Thanksgiving Tips & Tricks to ‘Borrow’ From Chicago’s Top Chefs

Moms and dads looking to rule an amazing Thanksgiving table can really change it up this year thanks to some local culinary marvels.

The Main Event

Set up a turkey adjustment kit for when you’re carving! Melt a pound of unsalted butter and brush on parts of the bird that seem a little dry or salty to balance it out and up the moisture content. Also, have a little container of flaky sea salt nearby in case your turkey needs a little extra love before it hits the table. Joe Flamm, Top Chef champion and the force behind restaurant Rose Mary Chicago, and father of Luka

Mash It Up

The potato matters. Pick a starchy potato – think Idaho potato – for fluffy and airy mashed potatoes that pairs with gravy and roasted meats. A waxy potato, such as a Yukon gold, makes a creamier dish that goes better with grilled or seared meat. — Ryan Wombacher, executive chef at Lawry’s The Prime Rib

Use a Kitchen Aid blender, liberally add bacon fat, leave the potato peel on for extra flavor (and less work) and add cheese. — Chef Jeff Vucko of Travelle at The Langham

… Or Ditch the Spuds

Maybe it’s time to change up the sides. Think grits. Chef Bill Kim, of Time Out Market Chicago, suggests coconut grits, a lighter version of cheese grits. Use coconut milk instead of heavy cream. Season them with caramelized onions, garlic and salt, then give them a kick. He loves giardiniera or even diced pickle. The best thing: He says you’ll feel like you have room for pie!


When baking fruit pies, it’s best to coat the bottom of the pie dough with a sugar/flour mixture before baking. Mix sugar and All-Purpose flour in a 1:1 ratio. After lining your pie tin, brush the dough with egg white and sprinkle that mixture all over. Tap the excess out and then fill your tin with your fruit filling. This prevents a soggy bottomed pie. — Pastry Chef Danielle Marelli of Travelle at The Langham

Look at using local ingredients for a more flavorful pie. Using freshly milled whole wheat in the pie crust adds a wonderful nutty and rich flavor. For fillings I recommend finding some different types of squash at your local farmers market, like kabocha, to create a much more flavorful ‘pumpkin’ pie filling. They’re easy to roast and puree in your food processor and really outshine the canned version. — Chef Bobby Schaffer from Lost Larson at Time Out Market Chicago

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