25 Thanksgiving Dinner Tips from Valley Chefs

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Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com.

Thanksgiving, pretty much everyone's favorite holiday, is just around the corner. And if you're looking for ways to kick this one up a notch, you're not alone.

I asked Valley chefs, restaurateurs, and wine gurus for their ideas on how to re-invent this year's celebration and received tasty turkey and cooking tips, twists on traditional dishes and wine pairings, and even a recipe.

See which ones might work best on your table.

See also: Should We Be Concerned About Radioactive Fish After the Fukushima Dai-ichi Meltdown?

Chef Rich Hinojosa, The Wigwam

Since the breast and the legs cook differently, separate them. Roast the turkey breast in the oven and confit the legs the night before. Gently warm prior to serving.

Rather than serving canned cranberries, pureed frozen cranberries, or hot cranberry sauce, cook fresh cranberries with dried cherries, citrus zest, sugar, and ruby port. Let it steep until the cranberries just start to break. Cranberries have a lot of natural pectin, so it thickens naturally. I like to serve this room temperature -- the consistency is beautiful.

Kimber Stonehouse Wine Curator, La Grande Orange Grocery

Start the day with bubbles. If you're the cook, open a bottle with or without the orange juice. If you're the host, greet your guests with a glass of bubbles as they arrive. I recommend the Varichon & Clerc Blanc de Blancs.

Pour a light white wine and change up the flavors with a Gewurtraminer. It pairs fantastically with turkey and all the trimmings. The flavors and aromas are light and elegant with a hint of acidity. Not all Gewurztraminer are sweet. I recommend the Pacific Rim as an affordable, sweet Gewurztraminer or the Tramin from Italy for a little more expensive and drier version.

End with a great dessert wine. A dessert wine at the end completes the meal and surprises your guests. Some great options to explore are Madeira, Port, and, of course, Moscato d'Asti.

Chef Jeff Pilditch, Bistro 24

Always brine your turkey (the kitchen sink works well). Stuff your turkey with lots of red apples and thyme and always continuously inject your turkey with turkey gravy.

Farah Khalid Chef and Owner, Curry Corner

Try a tandoori turkey (which would be made in a tandoori oven) or a roasted turkey with Pakistani spices. Instead of the cranberry sauce, maybe a mango chutney. Instead of rice pilaf, something like a pea pulao would be decadent.

Chef Michael Stebner, True Food Kitchen

I love to lightly smoke the turkey. It's a little tricky, but it turns out delicious. You can mix up your sides with a sweet potato gratin, fire-roasted Brussels sprouts, or a creamed Swiss chard. I like to add a few chili peppers to the cranberry relish.

Chef Gregory Wiener, Top of the Rock

Have a Southwest-themed Thanksgiving with dishes like braised dark meat turkey sopes with rice and beans, chips and salsa, and posole or menudo.

Stephen Plunkett, General Manager and Wine Director for Sassi

When serving your turkey, carve the entire breast off then slice across the grain rather than with it. This makes for a more tender slice and its easier to pile onto a serving platter.

Drink Chianti with Thanksgiving. It's a wonderful match with all of those flavors, and the acidity cuts through sweet side dishes like fall squash, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

Michael O'Dowd Chef and Partner, Renegade by MOD, Wicked Six Bar & Grill by MOD

Decorate with gourds, dried colored leaves, potpourri, dried corn, and corn husks to bring the essence of the feast to your guests and illuminate the occasion. Burn a memory.

Come up with your unique spin on ingredients to infuse into the basic such as sun-dried tomato mashed potatoes or cranberry gravy.

Prep ahead and do a little each day leading up to T-Day. Chop up herbs and cut potatoes and keep in water (with a touch of lemon), bone out and marinate the turkey (three days in advance), make cranberry relish beforehand, blanch green beans the day before, and basically do what you can depending on what size kitchen and space you have.

Chef Nick LaRosa, Nook

Here's a easy favorite of side dish of mine for Thanksgiving:

Baby Carrots

Baby carrots 1 lb Butter 2 T Salt to taste Black pepper to taste Honey 2 oz Parmesan cheese for garnish Garlic 5 cloves Green onion 1 each for garnish Rosemary 1 sprig Water as needed to cover carrots

Peel and boil carrots in water with garlic and rosemary until carrots are fork tender. Remove the carrots from the water and place in a sauté pan with honey and butter, season with salt and pepper. Sauté until carrots are covered with honey and finish cooking. They should receive some color as well. Place the carrots in a serving dish then garnish with cheese and sliced green onion Enjoy!

Chef Massimo De Francesca, Taggia at FireSky Resort and Spa

Three inventive Thanksgiving dishes to try: - Confit turkey leg meat folded into jalapeño and corn bread stuffing. - Pumpkin mousse pie instead of the usual dense version. - Smoked ham and sweet peas whipped into a risotto dish.

Adam Allison Chef and Owner, Frank. Food Truck

Ten to fifteen minutes before the turkey is ready, brush some white vermouth on it. It will make it nice and brown.

Justin Beckett Chef and Owner, Beckett's Table

I love to remove all the bones from the turkey and roll it up like a roulade. This cuts cooking time down to just a couple of hours.

Pauline Martinez Chef and Owner, Perk Eatery

For smaller parties, make Cornish game hens instead of turkey. Lighten up your Thanksgiving sides by adding pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes -- see if anyone notices the difference.

Chef Eddie Castillo, AZ Food Crafters

Too much on the menu? Not enough oven room for all the sides? Try using a gas grill as an oven to roast your turkey, using indirect heat, for juicy perfection. The weather is perfect here for cooking your bird out on the grill.

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