Thanksgiving Recipes from Top American Chefs

In the world of travel, food is a wonderful way to connect with a place, and more importantly, with people. The United States is host to a great blend of cultures and every region boasts their own culinary specialties.

This Thanksgiving, we reached out to leading chefs across the nation for their top Thanksgiving recipes and tips.

Pacific Northwest

Alder Smoked Turkey from Chef John Cox

Orcas Hotel in Orcas Island, Washington

alder smoked turkey

“The Pacific Northwest doesn’t have many hardwoods, like Oak or Mesquite, so we typically use Alder for smoking meats.  The wood is often associated with smoked salmon or other fish, but it has a smoothness and depth of flavor that makes it perfect for smoking turkey or chicken.” – Chef John Cox

1ea 12-15# Turkey 
2 Gallons Water
3 Cups Kosher Salt
1 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Cup Brown Sugar
12 Rosehips
Peel from 1 Orange
1 Cinnamon Stick
4 Cloves
1 pod cardamom
2 guajillo chiles (stem and seeds removed)
1 Shallot – peeled and sliced
1 bunch sage
1 bunch thyme

Bring water to simmer- add remaining ingredients.  Steep for 30 minutes.  Strain and cool. 

Submerge in turkey in brine for 24 hours.  Covering with a towel to make sure brine gets all over bird.

Remove turkey from brine and allow to dry.  (A fan will speed up this process)

Preheat smoker to 275 degrees.

Put the turkey in the smoker and cook for 2-3 hours or until mahogany in color. 

At this point you can wrap the turkey in foil and either continue cooking in smoker or transfer to a 275 oven. 

Use a thermometer to check the temperature for he turkey at the deepest part of breast.  Remove the turkey from the oven or smoker once it reached 155 (it will continue to cook even once it has been removed from the oven.)

Hints and Tricks-  If you lack refrigerator space you can do recipe with 1 gallon of water and then add ice once cooled.  The Turkey can then be left in a cooler for 24 hours and will stay cold.   If you don’t want to smoke the turkey- the brine is still a great way to enhance the flavor of an oven-roasted bird.



Cranberry Apple Relish from Chef Jonathan Perno

Los Poblanos, New Mexico

Chef Jonathan Perno, Photo by Douglas Merriam

Chef Jonathan Perno, Photo by Douglas Merriam

For 6 servings

1T whole butter
2T extra virgin olive oil
2 crisp apples – peeled and diced
2 large shallots- peeled and small diced
1 lg bay leaf
2 cinnamon sticks
(2) 8 oz packages cranberry
Zest and juice of 1 orange
½-1 cup water
¼ c sugar
2t chopped rosemary

Salt to taste

In a 4 qt sauce pan brown the butter and olive oil on medium heat.  Next add apples and begin to caramelize.  Next, add shallots, a pinch of salt, bay leaf and cinnamon. Sweat for 2-3 minutes then add cranberries, zest, juice, sugar, and water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook just until cranberries begin to pop.  Pull off heat and fold in chopped rosemary. Best if made a day or two ahead.

Cornbread from Chef Chase Kelley

Zapata Ranch, Texas

zapata cornbread

“Anyone familiar with cornbread seems to have a preferred version, usually derived from the region they’re from or the type they grew up eating. Many people like their cornbread sweet, some with flour, and traditionalists prefer their cornbread without sugar or flour. We make a few different versions of cornbread at Zapata, and I’m always very deliberate when describing which type of cornbread I’m serving so as not to offend anyone. This version seems to be a fair compromise for everyone. You can taste the corn more than the flour, it has a very subtle sweetness, a slight tang, is moist in the center, and when made properly has an outer crust that is slightly caramelized and crisp. However, I might just be partial to this version because it most closely resembles the cornbread I grew up eating.” – Chef Chase Kelley

Makes one 10-12 inch round

2 cups  coarse cornmeal or polenta
½ cup flour (optional, see note)
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
1 ½ cup full fat buttermilk (or more)
½ cup full fat plain greek yogurt
1 large egg, beaten
1 stick/4 oz butter (divided)

Preheat oven to 450℉. Place a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat for 20 minutes before baking.

Combine the cornmeal, flour (if using), sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl, whisk to thoroughly combine.

Combine the buttermilk, greek yogurt and egg in a small bowl.

Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overwork the batter. The batter should look like a very wet pancake batter and it should be slightly creamy. If the batter appears dry add more buttermilk until you get the proper texture.

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and place on the stove over high heat. Add half of the butter to the skillet and slowly swirl. The butter will melt quickly, swirling the pan will prevent it from burning. Very carefully pour the melted butter into the batter and gently fold to combine, again being careful not to overwork the batter.

Return the skillet to the stove over high heat. Place the remaining butter into the skillet, swirl and slightly tilt the skillet, making sure to fully cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the batter into the skillet, spreading it evenly. You should see butter come up and bubble around the edges of the pan and hear a very light sizzle. Cook the batter over high heat for 1 minute. Transfer the skillet back to the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm from skillet or allow bread to cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a counter, cutting board or other flat surface.

Serve bread with room temperature butter, honey and a small pinch of salt.



Mushroom Hazelnut Stuffing from Chef Dan Barber

Blue Hill Farm, New York

Blue Hill Stone Barns

Blue Hill Stone Barns, Photo by Alice Gao

Serves 8
1 1/2 sticks butter
4 small shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped onion
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 pound portobello, shiitake, or a combination of wild mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 cups cubed, day-old bread (recipe below), crusts removed
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
3 sage leaves, chopped
3/4 cup hazelnuts, halved and lightly toasted
3 extra-large eggs, beaten
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon hazelnut oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 10 tablespoons butter in a large skillet, add shallots, garlic, and onion, and sweat until translucent. Add 1 teaspoon thyme and the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are light brown. Add the wine, and cook until the liquid evaporates, then repeat with the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms in a bowl.

Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or 3-quart casserole.

Put bread, parsley, sage, hazelnuts, remaining thyme, and mushroom mixture in a large bowl. Stir in eggs, cream, and hazelnut oil until combined, and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper. Spread the stuffing in the casserole, then cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 30 minutes, until golden, vent, then finish baking, 5-7 minutes.


  • By entering your information you agree to receive emails in accordance with our Privacy Policy
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Thanks for visiting, we'd love to keep in touch

For national park profiles, insider interviews, hidden gems and more, subscribe to our bimonthly newsletter