A few California residents displaced this Thanksgiving will get a special treat as television chef and ESSENCE Do Right man G. Garvin begins his holiday morning by cooking and serving those less fortunate at his church. Though he won’t be making house calls, our favorite cook dishes on how to spice up the traditional favorites, ways to cut cost, and why women should get in the kitchen on more than just holidays.
ESSENCE.COM: Happy Thanksgiving! So as a chef, are you cooking this year or letting someone else do all the work?
G. GARVIN: I always think somebody else should do the cooking. The holidays are when everyone else enjoys cooking because I love it throughout the year. This is the time I get to be the guest and it’s fun. I ran into Johnny Gill the other day and we were talking, because around the holidays, as a chef, every time I’m invited somewhere, I always end up in the kitchen. They’re like, "Yo, the roast ain’t looking right. Can you take a look?" I said it’s the same way for him when he goes to a wedding; he’s going to sing a song, and we laughed.
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs.) Okay. So other than don’t burn the roast, what are some of your tips for last-minute preparations for the holiday?
GARVIN: It really can save time to plan out the whole day before. Also, spread out the cooking with your family. You make the mac and cheese and someone else does the greens. My grandmother would literally do everything every holiday. Nowadays, it’s better if everyone helps. Doing your ham and turkey the night before is definitely the way to go. Cook stuffing and other dishes 75 to 80 percent ahead of time. That way the next day you’re just finishing up and it’s already made.
ESSENCE.COM: And what are some of your favorite dishes to add a new spin to?
GARVIN: I’m a fan of quail, cornish hen. You don’t have to do so much turkey and ham; you can kind of spice it up. Whole filet mignon is also good. Kick things up with your rice with dried cranberries or dried berries. For your mac and cheese, let it bake up almost like ziti with a great layer of cheese on top. Maybe even try goat cheese or some others, but you gotta be careful with people and switching up the mac and cheese.
ESSENCE.COM: Very true. And any twists for dessert?
GARVIN: Thanksgiving is really one of those times when you really don’t want to go too far of the course. If you want to switch things up for dessert, maybe do red velvet cupcakes or chocolate molten cake where the chocolate just oozes out. I love to do a mixed berry compote sundae. I take strawberries, blueberries and other berries and sauté them down with a little butter and Grand Marnier. Then put walnuts at the bottom, a scoop of ice cream and put it in the freezer and let it cool. Then add a little Bailey’s and whip cream and you’re ready to go. I throw down. I’m like a rapper, it just comes off the dome.
ESSENCE.COM: We see. And in these tough times, how can we stretch out meals and be as economical as possible?
GARVIN: There’s the obvious multi-usage with turkey. If you like red meat, try filet mignon. Even though it may appear expensive because it’s filet mignon, the yield on it is great and it actually works out better. You can season it up well with your sea salt, mushrooms and pepper and roast that whole thing up. The next day you can take steak sandwiches [to work] for lunch, and steak and eggs for breakfast, and steak and potatoes for dinner. You know you can also do the whole beef stroganoff the next day and cube it up.
ESSENCE.COM: Also, as the holidays come, there are more and more goodies to temp the health conscious. How can you watch those calories for Thanksgiving? Pick the greens over macaroni and cheese?
GARVIN: Thanksgiving is the one day not to worry about those things, but if you are, just eat less. It’s all [about] portion. I wouldn’t sacrifice the mac and cheese. It’s more important about how much you eat then what you eat.
ESSENCE.COM: Definitely. So after you cook and serve for your church, do you have any other special plans for your holiday?
GARVIN: I have my 5-year-old daughter with me this year, so it will be nice. Shorty can scramble eggs and turkey bacon and already has two burns like a pro. My kid is much like her dad.
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs.) So should more women take notes from your 5-year-old daughter and get back to cooking more?
GARVIN: Absolutely. I think it’s really important that women do cook. Beyoncé came out and women don’t want to cook anymore. (Laugh.) I think it’s something women should get back to the enjoyment of, not as a responsibility. We, as men, miss it. I am a single guy and I don’t think I’ve ever had a woman cook for me. And when you sit down for dinner, it’s not about the food. It’s about sitting and talking and who you are with. When you go to a restaurant, you don’t see [couples] looking down at their food. They are looking across the table.