Farm Fresh

The Barber family (Dan is fifth from the left) at Blue Hill Farm.Photo: Hans Gissinger

Blue Hill isn’t just the name of chef Dan Barber’s elegant American restaurant (and its beautiful Westchester satellite). It’s also the name of the hundred-acre Berkshire farm his grandmother bought in the sixties, and the location of every Barber-family Thanksgiving since. It’s a place that, for Barber, not only defines tradition; it’s where he famously—make that infamously—messed with it. Some fifteen years ago, when he started cooking the holiday meal for his extended family, Barber tackled Thanksgiving dinner as any aspiring culinarian might, with a nine-course tasting menu and something to prove. “It was a disaster,” he says, the memory of that overwrought dinner, with its dry wild bird, carved-pumpkin soup bowls, and chanterelle custard, still chafing. Just as Barber has evolved professionally, honing his own ingredient-driven, flavor-focused style, he’s restored Thanksgiving to its traditional roots—ones that were passed down from his grandmother, and that he cultivates as lovingly as the vegetable garden he planted at her farm. Thanksgiving, he’s learned, shouldn’t be subject to radical innovations. A few tweaks, on the other hand, can’t hurt. On Barber’s menu this year, sweet-potato gratin benefits from green apple’s tartness and panko’s crunch. Brussels sprouts are pan-seared to bring out their inherent sweetness, then deglazed with white balsamic vinegar. And the pasture-raised, brined turkey is allowed to cool slightly before serving, to ensure the ideal flavor and texture. Happily for the harried home cook, Barber abstains from stuffing the bird (“You want air flow”) and from making gravy (“The turkey makes its own”). But even miles away from his restaurant kitchen, he can’t resist the occasional flourish. The cranberry sauce is ennobled by port and Grand Marnier; the pumpkin tart harbors a thin layer of plum marmalade. Once a chef, always a chef. Grandma, we think, would be proud.
—Robin Raisfeld

The Menu (click for recipes)

Brined, Roasted Turkey With Its Own “Gravy”

Mushroom-Hazelnut Stuffing

Pan-Seared And Roasted Brussels Sprouts With White Balsamic Vinegar

Sweet-Potato-And-Apple Gratin

Spicy Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Tart With Plum Marmalade

Farm Fresh