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Home chefs learn how to tackle Thanksgiving

POSTED: December 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Sara Guevara/The Times

Carl Wilson, right, of Biloxi, Miss., stirs a dish as kitchen supervisor Brian Wilson, left, explains the next step during a Thanksgiving cooking class at the Chateau Elan Winery in Braselton Sunday.

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Cooking a tasty Thanksgiving meal can be a challenge for even the most seasoned cook.

For the cook who has been preparing the massive holiday meal for years, the challenge may be in how to jazz up the traditional spread, while the non-cook may struggle with how to get started with the complex meal.

For those people who are at a loss about what to cook for Thanksgiving dinner, the chefs at the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort in Braselton have the perfect solution — Thanksgiving themed cooking classes at the winery.

"I am not a cook; my husband is. I bake, but he handles all of the cooking," said Kelly Wilson, who took part in Sunday’s cooking class. "But after this class, I am definitely going to be making this stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving. I’m not even a stuffing person, but this recipe was really easy and really good."

In the classes, students have their own cooking station complete with the needed ingredients to make several tasty dishes. A Chateau Elan chef walks the class through each step, while pausing to offer suggestions on techniques or to explain why certain things are being done.

"When you are cutting things, keep in mind that you want to be able to get a piece of everything on your fork, so that you can get all of the flavors in each forkful, so you don’t want to cut the pieces too big," said Brian Wilson, the winery kitchen supervisor, during Sunday’s class as the students were chopping the ingredients for the stuffing. "We’ll also be using a mixture of corn bread and bread crumbs. For our bread crumbs we’ll be using crushed croutons. If you used all corn bread, your stuffing could come out too sweet, but the croutons add a filler and help to balance out the sweetness."

For the Thanksgiving cook who is looking for a new way to serve the traditional Thanksgiving fare, Chateau Elan chefs have several suggestions.

"Instead of making mashed potatoes, you may want to try serving mashed sweet potatoes with a little brandy and some brown sugar," said Hakan Hendekli, a sous chef at the resort. "And instead of a whole turkey, try making turkey meatballs — or get a (raw) turkey breast sliced thin, then spread feta cheese and spinach inside and bake it."

If any vegetarians have reserved a place at your Thanksgiving table, the Chateau Elan chefs say there is no reason to leave them out of the loop.

"If you make the turkey meatballs, you could also make vegetarian balls so that everyone will have the same thing and the vegetarians won’t feel left out," Hendekli said. "For the vegetarian balls, grate some zucchini, then add in some chopped garlic, bell peppers and cream cheese and fry them up just like the other meatballs. The zucchini balls will look the same as the turkey meatballs, and everyone will be happy."


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