We wanted to find out what America’s most food-centric holiday looks like for a professional chef. So we sat down with John Adler of our Culinary team—and his answers weren’t what we expected.
Q: It’s almost the most delicious time of the year! What do customers have to look forward to on their Blue Apron menu Thanksgiving week?
We’re all about the sides this year. (Those are the best part of the meal, right?) We designed all of our vegetarian recipes for the week of Thanksgiving to work as side dishes for the big dinner—whether you’re hosting or you’re a guest who’s been tasked with bringing something. We have a roasted fall vegetable salad, a creamed kale tart, a pasta with roasted squash, and, for families, a really delicious take on baked mac and cheese.
Q: What about the rest of the meal? What sort of advice do you give your friends who are hosting and cooking?
It’s funny—most chefs don’t cook on Thanksgiving, because if their restaurants are closed, it’s their one day off. So when I do cook on Thanksgiving, I don’t like to go crazy. I always tell people: it’s a holiday. Just because you’re the cook, you shouldn’t be stressed out. It should be a holiday for you, too!
Q: So what are your top tips for keeping it simple?
Think of things you can prepare in advance. Don’t be afraid of the freezer! Casseroles freeze well; you could make those a week ahead of time. Braised root vegetables actually taste better the next day. And I love doing butternut squash lasagna. I make that two days in advance and just heat it up on the day of. Pasta with squash is one of my favorite seasonal dishes—thus the roasted squash pasta we designed as a Thanksgiving side.
Q: Any go-to options for starters?
Soup makes a great starter. You can make it three days in advance, and then it’s ready to go, which is especially important for a first course. Take it from someone who once thought he was going to make fresh gnocchi for a Thanksgiving starter. For, like, 30 people. On my uncle’s electric stove. Bad idea.
Q: What are the other rules of Thanksgiving? Does everything have to be homemade?
Let’s take a step back. The rules of food are that you enjoy yourself. If you love making pie, make pie! If you don’t love making pie, buy it—or make something else! What’s important is that you bring people together; that you’re enjoying yourself. People don’t want to feel like they’re stressing you out by being there.
Q: Spoken like someone who’s learned that lesson the hard way.
Yeah, one time I was hosting; I was stressed and being miserable, and my sister, Tamar Adler, pulled me aside. (She’s a professional chef and author.) She explained how much grace there is in the ease of service, in being relaxed. It’s such a valuable lesson. So that’s why I say, find ways to enjoy yourself, to not be pulling your hair out. You don’t have to go crazy making six types of mashed potatoes. Pick one. Just don’t forget the butter.