How Miami Chefs Celebrate Thanksgiving at Home
Young chef Todd Erickson and his Grandma making cranberry sauce.
Courtesy of Todd Erickson
Thanksgiving is tomorrow and, for most of us, that conjures up a dinner table filled with turkey, mashed potatoes, string beans, and pumpkin pie.
But, with the United States (and Miami), being a gigantic melting pot of cultures, what really constitutes a Thanksgiving dinner? The New York Times recently posted a map that listed the most popular and unique holiday dish in every state. The findings were as diverse as our country. Florida's was flan de calabaza, while New York's side of choice was the stuffed artichoke. Be thankful you don't live in Utah where the macabre-sounding funeral potatoes are a hit or Nevada's frog eye salad, which combines pasta salad with coconut, pineapple, Mandarin oranges, and marshmallows. (Here's a recipe, if you're curious.)
We asked some of Miami's favorite chefs to weigh in on what's on their family tables. From a traditional meal to a vegan spread, here are our favorites.
Cesar Zapata, the Federal Food Drink, & Provisions
As a kid, we had huge holiday celebrations. My father has 22 siblings and half of them were in Jersey when I was growing up. That meant lots of cousins, aunts and uncles -- 50 to100 people! My mom would dress me up and we'd all have turkey, arroz con gandules, lechon, chicarrón, sweet potato pie, and more. We married the American and Colombian celebratory foods. I'd say my childhood Thanksgivings just may've been the start of my inspiration for what we do at the Federal, especially with our Jar o'Duck! But it was definitely a party every year. If there is one thing that Colombians do, it's party. It's in our blood. Aguardiente and coquito everywhere, football watching, adults laughing, kids playing. I miss those days. It was so much fun!
Dena Marino, MC Kitchen
I grew up in New Jersey and our Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a HUGE family gathering. I'm talking 30 people!! It was nuts, but everyone knew the drill. It was always at my grandparents house and, as the family grew it became bigger and bigger -- which meant more food. Being Italian American, we always had a variety of dishes. Of course, we started with the salumi's (that were made in my grandparents shed). Calabrese was my favorite as a child. We would have cheeses, foccicia and stuffed breads. Then came the salads made from mixed greens that my grandmother grew in her yard. W'd have lasagna or baked ziti with meatballs, sausages, pork neck bones, and ribs that were all cooked in the gravy! Of course, then we had the turkey and all the fixins, usually glazed carrots, yams with candied pecans, green beans or asparagus and grandma's "famous" stuffing (which consisted of a sweet brioche, mirepoix vegetables and a spicy Italian sausage). By the way, I "stole" the recipe to make my Thanksgiving stuffing with pannetone, sausage and mirepoix, it's sooooo good! But, we're not finished, because there was dessert. I really do not even know where to start because we always had a ton of stuff from amaretto cookies, cannolis, sfogliatelle, cakes, pies, cream puffs, napoleons, biscotti, and budinos. There were also roasted whole fresh almonds, walnuts and chestnuts! I cannot forget all the house made wine that everyone would bring over, not to mention the ports and lemoncellos!
Jamie DeRosa, Tongue & Cheek
We have a pretty traditional Thanksgiving with tons of food, some spirits, family, and football. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, green beans, and maybe some lasagna or baked ziti thrown in. We have a large family and everyone comes together for Turkey Day and, of course, the FSU/UF game Thanksgiving weekend.
Todd Erickson, Haven and Huahua's Taqueria
One Thanksgiving tradition that goes back as far as I can remember is making the cranberry sauce with my Grandma Lois. I remember being really little and getting so excited about the sound of the cranberries popping. I always loved how those nasty, sour little berries could turn into something so delicious under the careful watch of my grandmother. This year is very special for my family as we will all be celebrating Grandma's 95th Birthday on Thanksgiving Day. So in addition to the pecan and pumpkin pies, we will be serving a big birthday cake as well. We truly have many things to be thankful for.
Richard Hales, Sakaya Kitchen and Blackbrick
We are starting a new tradition this year in my house -- vegan Thanksgiving. I'm pretty much trying to go vegan/raw in 95 percent of my diet, so we are experimenting this year. Wife Hales will be doing all the cooking, which is the tradition in our house, so our table will be filled with mashed sweet potato, sourdough stuffing, mushroom gravy, roasted Corona Farms vegetables with walnut pesto, Swank Farms heirloom green bean casserole, roasted rosemary tofurkey with dark beer gravy, caramel apple pie, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin pecan ice cream. All vegan, by the way. Jenny does not kid around. She makes all this from scratch.
Ralph Pagano, Naked Taco and Alba Seaside Italian
My Thanksgiving traditions were very NYC. I would go to the parade and sit at Colombus Circle to watch all the action. Then we would head to grandma's house in Brooklyn for all things turkey, tabouli, and Tanqueray. From age 13, I was in charge of carving the bird. We had a friend of my uncle who made incredible cakes with chocolate ganache and white icing. They were really magnificent. On the table there was sausage and fennel stuffing, fresh cranberries, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, butternut squash ravioli with brown butter, pepper crusted filet, string beans almondine, shrimp scampi, baba ghanoush, hummus, grilled lamb chops -- oh and about 20 people for dinner. As an adult in Miami, I drink Champagne and watch the parade on TV> My wife and I invite friends over and we eat, drink, and watch football. I cook a turkey three ways and make pumpkin tortellini and amaretti cookies. We also have tuna au poivre, roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and oysters Rockefeller.
Timon Balloo, Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Growing up in a ethnic household in San Francisco meant that on Thanksgiving it was our time to eat what we considered unique, which was mashed potatoes, gravy, stove top stuffing, green beans, and turkey. Sorry not so exciting. But when you eat rice everyday, mashed potatoes are freaking awesome!!!
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