Chef Kate McCandless shares her Thanksgiving recipes

Chef Kate McCandless Photo Submitted

More than any other holiday, I am asked about the Thanksgiving feast the most. From the turkey, to the sides, to what to do with the leftovers, the whole event can be overwhelming.

There are some very traditional classics that are synonymous with the thanksgiving meal. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and vegetables usually come to mind. I like to keep the traditional aspects of the meal, but add twists to the recipes to make them unique.

(Editor’s note: The post is a little lengthy just because of all the great things Chef McCandless was able to share with us. Want to jump around? Here’s a list of what’s included in the post.)

Brined and Roasted Turkey with Gravy

Portobello Mushrooms with Sourdough Stuffing

Baked Green Bean Casserole with Bacon, Almonds, and Blue Cheese (or Parmesan)

Cranberry Apple Sauce

Maple Glazed Carrots

Cranberry Martinis

Don’t worry. Thanksgiving isn’t as difficult as it was for this guy back in 1910. No need to get a turkey quite that fresh unless you really want to. Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Getting started:

The most important part of planning a Thanksgiving meal is the preparation. Start with writing out the menu and shopping list. Whether you are planning for a large gathering with traditional sides, or going for a smaller party with hor D’oeurves, it is so important to have a game plan. After you have done the shopping and gathered the ingredients, little things such as laying out the platters and setting the table the night before will help things go smoothly in the morning. You want to be able to enjoy your holiday as well!

The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving meals is the turkey. While roasting is the most traditional way to prepare a turkey, you can go a step further by starting out the turkey in a brine. Brine is very basically water with salt. You can add different flavorings such as citrus, herbs, sugar, and spices. Besides adding flavor, brine also helps to impart moisture. The salt helps to break down the proteins, and allows more moisture and spices to saturate the meat. This lends itself to a very juicy, tender, flavorful end result. Below is a recipe for a brined turkey.

  • Brined Roasted Turkey with Gravy

Note: Needs to be started at least a day in advance

Brine that bird! Photo Submitted


1 gallon water

1 C kosher salt/ sea salt (do not use table/ionized salt!)

1 whole orange – cut in quarters

1 whole lemon – cut in quarters

1T dry thyme

1T dry rosemary

6 garlic cloves

1 onion – quartered

1 gallon ice

1 12-15lb fresh turkey

1.) Start by combining water, salt, orange, lemon, herbs, garlic and onion in a large stock pot. Bring mixture to a boil, ensuring the salt has dissolved.

2.) Remove from heat, and let cool slightly. Add in the ice and let melt. Your brine mixture must be cool before adding in the turkey.

3.) Make sure turkey is completely cleaned, and the cavity is empty. Add the turkey to brine mixture, making sure the turkey is completely covered. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

4.) Remove turkey from brining solution, rinse under cold water, and pat dry. Your turkey is now ready to be roasted.


Note: The general rule of them for cooking a turkey is about 12 to 15 minutes per pound. A turkey that is brined will cook faster. To avoid overcooking, the best thing to use is an instant read thermometer. The small “thermometers” that come with a turkey can be unreliable

1 brined turkey 12-15lbs

¼ C unsalted butter, room temperature

2 onion – roughly chopped

2 large carrots, roughly chopped

4 stalks celery – roughly chopped


1 C white wine

1 C water


4 T butter

¼ C flour

4 C turkey or chicken broth – low sodium if possible

t.t. salt

t.t. black pepper

Reserved deglazing liquid


1.) Place the onions, carrots, and celery in a roasting large enough to hold the turkey. Try to center the vegetables as much as possible; they will act as a rack for the turkey.

2.) Rub the butter on top and underneath the turkey skin, distribute as evenly as possible.

3.) Place turkey on vegetables, and place in over for 30 minutes.

4.) Turn oven down to 325F. Continue roasting for an additional 2 ½ hrs to 3 hrs, or until the internal temperature reads 160F. There is a difference of opinion with the internal temperature of poultry. When poultry is cooked on the bone, it will continue cooking when resting through the process of carryover cooking. This helps to keep the meat from being dried out.

5.) When checking the temperature, place thermometer in the thickest part, usually in the thigh, making sure not to hit the bone. If the skin starts to get to dark, you can place aluminum foil over the top to prevent burning.

6.) When the turkey is done, take it out of oven, remove from pan, and let rest on platter, covered with aluminum foil.

7.) While the pan is still hot, add the white wine and water to roasted vegetables to deglaze, stirring to remove any caramelized bits from the bottom.

8.) Strain the vegetables from the liquid, and reserve.


1.) In a sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter. Whisk in the flour to form a smooth paste. Add in the broth and deglazing liquid. Bring to a boil. Once sauce has come to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let reduce for 20-25 minutes.

2.) Season with salt and pepper, and keep warm until needed.

Save one of these for me! Photo Submitted


Note: The debate on whether to cook stuffing inside the cavity of a bird has been long standing. While my personal preference is my grandmother’s stuffing that roasts in the turkey, there are benefits to cooking the turkey separately as well. The recommendation for cooking turkey in the bird is to cook the stuffing until the internal temperature is 180F. By the time the stuffing reaches that temperature, the meat will be dried out. Cooking it separately is the other option.

8-10 Servings

1 ½ lb Sourdough loaf, cut into 1” cubes

½ C unsalted butter

2 medium sized onions, diced small

2 stalks celery – small

2 cloves garlic – minced

2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 T fresh thyme – chopped

t.t. kosher salt

t.t freshly ground black pepper

3/4 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed

1 cup chicken/turkey stock

10-12 large Portobello mushrooms (if you wanted this in hor D’oeurves size, you may use about 1lb of crimini mushrooms) cleaned with stems removed

¼ Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ C Parmesan Cheese – grated


Preheat the oven to 325F (Can be cooked while turkey is cooking)

Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 7 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the bread cubes to a very large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, herbs, salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.

In the same sauté pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a fork while cooking. Add to the bread cubes and vegetables.

Add the chicken stock and mix well.

Brush the portabellas with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and arrange on a sheet tray. Distribute the stuffing evenly over all of the mushrooms. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.

Don’t feel like you have to stick to the traditional green bean casserole. Chef McCandless shows us how to mix it up. Photo Submitted.


8-10 Servings

2lbs green beans, trimmed and blanched

½ C slivered or sliced almonds

½ lb bacon, cooked till crispy and crumbled

½ C crumbled blue cheese, or grated parmesan cheese

3 T olive oil

t.t. salt

t.t. pepper

1 lemon – juiced

Heat oven to 325F

Grease a 9X12 casserole dish with 1T olive oil. Toss the remaining olive with the green beans, salt and pepper. Arrange the green beans in dish and top with almonds, bacon and cheese. (This can be done up to a day in advance)

Place in oven and bake until cheese starts to melt and almonds brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle lemon juice over casserole. Serve warm.

Mix things up with an apple cranberry sauce. Photo Submitted



16 oz fresh or frozen cranberries

1 ¼ C sugar

¼ C water

2 oranges, zested and juiced

2 apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp vanilla extract

Reserve ¼ C of cranberries. Pour the rest of ingredients into a saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves and cranberries are soft. Increase heat to medium and cook until cranberries start to burst, about 10 minutes.

Add reserved cranberries, and cook an additional 5 minutes. May be served hot or cold.

Glazed carrots are one of my favorites. Why not include them in your Thanksgiving meal? Photo Submitted


2 cups water

2 lbs carrots, peeled, cut on bias (may also use baby carrots)

¼ C unsalted butter

1T sugar

1 tsp coarse salt

4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley


Combine water, carrots, ½ butter, sugar, and coarse salt in heavy large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until carrots are just tender when pierced with knife, about 10 minutes.

Drain. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add maple syrup and brown sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Add carrots and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer carrots to bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Enjoy some holiday-themed cocktails with friends. Photo Submitted


Note: This recipe can be made in a large batch and served in a pitcher

8-10 Servings

24 oz cranberry juice

6 oz triple sec

16 oz vodka – any preference

Zest from 1 orange

1 cinnamon stick

1 T pure vanilla extract

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Frozen cranberries (optional)

Mix all ingredients and let chill for at least 2 hrs. Serve in pitcher. Frozen berries may be used as garnish in drinks.