Alex Guarnaschelli's Thanksgiving Traditions

Alex Guarnaschelli's Thanksgiving Traditions
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Alex Guarnaschelli's Thanksgiving Traditions

Alex Guarnaschelli tells us what a typical Thanksgiving dinner at her home is like. Read on to discover her favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

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Her dad and his stuffing

"My dad always makes the stuffing and stuffs the turkey," Alex says. She also notes that her dad, John, is a firm believer that the stuffing should be cooked inside the bird. "He's very emotional about that. My dad would get out a needle and this big thick thread, and he would make the stuffing from scratch, stuff the turkey, sew it up as if he were hemming a dress and put it in the oven. He always does that. No one is allowed to touch the turkey—and by the way, it's so good, I'm happy to let him do it," Alex shares.

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Her mom and her pies

While Alex's father has always been stuffing the turkey, Alex's mother, Maria, has always been busy preparing the sweetest course of the meal. "My mom bakes all the pies and makes all the desserts," Alex says. "My father doesn't touch any of that."

Growing up, Alex shares that her mom would always try to make something in addition to pie that was a little different to add to the mix. "That was the dessert that no one ate, like Indian pudding, which I love now. But growing up, I was like, 'Who's going to eat that? I'm going to eat half a pecan pie right now, I don't have time for that pudding thing,'" Alex jokes.

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Her daughter's mashed potatoes

Now that Alex is a mom, she and her daughter, Ava, have added a new tradition to their holiday meal. "My daughter is obsessed with mashed potatoes," Alex says. Her traditional family recipe that her mother makes includes whipped cream and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese folded into the potatoes and baked like a souffle, but Alex explains that her daughter is a purist already at seven years old, and doesn't prefer that version. "She just says, 'Mom, it’s just some cream, some milk, butter, potatoes, that’s it.' So we make mashed potatoes together every year—and then I try to get her to not eat the whole thing," Alex says.

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How to get kids involved

In the way that Alex's daughter participates in prepping potatoes, there are ways you can get your kids involved too. "The best tip I have for getting kids involved is not involving them, and letting them find the kitchen on their own," Alex suggests. "The kitchen is warm, it’s bright and it’s inviting. It smells good and kids are hungry and they’re excited about food. So let them find it on their own ... Either that, or add a simple side dish to your menu that requires some simple prep that kids can do together collaboratively." Alex recommends something like letting kids break green beans in half and then having them toss the beans with olive oil and lemon.

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Alex's typical Thanksgiving meal

In addition to those mashed potatoes, you'll find homemade cranberry sauce (as well as the canned kind) alongside family stuffing with pepperoni and mozzarella at Alex's Thanksgiving dinner. "That's it," Alex says. "The rest we kind of change every year a little bit," Alex reveals.

She says that sometimes they'll add Brussels sprouts, squash or green beans to the mix, and for dessert it's "a lot of pie. I mean, an obscene amount of pie ... A cranberry pie, a pecan pie and a pumpkin pie, always," Alex shares. She admits that they aren't really an apple pie kind of family, although they'll enjoy an occasional apple crisp from time to time.

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Preparing for the big day

If you're a cook who likes to procrastinate, you'll probably be happy to hear that Alex typically doesn't spend very long getting ready for her Thanksgiving meal. "I do not have it together," she admits. "I usually start the day before. I have made the whole thing, with the exception of the cranberry sauce, the day of as well, [I'm] not going to lie."

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The most memorable moment

"I really love putting everything on the table and just watching everybody dig in, and then that feeling when you just sit on the couch after," Alex reveals. "It just smells so good in the house, and it’s kind of a mess, and there’s some cranberry sauce on the floor. As a chef, we cook a lot in the kitchen, but we don’t carry it through to the end. We don’t sit down and eat what we make, we don’t watch people eat what we made. So to do a meal from A to Z just feels different."

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The decor is in the food

"I’ve got to be honest, my decor is the food," Alex shares. "I have a bowl full of pine cones I keep in the closet. I’m not going to lie ... I open the bag up and I spill them on the table and I’m like, 'Voila, décor.' I get some candles, that’s it," Alex admits. "I like to leave room on the table for all the food. Plus, when there’s a lot of empty space on the table when people come in, they know. It’s like clearing the race track for the really nice car."

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You probably know Alex Guarnaschelli best as executive chef of New York City's Butter Restaurant, a crowned Iron Chef and a familiar face at the Chopped judges' table. What you may not know is that when it comes to Thanksgiving, Alex is probably having a very similar meal to yours. Alex reveals what her typical Thanksgiving dinner at home with her parents and daughter is like. She shares her family traditions from her childhood that still live on today, as well as the new traditions she's started with her daughter (and admitted that she usually doesn't prep for the big day very far in advance).

Check out the slideshow above to learn about Alex Guarnaschelli's Thanksgiving traditions, including her favorite part of the meal. Then, discover the chef's 10 tips for a foolproof Thanksgiving dinner, learn 10 things you didn't know about her and uncover her secrets to being a great home cook!

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