Marcus Samuelsson is a global chef with an American soul: born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, he cooked his way to stardom at the helm of the three-star haute Scandinavian temple Aquavit, and more recently has wowed crowds at his wildly popular ode to the American South, Red Rooster Harlem. The Top Chef Masters winner and author of the memoir Yes, Chef shares his favorite way to spend Turkey Day—and it involves lingonberries, exotic spices, and lots of mulled wine.
The Daily Beast: Is the holiday a busy time for Red Rooster Harlem?
Samuelsson: I love to head over to Red Rooster and see my guests. A lot of people like to come by the restaurant and just grab a drink at the bar and tell stories from their Thanksgiving meal. It’s bustling at the restaurant because people have just spent the whole day in the kitchen, so the restaurant becomes a great place to just relax and enjoy the holiday.
What are you planning on cooking this year for the holiday, at home or at your restaurant?
Always at home. If people are coming over, I like to do the turkey, but I encourage my friends to bring over whatever side dishes and desserts are traditional for them.
You grew up in Ethiopia and Sweden—does this whole Thanksgiving tradition seem bizarre to you, or is the holiday growing on you?
I love Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday that is centered around food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me. It’s such a great time to reflect on the year and reach out to those who are not as fortunate, and I encourage my friends to do their part.
Red Rooster Harlem is known for its delectable Southern cooking—do you like to add some Southern flourishes to your Thanksgiving meal? Or do you go more traditional?
Being an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef, there’s nothing traditional about my Thanksgiving spread. I like to roast my turkey in berbere (an Ethiopian spice), make some spicy cornbread stuffing, and serve Swedish glogg to my guests… I think there’s always a little Swedish in my Thanksgiving because I like to serve some pickles or fold in some lingonberries into my cranberry sauce.
What’s your favorite way to use up Thanksgiving leftovers?
I love to use all the leftovers and recreate them into completely different dishes. I like to take the turkey bones and make it into soup for ramen; fold the stuffing into some freshly made mac-n-cheese; or make some hash with the turkey and leftover vegetables.
What’s the first type of leftover to get used up?
I like to get the soup going using the turkey bones and carcass. You can freeze whatever stock you don’t use. I have a recipe on MarcusSamuelsson.com where I make turkey stock, throw in some leftover Brussels sprouts and add some fresh seafood and noodles to make next-day ramen.
What’s the best thing to imbibe with the day-after grub?
If I’m not drinking glogg, the mulled wine that we Swedes love to drink, it’s probably some sort of IPA or whatever is cold in my fridge.
Is Thanksgiving naturally a chef’s favorite holiday? Or does it get monotonous to cook turkey over and over again?
Cooking turkey every year doesn’t have to be monotonous—I want people to always mix it up using different spices and preparations. For me, any holiday that revolves around good food and drink is my favorite.