In a lifetime of meals, here are few more seminal for Americans than Thanksgiving each year. Even for chefs, the pressure of crafting the perfect spread is a lot – and Anthony Bourdain was not immune to that feeling when setting down to plan this important family meal.
If you can believe it, we’re just about six weeks out from Thanksgiving, and that means it’s time to start planning – and looking forward to enjoying the meal once all the dishes are prepared.
Part of the pressure any Thanksgiving Day cook feels comes from living up to expectations: everyone can imagine their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, and how they want them to taste. As Tony says:
Thanksgiving is not the time for innovation… Give the people what they want, and make sure it’s consistent with what they remember.
Over the course of his career, Anthony Bourdain shared both tips and recipes to allow others to create a Thanksgiving meal inspired by him. If you want to start a new tradition of enjoying an Anthony Bourdain Thanksgiving feast, below you’ll find all you need: recipes, commentary, wine pairings, and even a schedule of how to manage it all with minimal drama.
Table of Contents
An Anthony Bourdain Thanksgiving Menu
Everyone’s Thanksgiving menu is a little different, but there are some key dishes that most of us include. Obviously, you need a turkey. Definitely gravy and stuffing. Probably a few starches and sides. And don’t forget the cranberry sauce, in whatever format you prefer.
But we’re not here for what you prefer – this is all about what Bourdain loved to make for his family that we might also try too. Here’s a list of all of the Anthony Bourdain Thanksgiving recipes in one place – bookmark this one if you want to celebrate Turkey Day, Tony style.
A Turkey… or two?
Okay, let’s start with the most important dish of Thanksgiving: turkey done right.
Naturally, Anthony Bourdain had thoughts about how to properly make a Thanksgiving turkey – but perhaps his most revolutionary idea was to actually prepare two turkeys. One, which he called The “Show” Turkey, was as the name describes: to show off with all the frills and lovely presentation, as the other bird cools from the oven before being carved.
He called the second turkey The “Business” Turkey, which was prepared the same but carved and served up for enjoyment. Here’s how to do it.
The "Business" Turkey
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Cooling Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours40 minutes
One 14-pound turkey, neck reserved for stock and giblets reserved for stuffing
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat your oven to 425°F, and set a v-shape rack in a roasting pan.
Brush the turkey all over with the butter and season with salt and pepper.
Rest the turkey on the rack, breast side up, and add 2 cups of water to the pan.
Roast the turkey for about 2 hours, basting occasionally, until golden and the inner thigh registers 165°F.
Remove the turkey from the oven and transfer to a baking sheet and let rest for 30 minutes.
Pour the pan drippings into a bowl and reserve for the stuffing.
Carve the turkey, arrange it on a platter, and serve.
Original recipe by Anthony Bourdain courtesy of Food & Wine.
Gravy, of course.
Even the best turkey is made better by gravy, right? It’s almost inconceivable to let all those good drippings and flavors go to waste when they can be drizzled all over the rest of the plate.
Here’s Anthony Bourdain’s turkey gravy recipe, which also adds a few unique flavors of red wine, Asian fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce for a particularly Tony twist.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
3 qt Turkey Stock
2 C dry red wine
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
½ C all-purpose flour
¼ C reserved turkey pan drippings
1 tsp Asian fish sauce
¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
In a large saucepan, combine the turkey stock, wine, and shallots, and bring to a simmer.
Cook over moderate heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until reduced by half.
Strain the stock into a large bowl.
Wipe out the saucepan, and melt the butter in the saucepan.
Add the flour and cook over moderate heat for 4-5 minutes, whisking frequently until deep golden.
Whisk in the strained stock and the reserved turkey pan drippings and bring to a simmer.
Cook over moderately high heat for another 5 minutes, whisking occasionally until the gravy is thickened.
Stir in the fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Okay, the bits you’re including in Anthony Bourdain’s Thanksgiving stuffing recipe aren’t exactly nasty, but most people don’t use them in their stuffing recipe – or at all in the rest of their menu.
This is by far the most complex recipe you’ll prepare if you follow all of Tony’s recipes; it takes two days – which means you definitely want to consult the three-day schedule he recommends below. That said, it’s definitely going to be the most interesting and complex stuffing you’ve ever had!
I’ll be honest: I’m not a fan of cranberry sauce, though I do love the way it plops out of the can… and there I’ve revealed the kind of Thanksgiving chef I am.
This year will be different: we’re going to try Anthony Bourdain’s cranberry relish recipe (below). This recipe sounds delicious and interesting, despite the simplicity of the ingredients and prep. So if you’re ready to settle the debate of “jellied or whole” once and for all, the answer is: neither.
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
1 large navel orange, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
12 oz fresh cranberries (about 3¼ cups)
1 C sugar
In a food processor, pulse the orange with the cranberries until very finely chopped.
Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the sugar.
For a simple dish, it’s astonishing how many different ways people make their mashed potatoes – just try having Thanksgiving dinner with another family and you’ll see what I mean.
In any case, French chef Joël Robuchon was famous for his beloved mashed potatoes (which Tony had during his visit to Paris), and Anthony Bourdain suggests a modified take on that popular buttery, creamy dish.
Robuchon-Style Mashed Potatoes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
4 lbs medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved
6 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
½ C heavy cream
In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring them to a boil.
Add 2 tablespoons of salt and simmer until tender, roughly 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain well and let stand in a colander for 3 minutes.
Pass the potatoes through a ricer into the large saucepan.
Cook over moderate heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the potatoes are hot and steam starts to rise (about 2 minutes); they’ll also start to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add a quarter of the butter cubes at a time, stirring constantly until incorporated.
Stir in the heavy cream and season generously with salt.
While we’re on the topic of starches, you might be like me – one of those people for whom Thanksgiving doesn’t feel complete without mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Anthony Bourdain has a recipe to help, and boozes it up for extra flavor.
This is another recipe I plan to add to my family’s holiday repertoire this year; here are the mouth-watering details.
Candied Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour10 minutes
6 tbsp unsalted butter
3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces
3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
1/4 C fresh apple cider
3 tbsp bourbon
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Grease a 9"x13" glass or ceramic baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.
In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the sweet potatoes until barely tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain well, and spread the potatoes in the prepared baking dish in an even layer.
In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar.
Whisk in the cider and bourbon, season with salt, and bring to a boil.
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and gently stir to coat.
Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and the sauce is syrupy, 35 to 40 minutes.
After the basics – turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry, and potatoes – the world is your oyster when it comes to Thanksgiving sides. After a bunch of research, I found that Tony recommended a few sides in particular, and these are a great addition to your Anthony Bourdain-inspired Thanksgiving meal.
Brussel Sprouts & Bacon
First up, a classic in my house all year long – and maybe yours too. However, making them around Thanksgiving allows you to take advantage of Brussel sprouts at the peak of their season. Don’t be surprised if you’re able to convert a few people who aren’t normally fans of this tiny cruciferous veg.
This is a recipe you can partly prep in advance, in line with Tony’s three-day schedule below, making the day-of a little easier.
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
¾ lbs thick-cut bacon, diced
2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
In a large skillet, combine the bacon with ¼ cup of water and bring to a simmer.
Cook over moderately high heat until the fat is rendered and the diced bacon is browned, about 7 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.
Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the skillet.
Add the brussels sprouts and season generously with salt.
Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until browned, about 10 minutes.
Add ⅓ cup of water and cook, stirring occasionally until the brussels sprouts are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the browned bacon, butter, and lemon juice and cook, tossing until hot, about 3 minutes.
Next up, a classic recipe I found from a different source, in this case, a Travel Channel article originally published in 2012 following his No Reservations “Holiday Special” in late 2011.
If you’re not familiar with the term, “Vichy” refers to a style of cooking where food is cooked with a small amount of water, butter, and sugar, and then sprinkled lightly with minced parsley – so this carrots Vichy recipe is relatively simple but delightful if you get it right.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
5 lbs of carrots
2 C butter
3 C sugar
Slice the carrots and place them into a pan.
Fill the pan with water almost to the top.
Add the 2 cups of butter and 3 cups of sugar, and place on medium heat.
Cook for about 10 minutes until the carrots are fork-tender.
Here’s one Thanksgiving dish you might not have ever tried before – I certainly haven’t. Anthony Bourdain recommends this creamy dish with pearl onions to add different flavors and textures to an otherwise traditional meal.
This recipe is a bit more complex so might be best left to the top chef in the house, but we’ll be trying it in advance of the holidays this year to see if it makes the cut.
Creamed Pearl Onions with Sage & Thyme
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
2 lbs pearl onions
2 tsp black peppercorns (plus ground pepper for seasoning)
2 bay leaves
4 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ C all-purpose flour
2⅔ C whole milk
6 sage leaves (finely chopped)
½ tsp thyme (finely chopped)
Preheat the oven to 375°F and set up an ice water bath.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt.
Add the pearl onions and blanch until the skins begin to loosen, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to the ice bath to cool.
Drain the onions and pat dry.
Trim off the root ends and pinch off the skins.
Add the peppercorns and bay leaves to the saucepan of water and bring to a boil.
Add the peeled onions and simmer over moderately high heat until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Drain well and pat dry, then transfer the onions to a 9"x13" baking dish.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over moderately low heat.
Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until bubbling and beginning to turn color, about 3 minutes.
Gradually whisk in the milk and simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and no floury taste remains, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the sage and thyme and season generously with salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce over the onions
Bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling and just starting to brown at the edge.
If you like to enjoy a glass of wine with your Thanksgiving dinner, Tony has a suggestion for that too. As part of his Business Turkey recipe over on Food & Wine, he recommends the 2013 Syrah from Piedrasassi out of Santa Barbara County in California. You can’t find this wine anymore, and Piedrasassi only produces limited amounts of each year’s Syrah, so I recommend getting on their mailing list as you’re reading this so you can be notified when new vintages are available.
You can also potentially find past years through online retailers too.
What About Pumpkin Pie?
If you’ve spent any time watching Anthony Bourdain’s shows, you probably have already caught on that he didn’t have much of a sweet tooth – and absolutely hated the “pumpkin spice craze.” I obviously wasn’t there for all of his Thanksgiving dinners (I wish), but I’m guessing he probably didn’t much prioritize making pumpkin pie – maybe he went for a cheese course instead of dessert (as in Marseille).
In any case, there is no “official” Anthony Bourdain pumpkin pie recipe – despite what some bloggers might have published.
If you want to follow Tony’s primary advice to “give the people what they want,” you’ll have to seek out another recipe to make it happen.
Your New 3-Day Thanksgiving Schedule
You might look at all the recipes above and wonder: how on earth do you do that all in one day and enjoy the day with your family and friends around the table? Uncle Tony’s here to help – he also shared advice on how to manage all of these recipes and have them ready to serve at the same time. It’s a three-day schedule!
Double-check the ingredients you need and have
Create your shopping list
Make your turkey stock, if needed for the recipes you plan to make above
Leave bread out to stale, if making the stuffing recipe above.
Make your gravy
Assemble your stuffing and bake, covered so it doesn’t brown yet
Make the cranberry relish
Prep the side dish veggies, like halving Brussel sprouts and slicing carrots
Roast your Show Turkey and prep it on the platter
Finish your side dishes while the turkey cooks, and peel potatoes
Make your potato dishes
Roast your Business Turkey
Finish the stuffing with turkey grease and brown in the oven
Show your Show Turkey
Remove and serve your Business Turkey
And there you have it: everything you need to make an incredible Anthony Bourdain Thanksgiving meal for your family and/or friends. Have any questions about the recipes above or other aspects of making your meal special with Tony’s advice? Let me know in the comments below!
Valerie is a travel writer currently based in Cleveland, but her favorite destinations are Alaska, London, and Jordan – only one of which Bourdain ever visited! You can find her writing on Lonely Planet, Forbes, and her travel blog, Valerie & Valise.