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For Celebrity Chef Carla Hall, This Will Not Be A Typical Thanksgiving


Let's face it - Thanksgiving is not going to feel the same this year. We decided to call chef and author Carla Hall to find out what she's doing. She had just figured out a way to make her mom's 80th birthday feel special with many guests on Zoom, and her Thanksgiving plans are definitely different, though some staples are not going to change.

Carla Hall, it is great to talk to you. Thanks for doing this with us.

CARLA HALL: It's my pleasure. I feel like we're in this together but apart.

GREENE: I like that. You know what? That is - I'm just going to hold those words for this week and beyond. I really like hearing that. Is that kind of the way you're approaching this holiday season?

HALL: It is. It is. And you know, everyone keeps saying, you know, it's going to be different. It's different this year. We can't travel. We can't do this. And I think that we just have to lean into that.

GREENE: So tell me what that means. Like, how does that manifest when it comes to planning your Thanksgiving Day?

HALL: Well, I - you know, I was planning for my mom to come here. My sister and I planned an 80th birthday party for my mom, and that was this past Saturday.

GREENE: Oh, happy birthday to her.

HALL: I know. It's 80 years. And so we really went all out, and we spent so much energy on it. And then after the party, we're all exhausted, and we're looking at each other, and we're like, we have to do this again on Thursday. And we're like, why are we doing this again on Thursday? And so we said, you know what, we can meet on Wednesday, we can meet on Friday, but let's do whatever we want on Thursday. And we took away that pressure.

GREENE: I love that. So what's the plan for Thursday?

HALL: So we're going to do a Friendsgiving, which we never do because it's always with family.

GREENE: Love it.

HALL: And everything is going to be much smaller. It's six of us, and we've sort of been in a pod. There are six of us that have been sort of together throughout the pandemic. But what I'm saying to other people, you know, instead of a whole turkey, maybe you get a turkey breast if you want to cook something, if this is going to be a smaller group. We're going to have sort of a potluck, whatever anybody wants to bring. It doesn't have to be the traditional fare, and it'll be what it's going to be.

GREENE: That sounds great. And I guess that that really follows with the advice we've been getting. Like, if you're going to have a group, make it a pod that you've already been with, and don't risk bringing new people and traveling into the mix.

HALL: Right. If you want to do the dinner, one of the things that I did was just take chicken parts, and you're going to sear the chicken. You're going to take it out of your pan, and then you're going to add in your thinly sliced onions. You're going to saute that, and that's all of that fond and flavor on the bottom of the pan. And then you're going to add all of the herbs that make poultry seasoning - so rosemary, sage, thyme. You're going to add some black pepper. And then as you're cooking that, you're going to add a little bit of stock. You cook your onions, throw some garlic in there. And now that it's all saucy, add your chicken back in. And that is going to become part of your gravy. So it's smothered chicken but in the vein of Thanksgiving and what you might do with turkey because all those same flavors. So there's one dish. And then...

GREENE: I love that. So that's the main dish. That would be the main event and sounds pretty doable.

HALL: That will be the main event. And if you wanted to use turkey parts, then use turkey. You can absolutely do a turkey breast the same way, and then you might want to finish it in the oven just so it's a little bit quicker and everything's going to cook evenly. So then for candied yams, because that's what would be on my table, I get yams, roast them in the oven like baked potatoes, put them on a sheet pan. It actually helps if you put them in the microwave for about five minutes first and then put them on a sheet pan because they cook so evenly and they get so creamy and delicious.

And then the candied part, which is brown sugar and cinnamon and ginger and all of these flavors - I put black pepper in there and lemon juice, a little bit of butter. You make that glaze. So then when you pull the cooked sweet potatoes out, you're going to slit them like a baked potato, push them in, you know, where all of that creamy sweet potato goodness comes up and it's all - oh, yummy.

GREENE: All beautiful and - yeah.

HALL: All beautiful and soft and - oh - so good. And then you're going to spoon that brown sugar glaze that you made on top of those sweet potatoes, put them back in the oven, they're going to brown a little bit in all of that sugary goodness. So you haven't really put yourself out. It's not a lot of cooking. You can cook those potatoes ahead of time. You can make that glaze ahead of time, but all of that is going to take you really the time that it takes to roast the potato.

GREENE: I mean, this is, like, the normal amount of time I might spend on just making dinner on any night.

HALL: Right, 100%.

GREENE: What if I want to lean into different when it comes to dessert? Do you have some ideas for the dessert course?

HALL: The dessert course - if you're leaning into different, do ice cream.

GREENE: Oh, I love that.

HALL: That would be so great. So that sauce that I talked about, look, with the sweet potatoes, if you - oh, my gosh - if you take that sauce, I mean, just put all of your energy into the dessert, that sauce with the brown sugar, and the - I - know everybody's going to ask you for recipes, and I...

GREENE: Are you about to tell me to use the yam sauce with ice cream?

HALL: Yes.

GREENE: Oh, my God.

HALL: Use the yam sauce over vanilla ice cream or butter pecan ice cream.

GREENE: Oh, I'm like - I'm going - that's - yes.

HALL: (Laughter).

GREENE: Yes in every way. That sounds amazing.

HALL: But look, another thing that I think people can do, they're missing their family and friends, have those Zoom calls while you're preparing or while you're talking about what you're going to prepare for dinner and have that connection.

GREENE: Oh, like, while you're in the kitchen.

HALL: Yes. I think that would be fantastic.

GREENE: So what's your plan when it comes to conversation? Like, are you going to reflect on big, deep thinking about 2020?

HALL: David, I've already had the deep conversations about 2020. I don't need to have those. I - honestly, I am going to talk about movies. I'm going to be talking about all of the escapism that I've been having (laughter).

GREENE: Love it.

HALL: But also, you know, like, I just listen to romance novels sometimes just because it's pure escapism. I mean, a couple of conversations about being grateful, yes. We're going to have a lot of that. I think a great conversation is how we've pivoted, how we have surprised ourselves during this time, and pat yourself on the back for doing it. That's a great conversation to have.

GREENE: I love that. Well, Carla Hall, it is always such a pleasure, and happy birthday to your mom and also have a lovely Thanksgiving.

HALL: Thank you so much, David Greene. We have those names where you can say the whole name.

GREENE: That's right. You go, Carla Hall. Thank you.

HALL: Take care.


GREENE: She is a chef and author and also hosts the podcast "Say Yes." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.