Some cooks spend weeks researching new and different ways to prepare the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, tourtiere and pumpkin pie. Other cooks rely on the tried and true recipes gifted from generation to generation, making their Thanksgiving a day for tradition and remembrance. We rise at the break of dawn to stuff the bird and slide it into the oven, peel the potatoes and set the table with our best linens and china.

And then there are those who, though equally thankful, prefer to leave the cooking – and the cleanup — to someone else.

Chef Tony Bernard at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch’s Garden Grille restaurant has been cooking Thanksgiving dinner in Auburn for 10 years and, he says, “This will be the best one yet.”

On Thanksgiving Day, Bernard will arrive early in the morning to begin slow roasting “six to eight large and fresh native Maine turkeys. . . . Slow cooking, along with basting and butter, keeps it moist,” he says.

It’s also the “traditional way” to cook a turkey and, this year, “traditional and fresh” are recurring themes on Bernard’s Thanksgiving Day menu.

“I’ll cover the turkeys to start, keeping them covered until they’re about 90 percent done. Then,” he says, “I’ll uncover them and brown the skin.” To help make the skin golden brown and crispy, he recommends a brown-sugar glaze with a little bit of honey, salt and pepper.

To make his gravy, Bernard uses pan drippings and a little chicken base, as well as a soft roux – a butter and flour mixture – to keep it smooth. First, he says, “heat your stock really well, bringing it to a boil. Then, put the heat on low and add your roux.” He recommends using a whisk and stirring your gravy constantly while cooking until it thickens.

The first of Bernard’s two stuffing choices this year combines the sharpness of cranberries and papaya soaked in brandy with the nuttiness of sunflower seeds, the crispness of fresh vegetables and several spices including sage and thyme for a vegetarian-style dish that is a twist on the traditional favorite. A sauteed apple-and-sausage stuffing, spiced with thyme and sage, as well as salt, pepper and garlic — Bernard’s “holy grail of spices” — will also be on the menu.

For those who prefer red meat, like Bernard, his Thanksgiving menu also includes a pepper-crusted beef tenderloin. Trimmed, bound and roasted to rare, then spread with a European-style mustard and peppercorns, it is then roasted a few minutes more to bring it to a medium-rare. 

Vegetable offerings will include a variety of traditional and nontraditional, including a fresh spinach-walnut-apple-cranberry salad topped with a raspberry vinaigrette, mashed potatoes seasoned with chive and garlic, a “home-style pumpkin bisque” and Bernard’s signature – and secret – seafood Newburg.

Bernard will also be serving a butternut squash, made with fresh squash that has been peeled, steamed and whipped smooth with butter, brown sugar and nutmeg, as well as a green bean casserole recreated this Thanksgiving with a fresh button mushroom sherry cream sauce and crisp fried onions.

Another twist on the meal will be compound butters — a cranberry butter made with dried cranberries and orange zest, and a butter made with fresh ginger, pecans “and maybe a little garlic” — served with an assortment of holiday breads from The Bread Shack.

And Bernard plans on finishing the meal with a variety of pies and other desserts, including a homemade sweet potato pie, cheesecakes and the nontraditional but locally popular petit fours . . . just “cause they’re nice.”

That will be the scene at the Hilton’s Garden Grille this Thanksgiving, and if you want a taste of it at your home, Bernard offers recipes today for the green beans, vegetable stuffing and pumpkin bisque. But regardless of whether you’re with friends and family at home, visiting, or dining out, be sure to pause and be thankful for the good things in your life, including the tradition of good food — and plenty of it — on Thanksgiving.

Sherried mushroom cream green bean casserole

2 cups sliced button mushrooms

1/4 cup minced onion

1/4 pound butter

1 pound bag frozen green beans

1/2 cup sherry

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups light cream

1/2 cup milk

Saute mushrooms and onions in butter. Add green beans and cook for 10 minutes more. Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk flour and sherry and add to the beans.

In a separate pan, blend cream and milk and heat on low until reduced by half. Add to beans and heat until serving temperature.

Put mixture in a bowl, top with crispy fried onions and serve.

Pumpkin bisque

In a pan, combine:

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 cups light cream

1 cup milk

Warm slowly, so as not to burn.

In a bowl, combine:

1/4 pound butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Add to pumpkin mix.

Thin with 1 cup milk.

Heat on low heat until hot and serve.

Vegetarian stuffing

1/4 cup dry papaya, diced small

1/4 cup sun-dried tomato, diced small

1/4 cup dry cranberries sliced

Combine and soak in 1/2 cup brandy for 30 minutes or more.

In a pan, combine and saute:

1/3 cup celery, diced

1/3 cup onion, diced

1/3 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup olive oil

In a baking dish, combine the sauteed vegetables, the soaked fruit and brandy and the following ingredients and mix thoroughly.

1/2 teaspoon sage

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 cup white bread, cubed

1 cup rye bread, cubed

1 cup sunflower bread, cubed

After mixing, cook the mixture at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes or until hot. Salt and pepper to taste.


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