Top Tips And Recipes From Denver Chefs For Thanksgiving Meals & Leftovers

November 19, 2012 1:00 PM

Turkey Lasagna (credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

download  9  Top Tips And Recipes From Denver Chefs For Thanksgiving Meals & Leftovers

Thanksgiving dinner (credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

The experts at Seasoned Chef Cooking School in Denver were eager to offer some tips for making the big turkey day a success, as well as Thanksgiving-day recipes that inspired ideas for what to do with the leftovers. Seasoned Chef has a series of classes dedicated just to Thanksgiving. For more information, follow the link below. Please see the notation in preparation time for the recipes that can be made ahead.

Seasoned Chef Cooking School Thanksgiving Tips:

The Seasoned Chef Cooking School
999 Jasmine St.
Denver, CO 80220
(303) 377-3222

Chef Dan Witherspoon
Owner, Seasoned Chef Cooking School

“The most important tip is to write down a cooking plan with time frames for all of the dishes you are preparing so you will have a sense of when to cook items, what you can do in advance and when to serve dinner.”

“It’s okay to plan the same menu every year because you are comfortable with it, sort of like auto pilot in the kitchen, and your guests and family look forward to these once-a-year dishes.”

Related: Top Chefs Heating Up The Culinary Scene In Denver

Chef Amy Hoyt
Instructor at Seasoned Chef, Chef de Cuisine of The Gourmet Spoon

“Make the meal last instead of it being just 20 minutes of gluttony. After all, it took hours of cooking. Give favorite dishes their due by plating them individually in small portions and assign helpers as sous chefs for each course. It may sound complicated, but it’s easier than putting 10 dishes on the table at once. Serve soup first, then light salads, followed by the turkey with vegetables, starch and a condiment like cranberry sauce. If another meat is on the menu like ham or game, serve it next with an appropriate side. For dessert, serve fruit and cheese followed by the sweet dessert. After dinner, play board games that suit all ages to keep the good vibes going.”

Chef Michael Long
Instructor at Seasoned Chef, co-host KEZW Radio “Main Course”“Brining and butter,” says Chef Long. “Brining make the turkey tender and juicy and butter makes the skin flavorful and crispy” (see the recipe below).

Chef Cheryl Rojic
Instructor at Seasoned Chef, personal chef for Stone Canyon Cuisine and cooking coach for cancer survivors“Choose top-quality ingredients and prepare side dishes ahead of time, freeze them and reheat before serving.” See the Seasoned Chef website for Rojic’s classes about preparing meals ahead of time and freezing them.


Seasoned Chef Thanksgiving Recipes:
Classic Roast Turkey with Giblet Gravy
Recipe Courtesy of Dan WitherspoonIngredients:

  • Turkey, 10-25 lbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3-6 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning, optional
  • 1 recipe turkey dressing, freshly made and still hot


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Set the oven rack to the lowest level in the oven.
  2. Open the front and rear cavities of the turkey and remove the neck and giblet package. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and thoroughly dry with a paper towel. Season the turkey cavities with salt and pepper. Fill the cavities loosely with the hot dressing. Seal the cavities with either a large needle and thread or small skewers. Then season the entire outside of the turkey with salt, pepper and optional poultry seasoning. Brush generously with the melted butter or olive oil.
  3. Using a large roasting pan with a V-rack insert, place the turkey breast-side down and put it in the oven.
  4. Use the following timing chart to gauge the estimated cooking time of your turkey: 10-12 minutes per pound for unstuffed turkey and 12-15 minutes per pound for stuffed turkey.
  5. Turn the turkey breast-side up halfway through cooking. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and insert two large serving forks at the front and the rear of the bird. Lift the turkey off the rack and turn it until the breast is pointing up. Place back on the rack and back in the oven. This is a good time to add roughly chopped carrots and celery to the bottom of the pan that can be used to make gravy.
  6. It is best to baste the turkey every 30 minutes during the cooking process. Use either a pastry brush or a basting bulb. Soak up the accumulated juices in the roasting pan and spread generously over the bird.
  7. To check for doneness, white meat is done between 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit and dark meat is done between 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit. To check for doneness, run a large metal skewer or accurate meat thermometer vertically in the seam between the breast and the thigh. The temperature should read above 170 degrees Fahrenheit at the thickest spot and any juices that run should be clear. In addition, it is recommended to run the same test in the center of the dressing. The temperature should read in excess of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven when done.
  8. The turkey should rest between 10 and 30 minutes before carving. All dressing should be removed from the bird and kept warm if not served immediately.
Giblet GravyIngredients:

  • 7 cups turkey or chicken stock
  • One-fourth cup cornstarch
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Reserved turkey giblets


  1. Turn two stove-top burners on medium-high heat and place the turkey roasting pan with all the vegetables and pan juices over the two burners. Pour all but one-fourth cup of the turkey stock into the roasting pan. Bring this to a strong simmer and scrape the browned bits away from the bottom and sides of the pan. This should take about five minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Set a sieve over a large pot or bowl and pour the contents of the roasting through the sieve. Press hard on the vegetables with the back of a large spoon to get out all of the liquid and flavors. Once they are cool, discard the solids in the trash. Spoon off as much of the fat off the top of the liquid as possible or pour the liquid into a fat separator. Transfer the de-fatted liquid into a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Simmer for five minutes.
  3. Now, finely dice the heart and gizzard that were set aside from making the turkey stock. If desired, dice the reserved uncooked liver. Stir the giblets into the gravy and reduce the heat to low. In a small bowl, stir the remaining one-fourth cup of stock into the cornstarch; it should make a thick slurry. Slowly add the cornstarch slurry into the gravy, whisking constantly. Cook slowly until the gravy thickens (about three to four minutes). Season with salt and pepper.

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Shredded Lemon and Hazelnut-Kissed Brussels Sprouts
Recipe Courtesy of Chef Cheryl Rojic

Note: This dish should be made just before serving, though the Brussels sprouts can be sliced a day ahead and stored wrapped in damp paper towels in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator.


  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil or butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One-fourth cup vegetable broth
  • Half-cup toasted, skinned and chopped hazelnuts


  1. Zest the lemon and set the zest aside. Then cut the lemon in half.
  2. Finely slice the Brussels sprouts and place them in a large bowl. Toss shredded sprouts with lemon zest and squeeze lemon over the bowl (capture the seeds and remove them).
  3. Heat coconut oil and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add sprouts and stir to coat. Sauté for two minutes until tender. Add garlic and cook for one minute more, still stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the broth and cook until heated through. Add hazelnuts, stir and serve.

Leftover Ideas:
Recipes courtesy of Kimberly Lord Stewart

Turkey Wraps: Wrap turkey, shredded lettuce, avocado and cranberry sauce mixed with mayonnaise in a large tortilla.

download  8  Top Tips And Recipes From Denver Chefs For Thanksgiving Meals & Leftovers

Turkey Lasagna (credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

Turkey Lasagna: Layer the following leftovers (one layer for each ingredient) with one box of no-boil lasagna noodles in a 9×13-inch baking dish: two cups of shredded turkey, two cups of roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes, five to six cups of loose raw greens chopped or two cups cooked (spinach, Swiss chard or other greens). Pour four cups of leftover turkey gravy, thinned with stock or milk to a heavy-cream consistency, over the lasagna and top with sliced tomatoes and two cups of grated mozzarella cheese. Bake the dish at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour until bubbly. This makes six servings.

Potato/Winter Squash Leftover Soup: Just about any sweet potato, potato or winter squash casserole can easily be converted into a soup. Take about two to three cups of leftover soft potatoes (white or sweet) or squash and blend them with enough vegetable or chicken stock to thin it out to a soup consistency. Add some cream if you wish. If the original recipe is sweet, add a little cayenne or chipotle powder to soften the sugar. For plain mashed potatoes, add sautéed leeks and carrots with some fresh thyme and puree for a French potager (kitchen garden) soup.

Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at