potatoes, appetizers and other side dishes.

What are some traditional favorite family recipes that you grew up with and what are some dishes you prepare every Thanksgiving for your own family?

Although she didn’t cook much, my mother’s specialty was Fettucine Alfredo. My family often went out to restaurants, even on holidays!  Aside from Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve is another holiday that we always host at our home. We always prepare a large seafood feast that features fried & baked shrimp, mussels, linguine & white clam sauce, fried calamari & scungilli marinara.

Any inside tips for cooking the perfect turkey?

Always make sure your turkey is fully thawed – best to do this in the refrigerator, several days in advance. I fill the cavity of the turkey with sliced onions, fresh rosemary, sage and thyme from my garden.

Cook your stuffing in a separate pan to avoid contamination from the turkey juices. Brush the skin with some melted butter and roast in an uncovered pan until a food thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the thigh reaches about 175 degrees. Allow the bird to rest out of the oven about 20-30 minutes before carving.

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What is your favorite side dish and why?

I make a great cornbread, apricot & sausage stuffing. It’s just the right balance of sweet and savory flavors.

Dessert – what’s your favorite and why?

I have to go with a good Key Lime pie – it has always been one of my favorites and not something you see featured all the time on menus.

Any insight on cocktails, wine and aperitifs?

Throw out the rule books and drink what you enjoy. If you prefer a delicious red wine with poultry and fish or white wine with steak – just enjoy!  Personally, I like Johnny Walker Black on the Rocks and a full-bodied red wine with my meal, such as a Malbec or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Any advice for people running the kitchen on Thanksgiving?

Time your menu item preparation. Plan your menu and cook the dishes that take longer first, quicker recipes should be cooked last. It’s more difficult than it sounds, especially when you have guests coming in and out of the kitchen to chat. There’s nothing worse than preparing several items too soon and serving cold or overcooked food that should be hot and fresh.

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Thanks for your time, Heath. We are officially very hungry. What time is dinner at your house?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

To learn more about Applewood’s renowned cuisine, including our exclusive Culinary Institute of Applewood and freestyle dining program, visit Applewood Dining Services.