Need a 2020 Thanksgiving Motto? “Think Big, but Prepare Small.”

published Nov 16, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Thanksgiving Food Fest is a virtual food festival full of turkey, pie, games, and fun, starring many of our favorite cooks, ready to share the secrets of a most delicious Thanksgiving. Watch the event live at @thekitchn on Instagram from November 14-15 (or check back here after if you miss it).

The moment when Alexander Smalls joined Kitchn’s Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand, on Instagram Live this past weekend for our Thanksgiving Food Fest, I dropped everything I was doing (and I’m sure I’m not alone!). Even though I was tuning in from my phone, hearing the James Beard Award-winning author, Tony and Grammy award-winning opera singer, and acclaimed chef’s warm, hearty, contagious laugh made me feel like I was sitting at the table right along with him. The topic of conversation? Thanksgiving 2020 (obviously).

Chef Smalls’ opening thoughts on celebrating the holiday in this deeply strange year struck a chord and might just have become Kitchn’s official Thanksgiving motto: “Think big, but prepare small.”

While he won’t be gathering with a large group of friends and family this year (and no one should!), chef Smalls is going small in a big way.

Instead of a turkey, chef Smalls is planning to stick with a smaller bird (either quail or Cornish hens). If your day is incomplete without a turkey, he recommends simply buying “the smallest turkey they have,” or turkey broken down into parts. Regardless of size, Smalls recommends preparing your bird in a luxurious way.

He likes to start his by making a nice glaze of mustard, apricot, and brown sugar, “to cut the gamey turkey.” My favorite tip of his? Place the bird (or bird parts) on a rack in a roasting tray and steam with beer or Champagne (!) while it’s cooking. “It’s gotta be drunk,” Smalls says. I like where his head is at.

He’ll also be preparing a veggie medley including creamed peas and green beans and benne seeds; full-berry cranberry sauce with apples, pears, and crystallized ginger; crab cakes; both chestnut and oyster stuffing; and sweet potato pie. “You can’t have a holiday celebration without sweet potato pie where I come from,” he says.

As you can see, chef Smalls is thinking big, even if his guest list is a lot smaller this year. “Preparing small” doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the spread — it just means making what you do have feel festive, fun, and celebratory.

For more inspiration, follow Alexander Smalls on Instagram, visit his website, and check out his cookbooks here.

Are you thinking big but preparing small this year?