Melissa Harris-Perry: Welcome to a special Thanksgiving edition of The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. We're so honored that you're spending part of your Thanksgiving holiday with us. We have a food-filled show for you today. If you're in the kitchen prepping, taking a drive to see your friends or relatives, or just enjoying a little downtime today, we welcome you.
If you're one of the millions of Americans who has to put in some work hours today or if you're spending this holiday alone, we just want to say you're invited to our Thanksgiving. Go ahead and turn up the volume, settle in and enjoy Thanksgiving with Team Takeaway.
Now, I'll confess Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I simply adore the opportunity to spend some time with my favorite people while eating some of my favorite food, which is why this woman is at the head of the takeaway table this year.
Carla Hall: My name is Carla Hall. My latest cookbook is Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Carla Hall.
Carla Hall: Melissa Harris-Perry. Oh, I love you, girl.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I am so excited to talk to you. [laughs]
Carla Hall: Not as excited as I am. Okay maybe as mutually excited. Hi.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Hi.
Carla Hall: [laughs] Happy Thanksgiving.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Carla Hall is a chef, author, motivational speaker, and TV personality. She co-hosted the ABC talk show, The Chew from 2011 to 2018. I first fell in love with Carla when she appeared as a contestant on the fifth season of Bravo's Top Chef. My eldest daughter who's now 20 and I watched the show religiously and we rooted for Carla at every stage of the competition.
Carla Hall: Who to who is something that my husband and I say when we go out and we can't find each other one of us will say who to and the other one will say, who?
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, it's my eight-year-old youngest daughter who cuddles up with me to watch Carla Hall as a judge on holiday baking shows.
Carla Hall: First of all, I'm really honored that I've been a presence in your family from the oldest to the youngest. I have all of these young fans. I was out one day and I don't know this little boy was, was about five years old and he was walking with his mom. He's like, "Oh, that's Carla." I hear her say, "No, that's not her. That's not her." He's like, "Yes, it is because I saw her on the Halloween Baking Championship."
It was the funniest thing that I have these little fans and I'm here for it. I'm so honored because it's just good, clean, delicious fun.
Melissa Harris-Perry: It is. I've really found that actually, this is the family TV that we can watch. The one thing that we come together and it's going to happen on Thanksgiving we're going to turn on and watch the cooking shows, the baking championships, there is something about it that really does span those aspects of family.
Carla Hall: 100%. It's the same for us. I'm going to my husband's family Thanksgiving to Michigan this year for Thanksgiving. It's 90 year olds. I think the youngest is 25. It's still that multi-generational audience. It's like, "What can we all agree on to do together?' I get it.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, I wanted to know how to bring the multi-generational fun off the couch and into the kitchen by getting everyone involved in preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
Carla Hall: When I came out with my first cookbook and that was in 2011, the impetus was that it can't always be on me to do the holiday meals. As much as I love doing them, I decided that everyone needed to have a recipe that they were responsible for. If that means that you curate the recipes from your favorite cookbooks or family member's recipe, I stopped controlling it.
My new cookbook or my newest cookbook, Carla Hall's Soul Food, I'm like, "Okay, the younger people--" Because I call myself the culinary matriarch. My mother's 82, she's around but she doesn't like to cook. She's relegated to the cornbread, like, "Mama, you going to make the cornbread." That cornbread is going to become the cornbread dressing. It's that precious. We're going to break it up, we're going to toast it, all the things.
I had my nephews and my niece at the time they were in the early 20s to late 20s. I said, "Pick a recipe. I don't care what it is. I don't care if it's the barbecue chicken wings. Pick a recipe that you want to have for Thanksgiving," so that they are responsible for it. Before I started doing that, I started delegating and saying, "You're doing the macaroni and cheese, you're doing this." Because I wanted them to understand the stories and the food of our family. Without getting them involved, they don't really have a connection to it.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Even if it is presumably imperfect in some way, you got to put your fingers in there. You've got to crack those eggs yourself. You have to or you don't feel that it belongs to you in the same way.
Carla Hall: Even when it starts to get better and they have that sense of pride that they made this dish. It's invaluable and I love it every single time. Then there is the time when my niece thought that she had the macaroni and cheese down and then I got a call from my youngest nephew. He said, "Auntie, this is an intervention call. The macaroni and cheese is gray. I need you to make it. I need you to make some steak. This is not good. We can't have that."
Melissa Harris-Perry: All right. We know Carla Hall is doing a mac and cheese intervention, but I wanted to know what else is on her Thanksgiving menu this year.
Carla Hall: There are only a few of us. I'm doing a pan-seared turkey breast versus an entire turkey. There are two members of the family who have gout. They can't do turkey, but turkey needs to be there. It will be a pan-seared turkey breast. Then the glazed ham. We will have side dishes which include macaroni and cheese, [laughs] collards, which sometimes I mix them, I mix greens into them. I'll have collard kale and mustard but collard with a smoked paprika pot likker, which is completely vegan because we can't do smoked turkey or anything.
Then cornbread dressing, and candied sweet potatoes. We're going to do like a royal week. A masala mushroom gravy, which I love the taste of the mushrooms, but I'm going to strain the mushrooms out cause I like a smooth gravy. Then apple cranberry sauce. That's something that I change every year. Do I put a port in it? Do I add apples? Do I do pears? Do I just do cranberries and onions? That kind is flexible. This year is going to be apples and cranberries. Then I do sweet potato rolls, which are very much like the yeast rolls that you have for the holidays.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I do a lot of sweet potatoes on the holiday, but I haven't done them in the rolls yet. I wonder, could I do it with butternut? I grew a lot of butternuts this year. So many.
Carla Hall: 100%.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Because everybody's about to get butternut squash in everything. I grew way too many this year.
Carla Hall: 100%. First of all, I'm impressed that you grew your own butternut squash. Wow.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I am a bit of an unrepentant country girl. After I left TV and had a little time, what I did with all my time was to put 27 chickens in my backyard and about an acre and a half of vegetables, I had a problem.
Listening to Carla made me want all the recipes. Luckily she's authored several cookbooks, the most recent Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration. I want to also just talk to you about the word soul. Talk to me about what makes something soul food.
Carla Hall: I think it depends on if you're talking about a proper noun, capital S capital F, Soul Food, and that is the food of African-Americans and from the black diaspora. That is very clear. It's no one else. That is our food that comes out of the experience of the enslaved. Then there is little s little f soul food and those soulful dishes that bring a sense of home to people. I don't care where you're from, or what those dishes are but it's something that feeds your soul. I think there's a definite distinction. One is a cuisine and one is a dish.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Before I let her go, I just had to ask Carla about one of the most important parts of Thanksgiving cuisine. What do you do about leftovers?
Carla Hall: I expect and want leftovers. [laughs] I love making biscuits. I would put biscuits with a little bit of dressing on there, the cranberries, the ham, or the turkey and that would be a biscuit sandwich. Everyone thinks about the soup or something like that. Even if I wasn't doing a smaller Thanksgiving dinner, I'd break my turkey down like the chicken so I have the carcass to use for the stock and the gravy ahead of time.
That gravy can become a soup of sorts and the collards can become chop it up and throw it into empanadas or soul rolls with phyllo dough or something like that. I think it's super fun. The candied sweet potatoes can become another version if you take whipped cream and mix it in there that can become a moose. I'm constantly thinking about how to do my leftovers. Even with the cornbread dressing, my dressing is more like a spoonbread so it's not separated like pieces of bread so it's more like you can cut it. Take that and you can stir it and then you can put an egg over it, which would be delicious.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let me ask, what is next for you? What are your new projects? What are you looking forward to?
Carla Hall: I have a show that hopefully will eventually come out. It's been filmed. It will be on Discovery Plus. It's a travel log show and it's about food and giving credit to the cultures who had a hand in a particular dish and as it changed and morphed into another thing. I think that sometimes when you don't see yourself in the continuum of a dish, you don't realize that your history's like cut off. I'm very passionate about that.
The thing that I really want to do, that I want to create is a one-woman show that's live, it's food and storytelling and comedy.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Carla Hall, thank you so much for sharing a little bit of Thanksgiving with us and for making a date for next year because I am putting it on the calendar.
Carla Hall: It is a standing date. I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you. This is so good. I'm so grateful. What am I grateful for? You and this conversation.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Thanksgiving goodness doesn't stop here. I don't know if you're even prepared for what's next. Let's just say, get your notepad and your phone ready to jot down some of the top recipes from our favorite chefs.
Back with this Thanksgiving edition of The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. Words cannot begin to describe the three chefs who are about to serve some culinary goodness for you.
Samin Nosrat: Hi my name is Samin Nosrat. I'm the author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. I'm the co-host of the podcast Home Cooking.
Rodney Scott: I am Rodney Scott, a pitmaster and co-founder of Rodney Scott's Whole Hog barbecue and author of Rodney Scott's World of Barbecue: Every Day is a Good Day.
Pati Jinich: My name is Pati Jinich. I'm a chef, cookbook author, and TV host of Pati's Mexican Table and La Frontera on PBS.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let's start with Chef Pati who told us why she loves Thanksgiving so much.
Pati Jinich: I just feel like it is the perfect moment for everybody to bring to the table the things that they love the most but there's a framework. There's the classic dishes and the classic staples that everyone expects. There's like this canvas that's been set and as long as there's a turkey or some sweet potatoes or a pecan pie, there's always the room to add your flare in your flavors.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let's get down to the food. Since Chef Rodney is a barbecue pitmaster we asked him whether some BBQ would be gracing his Thanksgiving table
Rodney Scott: I don't know if I'm going to bring barbecue to this dinner, I just might, but this year I'm surprising them with the smoked turkey because they all have our cookbook and they're always saying, "How does this taste? Rodney, can you cook this?" I said today I would surprise them with a couple of extra recipes, the smoked turkey
Melissa Harris-Perry: Chef Pati who splits her time between the US and Mexico says she wasn't always tasked with making the Thanksgiving turkey but she did convince her friends to let her make it and she gave it a little flare
Pati Jinich: One year I finally convinced them and I made a turkey pibil-style. In the style of the Yucatán Peninsula which is you marinated with achiote paste in bitter orange and roasted tomato and garlic and onion and then you wrap it in banana leaves and you roast it until it completely falls apart. I was making that for a few years, they absolutely loved it.
Melissa Harris-Perry: The Chef Pati goodness doesn't stop there. She even improved on that turkey recipe.
Pati Jinich: Then a few years ago I was testing a new turkey for my newest cookbook. It's an adobo so it's rehydrated dried chili, ancho, guajillo, a little spice, a little cherry tomato flavor. I pureed a fresh pineapple and I cook it with piloncillo or that brown sugar until it turns into a syrup and I mix it with the adobo so you get the sweet sour spicy adobo sauce and I marinate the turkey in that and then I stuff it with cornbread, chorizo, pecans. Now, the problem, Melissa is that I'm stuck with a turkey because my friends don't want to go back to their classic turkey. Every few years I'll add a new turkey with some Mexican spin so I've conquered the bird.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Is anyone else so hungry right now? Goodness. You know what? Even top chefs need to wind down at Thanksgiving and here's what Chef Samin Nosrat plans to do this year.
Samin Nosrat: I'm skipping the big meal. I think I'm going to make turkey nachos with a lot of refried beans and maybe actually no turkey just maybe just nachos frankly. The reason is because I have spent the last few Thanksgiving with my good friends who live in Southern California. All of us have suffered some pretty intense family losses in the last few years and we're just exhausted and we don't have the bandwidth to cook and host a big to-do.
Melissa Harris-Perry: We appreciate that honesty from Chef Samin because the holidays can be hard. One of the other things we asked our top chefs is, what's new on their Thanksgiving tables this year? Here's Chef Samin.
Samin Nosrat: What's new this year? I think is being kind to ourselves, figuring out what actually feels good and what's going to make us feel good rather than doing what we feel like we should do which is nothing that any of us are very good at. It's not really so much culinary as it is I would say emotional.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I hear you. I mean we could all benefit from being kinder to ourselves and each other. For Rodney, this season also lends itself to healthier options.
Rodney Scott: I wasn't always a grilled vegetable guy but now that I'm eating a little bit healthier, I said definitely bring the vegetables to the table. That's new. Here's something that's new to me that's going to be on the table. Salads.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I do love a good salad. For Rodney, the meaning of these last few Thanksgivings are special for another new reason.
Rodney Scott: Last year was actually my first sit-down Thanksgiving. Usually, we're working throughout the holidays in the past and usually, my family would take a little trip and go out of town and I would sit home and eat turkey sandwiches that I smoked myself. To actually sit down with a family for the first time and have a full dinner was just last year.
Melissa Harris-Perry: For Rodney, the act of sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner is his Thanksgiving story.
Rodney Scott: This dinner tells the story of getting to know the holiday itself for one. Two, learning that family's not always related to you. Sometimes you meet people and you have this connection that is so strong that they feel like the family that you grew up with.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Samin's Thanksgiving story is a little different.
Samin Nosrat: I think the story that this dinner tells is that I've entered a new part of my life. I'm trying a little bit at a time to listen to myself and ask myself what I need and encourage my friends to do the same
Melissa Harris-Perry: Chefs Pati and Rodney told us what they're most grateful for this year.
Pati Jinich: I am grateful for my family. I am grateful that we are all in good health. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to continue doing my work which is really going around Mexico and the US trying to bring a microphone to people to share their stories.
Rodney Scott: I am grateful for this year good health, family. I'm grateful for having such a fun and amazing job that allows me to build relationships with people through food.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Chef Samin had this Thanksgiving wish for all of us.
Samin Nosrat: I hope everyone else has a really nice time and a nice meal and gets to spend some time together and some time outside.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I know that's right. Happy Thanksgiving y'all and thanks to our three great chefs Samin Nosrat, Pati Jinich, and Rodney Scott for sharing their time and Thanksgiving genius with us.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.