Thanksgiving is the year’s culinary highlight, and Amanda Freitag is passionate about creating the perfect meals for the occasion.
The chef, author and co-host of The Food Network series Chopped welcomed the chance to share tips on making your Thanksgiving prep easier. And since family is usually around for more than just the actual holiday, we asked Freitag what to prepare – and how to serve it – for Thanksgiving dinner, as well as the days before and after. (Amanda, if you’re ever in need of recipe tasters, we are happy to volunteer.)
Night Before Thanksgiving
Q. With prep for the big day well underway, what’s a good low-maintenance, night-before-Thanksgiving dinner?
A. My suggestion is to adopt our family tradition and have a burger night. It is the opposite of Thanksgiving dinner! Add some chips and guacamole, and you have a crowd pleaser. My nieces love burgers and crunchy chips or fries. It is easy to make this meal: Pop the burgers in the oven, put some buns in a bowl, lay out some fixin’s, and it’s done! It’s like having an indoor picnic.
Q. If you’re already hosting family from out of town, how do you keep it easy but still make it feel special?
A. Burger night is fun and easy and allows everyone to relax a little. You can also have some veggie or turkey burgers on hand so that all your guests’ dietary restrictions are met.
Q. What are your tried-and-true Thanksgiving dishes?
A. My table is not complete without my cornbread stuffing and olive oil mashed potatoes… and of course, copious amounts of turkey gravy to pour over everything!
Q. Do you have any out-of-the-ordinary dishes you serve to keep things feeling fresh?
A. I like to change up the typical sweet potato dish each year. This year my friend Kim brought a new version of the sweet potato dish, which was made with Japanese purple potatoes and meringue on top. So exotic and delicious! It was a wonderful break from the usual sweet potato with marshmallows.
Q. How do you dress the table for the main event?
A. Simple elegance describes my style. I like a neutral-colored linen tablecloth and a small centerpiece. My goal is to keep the focus on the food. I like to do family style and use the fun, fancy platters that I have collected over the years.
The Day After Thanksgiving
Q. Everyone loves turkey leftovers. How do you approach the day after Thanksgiving?
A. One day of Thanksgiving is just never enough! I warm up each item, toasting up delicious bread for sandwiches and making sure we have lots of condiments to suit any palette. There’s always gravy for those who like to douse their sandwich, but mustard, pickles, mayonnaise and a vinaigrette are all great briny, sour additions to brighten up the leftover turkey!
Q. What is your serving style for this meal?
A. I feel buffet style is best the day after, so that everyone can see what’s available and dig into what they are craving. Sometimes it’s just a bowl of Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes or the classic sandwich. Buffet style gives my family the option to create their own leftovers adventure.
Q. Any other day after traditions that relate to food/entertaining?
A. I know I am usually wiped out, and family members who have traveled are as well. We usually all come together for a holiday movie or gather around the table for a board game or card game. For these moments I usually take out any leftover hors d’oeuvres or crudités from the night before for some crispy, light snacks.
Feeling inspired? Show off your Thanksgiving tablescapes and dinners by following @frontgate and using #frontgate to share your photos. And for even more culinary inspiration, follow @chefamandaf