By Meaghan Dolan
Turkey is the centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and the nemesis of many a Thanksgiving chef. If you’re already breaking out in a sweat trying to figure out what to do with 20 pounds of poultry, relax. Assistance is available.
The first option for the aspiring turkey chef: learn the ropes with a holiday cooking class. “Cooking a turkey is definitely intimidating.” said Abigail Hitchcock, chef of CAMAJE Bistro on Macdougal Street. “Everyone is afraid of ending up with a dried-out bird, and there’s the added stress of having all your family there.” Classes on Thanksgiving dinner preparation are increasingly popular. CAMAJE offers cooking classes year-round, and their “Veterans Day: My First Thanksgiving” class tries to make the arduous task simple for jittery hosts.
Check with cooking schools in your neighborhood for class schedules. Seats fill up fast, despite costing as much as your dinner will (at an average registration fee of around $100), so register now to guarantee a seat. The New School’s “Talking Turkey” class is already a sold-out show, but there’s still room at the “Roast Goose Workshop.”
If you can’t make it to a class, participate in another New York Thanksgiving tradition: get it catered. Purchasing the Thanksgiving meal has grown in popularity as New Yorkers continue to find themselves stressed and strapped for time around the holidays. “Every year we see an increase,” said Andrea Watman of Zabar’s Catering. Watman expects Zabar to improve on last year’s sales of 500 roasted turkeys and 100 smoked turkeys. The staff kicks it in to overdrive to fill such a large number of orders in house.
Zabar’s will deliver turkey and all the classic trimmings, as well as more gourmet fare like French Fois Gras with Truffle or Saffron Rice Pilaf. Or skip the sides and attempt to fake out your guests by sneaking the turkey in before they arrive. Zabar’s 18-pounder will feed a crew of 16-18 people and cost you $89 (the 12lb. turkey costs $58).
Butterfield Market on Lexington and 77th Street also makes it easy to come off like a culinary genius. Their Oven Ready Free Range Turkey comes cleaned, stuffed, basted and seasoned but still raw. Simply follow their easy cooking instructions and take all the credit as the delicious aromas waft through your home. Prices start at $54 for their smallest bird (not counting delivery) and a full menu of trimmings and desserts are available, just be sure to get your order in by Nov. 19.
Finally, if you fear your tiny table will buckle under the weight of a giant turkey feast, go out to eat on the holiday. You and your loved ones will find yourself in good company. New York City restaurants are packed not only with tourists in town for the parade, but residents who prefer their holiday dinners utterly hassle free. BLT Steak on East 57th Street is seating from 2-9pm on Thanksgiving Day, serving tasty traditional fare with a gourmet tweak: like Wild Mushroom Risotto with Mushroom Cappuccino, Roasted Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing, and Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie. For a bit wilder take on the classic meal, Chef Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain on West 52nd Street has Gold Corn Johnny Cake with Barbequed Duck, Fig and Pinot Noir Chutney, and a Pumpkin Brown Sugar Crème Caramel on their holiday menu.
If the idea of not cooking the bird yourself still leaves you plagued with guilt, try considering it a gift to your family. “People want to enjoy the parade and enjoy their family.” said Watman, “We let them do that and still have a wonderful quality, traditional Thanksgiving dinner.”
TOP 5 PLACES TO GET THANKSGIVING FOOD
By Ayana L. Haywood
Appetizers: While dinner is prepared it’s a good idea to have some starters to settle the guests and get conversation going. 1. Dean & Deluca offers appetizers such as creamy clam chowder for $25 with hand-shucked soft-shell clams as well as a breast and thigh chicken potpie for $28. (800) 221-7714.
Turkeys: Thanksgiving doesn’t seem complete without a turkey on the table. At 2. Citarella, there is a wide selection of turkeys to choose from. The Kosher turkey is available at 10 to 12 pounds for $2.99 per pound. (212) 874-0383.
Sides: A turkey is great, but it’s the dressing and sides that give the meal a more festive feel as food is added to the plate. The best place for sides this holiday is 3. Balducci’s, where they come in serving pans for six people. For $14.99 traditional herbed stuffing can be on the menu. (866) 278-8866.
Desserts: For the ultimate pumpkin cheesecake, 4. Zabar’s offers this delectable delight for $16.99. Mixed with pumpkin puree and spices, finishing off the meal with this cheesecake is a new twist on an old favorite. (212) 787-2000.
Wines & Ciders: At 5. Eli’s Wine, the wine list comes from all over the world. Straight from France is a $299.99 bottle of Hudelot-Noellat Romanee St.Vivant burgundy red wine. For $49.99, a more mid-range choice might be the Livon “Braide Mate” Chardonnay, Veneto white wine from Italy. (212) 717-8100.