Las Vegas chefs on how to put global spin on Thanksgiving meal

Updated November 22, 2017 - 3:35 pm

Burned out on roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie? Sure, it’s tradition. But it can also get boring. So we asked some local chefs and restaurateurs how to put a global spin Friday’s leftovers.

Our panel of experts consisted of Paula McKenna (Ri Ra), Jimmy Lisnard (L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon), Christophe De Lellis (Joel Robuchon), Jamie Tran (The Black Sheep), Lorena Garcia (Chica) and Nikos Georgousis (Meraki Greek Grill). Here are some of their tips for the most popular components of our all-American meal.

Bird is the word

Turkeys in France are generally smaller than the ones here, and a typical preparation uses only one breast. It might be braised with tomatoes, carrots, onions, a bundle of herbs known as bouquet garni, chicken stock and butter. To accompany it, De Lellis recommends a roast whole foie gras, sometimes prepared with two more Thanksgiving favorites: corn and cranberries.

Turkey isn’t native to Vietnamese cooking, but Tran grew up eating it for the holidays in the U.S. Her parents’ friends, born in Vietnam, liked to stuff it with glass noodles, dried fungus, scallions and fish sauce before roasting it. Once cooked, they’d add more fish sauce before serving.

“I always give it a (Venezuelan) spin,” Garcia says of the birds she prepares for Christmas. “I’ll take my Latin spices for my tacos, and rub them in the turkey. And after brining (the turkey), I’ll smother it in them, so you have tons of chilis: guajillos, piquillos, jalapenos. You end up with a beautiful turkey that’s spicy and strong with depths of flavor.”

Georgousis says the traditional Greek Christmas meal includes a familiar stuffed turkey as an entrée. But it might also include a turkey version of the lemony avgolemono soup.

Finally, McKenna says the Irish like to give their turkey leftovers some spice in the form of curry turkey sandwiches.

Pumpkin eater

Kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin, is more prevalent in Vietnamese cooking than the version Americans use in pies. But Tran says her mother used both to make a traditional Vietnamese soup when they were in season.

“During Halloween, she’d take them and clean them after the (holiday), then take a knife and cut it up,” she explains. “Then she’d take pork rib bones, cook them with pork broth and fish sauce, and add the diced pumpkin and scallion. We’d eat it with a side of rice and some black pepper. And you’d have fresh herbs on the side like chopped up cilantro and green onions to put on top of the soup.”

In Venezuela, Garcia says pumpkins are used to make a “a beautiful soup” called sopa auyama, that’s a favorite for Sunday meals year round.

“When you come to any home in Venezuela,” she adds, “they’re going to give you auyama. It’s like a welcome home for visitors, friends and families.”

The French are also lovers of pumpkin soup. According to Lisnard, a typical recipe involves the roasted vegetable cooked with caramelized onions, bacon and a touch of cream, served with country bread.

Only Georgousis thought of pie, when asked about pumpkins. But his version consists of phyllo dough stuffed with pumpkin filling, spiced heavily with cinnamon — a cross between our pumpkin pie and Greek spanakopita.

One potato, two potato

Few nations love the potato as much as Ireland. McKenna offers plenty of favorites, including mashed potatoes mixed with spring onion or the mashed potato and cabbage combination known as colcannon. Other Gaelic uses for the humble potato include potato cakes, boxties (potato pancakes) and the hybrids knows as potato farls, which are fried cakes made of mashed potatoes.

Since Joel Robuchon is world-renowned for his mashed potatoes, we didn’t expect his proteges to mess with that idea. But Lisnard notes you can make the same recipe (found in the chef’s cookbooks) with sweet potatoes. Or, if you want a more solid potato dish, De Lellis suggests trying a gratin dauphinois, made with milk, nutmeg and garlic.

According to Tran, potatoes are popular in Vietnamese cooking, as well. “We use them in soup. We do potato curry with carrots, and fried potatoes, where you shred the potatoes and add corn starch and salt and pepper and pan-sear it.”

Contact Al Mancini at Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

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