Thanksgiving Is So Much More than the Deep-Fried Turkey Cooking Craze

11/01/2011 07:28 pm ET | Updated Jan 01, 2012

Before you know it, the holidays will be here and it is truly my favorite time of the year on the resort.

That's coming from a chef whose daily responsibilities include the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida that will serve over 1,400 guests on Thanksgiving. I was asked a few days ago by guests from Germany, what is my favorite time of year and why do you get excited about cooking for thousands. I look forward to cooking for thousands at different times throughout the year, but Thanksgiving is a little more special. It's so much more than work.

Each year I select a few chefs to prepare about 300 individual meals and we go to a small facility that serves guests that are in need of a meal and we are dedicated to make sure that it is a great meal. We make sure that it is not just any meal. We use high quality organic items throughout their meal, turkey, vegetables, including organic rolls, organic pumpkin & apple pies. We do this because we care for others and believe that maybe a different door of hope will open for them in the future.

They are not asking for a handout, they are just asking not to be hungry.

Our culinary brigade love this time of year as well. Many of them may only see those guests at our Holiday Thanksgiving Brunch when they travel here from around the nation and globe to see family, friends or just come to relax. They call them by name, talk about things that they have done since they last saw one another and their hugs and smiles light up the room.

There are 2 things that they always talk about, one being the Holiday Stuffing and the Citrus Cranberry sauce that we serve during our Thanksgiving Brunch. The flavors are to be expected when you dine with us, different from the standard ones that may come to mind when someone mentions Stuffing or Cranberry sauce. Our guests believe that they are outstanding and I have promised to share them in this forum. I have created a shopping list on each of the recipes, so you can peruse the grocery aisles with ease and confidence and shop just like I do when I prepare these items on Thanksgiving. The cooking steps are simple and easy to follow even for the lesser skilled cooks.

Enjoy, and I would love to hear what you think after you have created them. As always if for some reason you get stuck along the way, send me a note and it will be my pleasure to assist.

Cranberry Sauce


Try to use Organic items if possible when you are creating this recipe, as there is a quality difference when it comes to the final taste of the sauce. Conventional items are good, but Organic products are Superior.

1 12-1/2 Ounce Package of Fresh Cranberries (Organic)
1 1/2 Cups Cold Water
1 Cup Granulated White Sugar (Organic)
Fine Zest (Rind - Outer Skin) of 1 Lemon (Organic)
Fine Zest (Rind - Outer Skin) of 1 Orange (Organic)
Fine Zest (Rind - Outer Skin) of 1 Lime (Organic)
2 Pinches of Fine Ground Cloves

• In a medium sauce pot over medium to high heat add the Water, Zests, Sugar, & Cloves; Stir and bring the water to a boil for 1 minute
• Add the Cranberries; stir for 10 seconds; bring the liquid to a boil; then reduce the heat to low or a very slight rolling action.
• The liquid will begin to evaporate and the cranberries will begin to pop. Stir every 3-4 minutes
• Allow the sauce to cook for about 17 to 20 minutes and it will thicken as it cooks.
• Keep in mind that when you remove the pot the sauce will continue to thicken.
• This sauce is naturally thickened so you can refrigerate it and reheat it a few times if necessary.

It's not just for Turkey, as I have used this sauce spread across breakfast biscuits.

Holiday Stuffing

4 Strips of Raw Bacon Cut into Small Pieces
1/2 Pound of Raw Mild Italian Sausage
1 Dash of Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 / 2 Cup White Onion Chopped into Small Pieces
1 / 2 Cup Celery Chopped into Small Pieces
1 Granny Smith Apple Cored and Roughly Chopped
1/2 Cup Dried Cherries Roughly Chopped
1/2 Cup Dried Apricots Roughly Chopped
2 & 1/2 Cups of Chicken or Turkey Broth / No MSG
2 Cups or 1 Pound Herb Seasoned Italian Crouton

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
• Using a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the pan for 1 minute
• Add the Bacon, Sausage and Black pepper; stir and cook for a few minutes
• Add the Onions and Celery; cook for a few minutes
• Add the Apples, Cherries, Apricots; Stir and reduce heat to low, cook for about 3 minutes
• Add the Broth, stir and remove from heat
• In a bowl add the Stuffing ingredients from the pan and the Croutons; stir and ensure the Croutons are evenly mixed
• Pour the Stuffing mix into a baking dish; cover with a lid and place into the pre-heated oven
• Bake for 30 minutes
• After 30 minutes, remove the cover and continue baking for 7 to 10 minutes to toast the outer Croutons