Whether you're the star chef of the family or you're assigned dish duty, the odds are pretty good you've got that all-important Thanksgiving dinner on your mind.
Along with the fun — and let's be honest, the occasional tension — that comes with getting together with friends and family, the cooking itself can be overwhelming for many people.
NPR's Michel Martin got together with Christopher Sorensen, the culinary director for Blue Apron,, to whip up a few Thanksgiving-friendly meals and to talk about getting comfortable in the kitchen this holiday season.
Below are the recipes for meals Martin and Sorensen made, which come from the meal-kit delivery service's recently released cookbook.
(Note: Blue Apron has been a sponsor of NPR programming.)
Pan-seared Brussels sprouts with bacon
Trim 1 pound Brussels sprouts; quarter lengthwise.
Small dice two slices thick-cut bacon.
In a large pan, cook the bacon for four to five minutes on medium, until browned and crispy.
Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, leaving any fat in the pan.
Add the Brussels sprouts; season with salt and pepper.
Cook on medium high, stirring occasionally, for eight to 10 minutes, until browned and slightly softened.
Remove from the heat.
Stir in the crispy bacon and 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar.
Roasted root vegetable and farro salad
Ingredients: 2 cups raw, skin-on hazelnuts or almonds; 5 1/2 cups peeled and medium diced root vegetables (such as celery root, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, and/or sweet potatoes; about 3 pounds total); two sprigs sage; two sprigs thyme; extra virgin olive oil; kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper; 2 cups semi-pearled farro; 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar; two shallots, minced; 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1. Toast the nuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread the nuts on a sheet pan in a single, even layer.
Toast hazelnuts in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or almonds for 15 to 17 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant.
Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool slightly, tossing the nuts occasionally. If using hazelnuts, when the nuts are cool enough to handle, transfer to a clean kitchen towel.
Cover with the sides of the towel and rub back and forth to loosen the skins.
Discard the skins. (If using almonds, no need to remove the skins.)
Transfer the nuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
2. Roast the vegetables
Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, combine the root vegetables, sage and thyme.
Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss to thoroughly coat.
Spread on a sheet pan in a single, even layer.
Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned and tender when pierced with a fork.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove and discard the sage and thyme.
3. Cook the farro
While the vegetables roast, heat a pot of water to boiling on high.
Add the farro and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
Cook for 20 to 22 minutes, until tender.
Drain thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl; stir in 1/4 cup of the vinegar and season generously with salt and pepper.
Gently toss to combine.
Set aside to cool to room temperature, gently stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Compose the salad
In a small bowl, combine the shallots and remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar.
Season with 1 teaspoon salt.
Marinate for two minutes.
Add the root vegetables, marinated shallots (including the vinegar), nuts and parsley to the farro.
Drizzle with 1/3 cup olive oil and toss gently to combine.
Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and serve.
Chicken stock (substitute with turkey to make turkey noodle soup)
Makes 4 quarts
Ingredients: 3 pounds chicken pieces (preferably necks, backs and wings); one yellow onion, cut into wedges; two carrots, peeled, cut into 3-inch lengths; two stalks celery, cut into 3-inch lengths; one head garlic, halved crosswise; one large leek, large diced and cleaned; one large sprig thyme; two bay leaves; 1o black peppercorns; 6 quarts cold water
1. Blanch the chicken pieces
Place the chicken in a large stockpot.
Cover completely with tap water.
Heat to simmering on high. Cook for five minutes, periodically skimming foam and impurities from the surface of the water.
Turn off the heat and skim off any remaining impurities.
Drain the chicken in a colander; rinse and wipe out the stockpot.
2. Make the stock
Return the chicken to the stockpot and add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, leek, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns and water.
Heat to simmering on high.
Reduce the heat to low. Cook, uncovered, occasionally skimming off foam and impurities, for six to eight hours, until the liquid is reduced in volume to about 4 quarts.
3. Strain and cool the stock
Pour the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a second clean pot or large heatproof container. Discard the solids.
Fill a large bowl or the sink with ice. Set the pot of strained stock in the ice.
Cool the finished stock to room temperature. Store for up to three days in sealed containers in the refrigerator or freeze right away and use within 3 months.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Let's talk Thanksgiving now. It's coming up on Thursday. And whether you're the star chef of the family or you're assigned to dish duty, the odds are pretty good that you have that all-important Thanksgiving dinner on your mind. And along with the fun - and let's be honest - occasional tension that comes with getting together with friends and family, we know that all that cooking itself can be overwhelming to many people. So we decided to check in with someone who spends every day trying to, as he puts it, demystify cooking and get people back into the kitchen.
CHRIS SORENSEN: You have to think back to almost the basics - right? - because the last thing you want is someone to get really excited about cooking something, get in there, they screwed up, and they'll probably not touch their kitchen for another week or two if not longer.
MARTIN: Chris Sorensen is the culinary director for Blue Apron. That's one of the big players in the world of meal kit delivery services along with others you may have heard about like HelloFresh or Sun Basket or Purple Carrot. Now these are the companies that come up with recipes, gather the ingredients and instructions and send them all to your door, so you can get a delicious dinner on the table with as little drama as possible and perhaps even learn a trick you haven't tried.
Blue Apron also just released a lavishly illustrated new cookbook. That's why, when we were in New York recently, we stopped by the company's test kitchen in Brooklyn to talk about coming up with recipes, getting comfortable in the kitchen and getting ready for Thanksgiving. Oh, let me also just mention that Blue Apron is an NPR sponsor.
Chris, how are you?
SORENSEN: Good. How are you?
MARTIN: Thank you for having us.
SORENSEN: Of course.
MARTIN: We started out on a quick tour.
SORENSEN: We've got three kitchens. We're actually just finishing up a test right now. We've got all of our writers - recipe writers - all of our chefs in this room. We'll rotate through these kitchens and test all of our recipes. This is where, you know, some of the cookbook testing was done.
MARTIN: We also poked our heads into conference rooms named after famous chefs like Alice Waters and Guy Fieri.
SORENSEN: Guy - Guy Fieri - we had to.
MARTIN: I wondered how Chris's training to be a high-end restaurant chef squared with his current task of trying to get people to stay home and cook more often.
Yeah, it's just I wonder are all your other - all your chef friends saying, geez, Chris, you're putting us out of business?
MARTIN: We're trying to get people to come out, not stay at home.
SORENSEN: No, no. I think the market is big enough from, you know, eating out to eating in to, you know, all of the above. You know, I think there's always going to be an occasion to go out to dinner. You know, what we want to get people away from is ordering takeout where you don't really know what's in that food. That's when you get into your unhealthy food. Right? This tastes so good. It's like, well because it's loaded with sugar and butter (laughter). Right? Like, they know the tricks. Restaurants know the tricks. You save those going-out nights for those nice restaurants. You'll be eating some really delicious, healthy food as well.
MARTIN: We ended our tour in the third test kitchen where we decided to try a few recipes from the new cookbook to give us all something to chew on as we think about putting together our own Thanksgiving menus.
Well, speaking of which, you're going to cook something.
SORENSEN: Yes. So we've got...
MARTIN: OK. What are you going to fix?
SORENSEN: ...We've got a few things. We've got a roasted fall vegetable and farro salad, which is actually coming on the menu in November. We've got a couple recipes out of our cookbook. We're going to make a little soup. And then, yeah, we can also do some pan-seared Brussels sprouts, which is another recipe out of the cookbook. It's essentially...
MARTIN: Brussels sprouts have certainly had a recovery, haven't they?
SORENSEN: Yeah, they have. Well, you've got to learn how to cook well. And this is - this recipe will help, right? It's - you roast the Brussels sprouts, get a nice caramelization. You get the fat from the bacon, bake, and it's a classic preparation now. And then the soup is just - we're coming up to Thanksgiving. Folks, you're going to have some leftover turkey. You can do a variation on this chicken noodle soup with turkey. You can make a chicken stock or turkey stock. But taking that leftover meat and really even using those bones in the same way that we use the chicken to make that stock. So it's a good little hack.
MARTIN: Are we going to like this?
SORENSEN: You're going to love it.
MARTIN: OK. All right. I just wanted to be sure.
MARTIN: So Chris put me on chopping duty - vegetables, herbs and apples for a root vegetable and farro salad.
SORENSEN: So you've got this nuttiness of farro. You've got the round kind of umami from the shiitake. You've got the sweetness from the apple and the roasted vegetables. Altogether, just a beautiful dish - very round, very full.
MARTIN: Meanwhile, Chris started our special Thanksgiving edition leftover turkey noodle soup using turkey bones for the broth and a generous serving of light and dark meat.
SORENSEN: Essentially, you're making that stock and letting it simmer with bones and vegetables for upwards to six hours. So what happens then is you're getting all the flavor that you can out of that chicken or turkey. And gelatin's actually coming out of the bones - that'll add that richness to the broth.
MARTIN: Last but not least - somehow, I was still chopping - we got to work on a side dish of roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon.
What's going on with these Brussels sprouts? They look like a nice bright green now.
SORENSEN: Yeah, so we're roasting them. They get a little bit of color. Again, on medium - medium-high. You don't want to be intimidated by the color on the pan or the Brussels. And nice, like - some of these are a nice caramel color, you can see. And that's what we're going to get these all down to.
MARTIN: As I worked on those Brussels sprouts, I asked for some practical Thanksgiving advice from a pro.
You know, Thanksgiving is a lot of pressure for some people - like, if you don't cook a lot. And I just wondered if you have thoughts about how you could - I liked one of the things you said about - for - a lot of times, you know, cooking used to be something that everybody did. Now, it's something that seems specialized - like, oh, that's - only the special people can do it.
But for a lot of people, Thanksgiving is the one time of year when they feel like they want to recreate the experience that they had when they were growing up or they're at home. They have a little bit more time. But I can see, for some people if you don't cook a lot, it can kind of be a lot of pressure. So is there something you would tell people to keep in mind to - you want it to be special. You want to be special.
SORENSEN: I would say cook what you know. I remember I interviewed for a chef job many, many years ago. And I got dropped off at the market. And this is when I was a young chef and didn't have much experience creating my own menus. And I had called one of my friends. And I was like, I just got dropped off at the market. What am I - what am I going to do? What should I do? And he was like - it was the best advice he ever gave me - he was like, just make sure you don't cook anything you've never cooked before.
Don't try to get fancy and show off. Yeah, you're going to get that 9 times out of 10. But you don't want to have that one time you fail happen in the interview. So I would say cook things you know. And then, if you can, cook things ahead, right? So you know, the farro dish that hopefully we'll get to here in a second - is something you can make ahead of time and then dress it the day of, right? So you can roast all the vegetables. You can cook the farro. You can even dress it a little the day in advance. It almost, like, marinates. It gets better. It's like a soup as well. Make that stuff ahead. And then, the next day, you just kind of have to do, like, the last-minute slash last couple hours (laughter)...
SORENSEN: ...Of cooking. Thanksgiving is a big day. It's a lot of cooking. So anything you can do to get ahead and set yourself up for success, you know, all the better. And that'll help.
SORENSEN: That was chef Christopher Sorenson, culinary director for Blue Apron. For photos of what we cooked - chopping by me - and recipes for how to make them, head over to our website - npr.org.
SORENSEN: We are ready to roll, right? Great. Great job, chef. So we've got our farro, our farro salad ready - here we go. Here's a spoon.
MARTIN: Thank you.
SORENSEN: Careful - a little hot.
MARTIN: That's good.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SORENSEN: So what do you think, salt - a little salt?
MARTIN: I could use some salt.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.