The Thanksgiving Meal: To Tweak or Not To Tweak

But, for all the people melding old world traditions with the new, there are scores of people who just want to play with the usual suspects.

“We did a black garlic shoe-fly pie with molasses and truffle powder,” says Billy Riddle, the sous chef at Ela, where a high wire act of texture, temperature, and flavor juxtaposition always comes off like a relaxed stroll.

He was alluding to a three-year stint of celebrating the holiday with fellow restaurant workers a week or two removed from the actual day due to his former duties at Lacroix. One year, Riddle and Matt Gentile, who also made the switch to Ela’s kitchen, brined a turkey with bourbon and did a string bean casserole with bacon from Green Meadon Farm (“basically, bacon on crack—it’s southern ham bacon,” Riddle says), ahead of celebrating with copious cans of Four Loko (“somebody brought them—we were off!”). One year, there was roasted sunchips dusted with charred onions and drizzled with a meyer lemon accented nage of chicken stock, shallots, garlic, and herbs.

This year, he’s going to leave this bachelor Thanksgiving behind to visit his girlfriend’s family where all the required, standard elements will be present, down to the ringed cylinder of cran. That said, to the family’s brined organic turkey sourced from top purveyor D’Artagnan, Riddle is bringing a pretzel stuffing (“Jen’s mom loves Philly pretzels”, he says) while assisting with his girlfriend’s dish of smoked brussel sprouts with black trumpet mushrooms and a sprinkling of spiced walnuts.

“Instead of adding bacon, they’re going in the smoker. I like adding fun twists like I do here [at Ela]. People expect bacon. Their mind tells them its there, but its a nice surprise when they realize it’s not. That excites me—making people happy while giving them that illusion, something they love in a new way,” he says.

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