Understandably, chefs do love to cook, so a food focused holiday like Thanksgiving seems like a natural. But this year, Matt Kern (Executive Chef of the beautiful Heirloom in downtown Lewes) might just be sitting this one out, with the possible exception of preparing one of his personal favorite side dishes.
Coastal Cuisine host Michael Sprouse caught up with Matt recently for a quick chat about his favorite foods and traditions of the holiday.
MS: Thanksgiving is almost here. You’re a very successful chef. Is this a big “food” holiday, like for most people?
MK: It’s my favorite holiday, but normally, I don’t have to cook. But I have cooked. Two years ago, I cooked for Thanksgiving. And the year before that – but next year – it’s my turn to cook Thanksgiving. We kind of rotate it.
MS: That’s seems like a good system. You’re rotating it in between who?
MK: My mom’s house and my step-mom’s and my Italian side of the family. And then my wife’s parents.
MS: Wow. That’s a lot of food rotation.
MK: Yep. Both sides of my family live up in Pennsylvania, and my wife’s parents are down here. When they cook down here, it’s kind of like a big Southern sprawl of food. You’ve got the Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken and Dumplings, there’s ham, there’s turkey, Pretzel Salad – all the Sussex County, southern Delaware classics.
MS: That’s impressive! I always like to ask chefs about side dishes on Thanksgiving – I’m not sure why – but, I always like to go there first. So, then, is there a particular side dish that you like to prepare on Thanksgiving that’s a classic in your home?
MS: How do you prepare them?
MK: I make them with a Mignonette Sauce – normally with some kind of beer or wine – whatever we’re going to be drinking that night. I just start shucking. Everybody likes to watch football on Thanksgiving, but I enjoy shucking oysters. I think it’s fun to hang out with family, shuck some oysters and drink some beer.
MS: Tell me about your Mignonette Sauce.
MK: Basically, a Mignonette Sauce is a vinegar based sauce with very small chopped shallots and a lot of black pepper. From there, you can do anything with it really. You can use any kind of acidic, any kind of vinegar. And there are several different kinds of pepper. Black peppercorn, pink peppercorn, Szechuan peppercorn. You could put cucumber or some lemon in there if you wanted a freshness added to the oyster flavor. But, it’s like a condiment. A very easy condiment.
MS: That sounds really tasty! Would that be considered a side dish or an appetizer?
MK: It’s really an all-day thing at our Thanksgiving, but it works well as an appetizer before dinner. And after dinner, well, if you still want the oysters, I better start shucking again…
If you’re interested in serving up some fresh, regional oysters yourself this year, and are intrigued by the idea of preparing your own Mignonette Sauce like Matt, you can find a popular recipe that has stood the test of time on the Epicurious.com web site that originally was published in House & Garden magazine in 1964 online here: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/mignonette-sauce-15405 . Who knows, you may end up with your own classic side dish for years to come!
No matter what you’re cooking up for Thanksgiving 2017, Coastal Cuisine wishes you and your’s a happy and safe holiday!
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