6 home cooks share their traditions, Thanksgiving the L.A. way - Liberty

Thursday, September 14, 2023

6 home cooks share their traditions, Thanksgiving the L.A. way


With festive chicken and rice, potato gratin, apple galettes, and more, Los Angeles home cooks are making Thanksgiving their own. (Katrina Frederick/Image)

When Thanksgiving hits each year, a few things are certain: turkeys are roasted, potatoes are mashed, and so many pumpkin pies are baked on the big day. But not everyone's holiday table looks so Rockwellian.

In LA's kitchen, chefs embrace the Thanksgiving mantra of "getting together with loved ones while enjoying great food," creating dishes inspired by past vacations and family heritage. Or someone brought in an unusual word one year that now has a permanent place on the Thanksgiving table. It is a dish that makes you feel more at home on holidays.

We asked six Los Angeles chefs for their must-have holiday recipes and the stories that inspired them. There are classics such as the bubbly cheese potato gratin and the savory and elegant charred apple galette. At the same time, the seasonal offerings include an elaborate Palestinian upside-down chicken and rice dish and broiled pheasant under bacon. There are also traditional celebratory dishes to match. Other nostalgic favorites include a nutty salad dressing from school days, a beautiful seasonal fruit tart, and a rich custard reminiscent of desserts from the grocery store sweets case. Information is also provided.

These dishes are the expression of their respective chefs, showcasing festive gaiety and respecting the traditions that have brought them to where they are today. Without them, Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same.

Home Cooks

  • Cara McConnell, 42, design firm vice president, Atwater Village

Cara McConnell, 42, design firm vice president, Atwater Village. (Dania Maxwell/Image)

"For Thanksgiving, I'm from Oklahoma and my whole family is still there, so I don't go home all the time. I love Friendsgiving in Los Angeles. I personally think cooking a turkey is hard work." I choose to roast the chicken because I think it's a more manageable task and I like personal-sized portions.

Before coming to LA, I lived in Chicago after college. My boss Michan split his childhood between Dublin and Paris. Dinners at his house in the fall were always roasted with a little game and a bird pâté as an appetizer.

Michan always welcomed me to his home in Chicago. , not only as an architect but as a mentor who opened my eyes to refined cuisine and entertainment. He was fascinated by my story and life's journey. We think of him especially at Friendsgiving as we happily loosen up on decades of traditional family foods and come together to experience the holidays in an equally delicious variety of ways.

Sorina Vaziri, 31, artist, Mid-City.  (Dania Maxwell/Image)

“This is a very nostalgic dress for someone who religiously ate the famous Krishna lunch at the University of Florida I went to. It was so delicious that I put the dressing on the salad and on the plate.

Many of my friends in LA are from the University of Florida and have a Friendsgiving potluck every year. So I make this salad every year to return to a simpler time ten years ago when we were all broke and hungry. "

Fabienne Toback, documentary filmmaker, Arts District. (Dania Maxwell/Image)

“I grew up in Manhattan's West Village and was an only child, so I spent much time alone. That's where my love of cooking began, my grandma let me concoct whatever I wanted under the sole proviso that it was baked (why just bake I'm not sure, but I have a vague memory of a charred pan soaking in the sink for weeks...)

Since I don't like sweet things very much, I prefer a salty taste, so gratin has been the touchstone of salty taste since that time. I don't remember if anything was particularly delicious. Still, I do remember the uninterrupted hours of food and flavor exploration and the unconditional embrace of grandma's love and support while I tinkered in her Brooklyn kitchen.

On my mother's side, I spent the summer in Switzerland. [My grandmother] Satsi, as she affectionately called her, lived in Lausanne, a beautiful urban town on Lake Geneva. Long summer days were spent hiking in dense forests, cool Alps, or lakeside in glacier-cold water. No matter where I was or what I was doing, I packed a sandwich for on-the-go enjoyment. Gruyère cheese was always used, whether it was milk bread or baguette.

My gratin dauphinoise is a memory of the food I made myself and has become a signature dish of Thanksgiving. It's arguably always a crowd-pleaser, and a little scoop on your Thanksgiving plate goes a long way. Thick and creamy. It's comfort food you didn't know you were craving.

When I make this dish, it acts as a meditation imbued with childhood memories, allowing me to communicate with the women who helped me become the woman I am today. For that, I am grateful.

  • Hythum Kiswani, 53, commercial real estate broker, Playa del Rey
Hythum Kiswani, 53, commercial real estate broker, Playa del Rey. (Dania Maxwell/Image)

“I am a first-generation Palestinian who moved to Northern California when I was nine years old, right around the time of the Iranian hostage crisis. NorCal, it didn't matter that I wasn't Persian, I was bullied a lot because I was lumped with people from the Middle East as an Iranian. , with a stronger cultural/racial element.

Fast forward a few years and there was some form of assimilation, but not enough for my tastes. Thanksgiving dinner became a frustrating event for me. I was desperate to reduce my abnormalities and feel like I belonged, so I asked my mom and dad to eat a typical American Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. For several years, but eventually, there was a compromise. Sure, we eat turkey, but we still have traditional Arabic food for celebrations. This dish has become a staple of my Thanksgiving meal because of the time and energy required to make it, the wonderfully intense flavor, and my connection to my Palestinian heritage. not seen in As such, it is a manifestation of a family that incorporates whatever ingredients are in the kitchen to feed the family.

Now Maqluba is one of my favorite dishes. I usually request my sisters make it for me when I visit, and I, in turn, cook dishes from my travels for them. Maqluba varies by the recipe: Some add garbanzo beans, others eggplant, and some put a plate in the pot to isolate the meat from the rice. One constant is that it’s a very tasty dish, full of flavor and with wonderful aesthetics and presentation. My mom and sisters all have their own way of preparing it, and I’ve borrowed the best of all of them — with my own touch.”

Karla Subero Pittol, 31, chef, Historic Filipinotown. (Dania Maxwell/Image)

"As long as I've been celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, and as long as I've been a chef and offered to help cook, my dad has always had complete control over the food, so I've never cooked anything but dessert. You can really get in. As a family resident pie lady, that's what they've always stuck with me.

Before I started making pies religiously, I always bought Viktor Benes fruit tarts at the grocery store.

My parents and I are immigrants from Venezuela and had no family here when we first arrived. As our chosen family began to grow and began hosting Thanksgiving at my childhood home in Van Nuys, fruit tarts began to appear. He is the quintessential Latino who to this day chops fruit in his kitchen every day and only shares it with those who walk up to the counter and eat it from the cutting board with him. That was me when I was a kid, but now my teenage years and three teenage sisters live in real time.

The main Tart is cut fruit, and I think that's where it started. Whether it was he who bought it in the first place or not, our extended family has figured it out because now others bring it too.

For years I've been dying to make my own version and this is it. But I like to use persimmons, pomegranates, passion fruits, kiwis, and other fruits that say 'holiday'. ”

Fuyuko Kondo, 65, pâtissière, Pasadena. (Dania Maxwell/Image)

“The sweet smell of oven-baked apples brings back memories of my mother raising five children. Thanksgiving is not a national holiday in Japan and turkey is not common poultry in Japan, but both meant a lot to my family. My mother used to buy a frozen turkeys from American supermarkets. She was thrilled by the big bird and told her that she could invite a lot of people, including foreigners who were away from home and alone.

As much as everyone enjoyed her roast turkey, her apple pie was the highlight of the feast. It was a gridded pie on a sheet tray with a cooked apple filling. In the middle of the pie was a rose made from pie crumbs. She made perfect, flavorful, and delicious pies most of the time, even though she didn't follow the recipe. It's been years since my mom's apple pie days. I've tried to make an apple pie that tastes as good as hers, but never got the full approval of my brother - until recently when he came up with the Apple Galette.

My galette consists of 3 elements. Galette dough is not over-mixed to achieve a flaky crust that stays fresh for days. The green apple compote has a sour taste that brings out the sweetness of the red apple on top. My American and French pastry chef skills make this galette, but its essence is a sweet memory of my mother on Thanksgiving.