Welcome to Hibernation Holiday, The Takeout’s guide to celebrating Thanksgiving in the comfort of your own home—and in your sweatpants.
You probably know chef Sohla El-Waylly already, though there are at least a dozen reasons that might be true. She’s been a restaurateur, culinary editor at Serious Eats, assistant food editor at Bon Appetit, columnist at Food52, and the star of Stump Sohla over on the Babish Culinary Universe YouTube channel. Oh, and she’s in the middle of writing a cookbook, too. There’s a true art to keeping busy and staying thankful.
To help out those who might find themselves at a much smaller Thanksgiving table this year, El-Waylly and Andrew Rea (of Binging With Babish fame) are teaming up with Blue Moon to do a cookalong livestream for fans, providing inspiration and instruction for a uniquely 2020 feast. The livestream is this Thursday, November 19 at 5 p.m. Eastern on YouTube.
The Takeout spoke with El-Waylly about finding creative ways to expand the definition of Thanksgiving this year, as well as the mishaps that can come with experimenting in the kitchen. Read on to see if you agree with her take on the best Thanksgiving pie.
The Takeout: What can viewers expect from your upcoming cookalong?
Sohla El-Waylly: I think it’s going to be really fun. It’s my first YouTube livestream! We’re going to be cooking four dishes together, and the ingredients are already [posted] online, so people can shop and actually cook along with us, and have a beer with us. I expect there will be a lot of antics. All of the dishes should give you Thanksgiving vibes, but we wanted to have a brighter, fresher take, because it is an unconventional Thanksgiving. We wanted dishes that’ll pair really well with Blue Moon, so there’s a lot of citrus, coriander—a little lighter and more fun than your traditional Thanksgiving.
TO: How do you expect a livestream to feel different from your usual cooking in front of a camera?
SEW: I’m wondering if I’m going to get it all done in time. We’re going to have two hours to cook four dishes, and if something messes up, like I burn the caramel for the cake, there’s no hiding. Everyone’s going to see it. We’re all going to be doing it together. I’m sure a few things will go wrong, but that’s all part of the fun. And things go wrong in your kitchen, too, so it could be a really good learning experience.
TO: What sort of antics are you anticipating?
SEW: I’ve never done this live, and Andrew [Rea] usually does them alone, so it’s going to be interesting doing it together while drinking. [Laughs] We get pretty silly just normally, without any beer. We’re just hoping it’ll be a really fun way for people to feel like they’re with us, because a lot of people can’t go home this year. We want you to feel at home with us.
TO: Everybody is facing a different holiday this year. How will that affect your plans personally?
SEW: The one benefit of having Thanksgiving just between myself and my husband is that we’re not really planning it out. The day before we’re going to see what we’re in the mood to eat and just go for it. Because it is a nontraditional Thanksgiving, we’re not going to try to be traditional at all. The most important thing is setting the table, having intention, and that’s really all it is, to make it feel like a special holiday. If I want to have macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving Day, that’s what we’re going to have.
TO: In a more typical years, with a large gathering of family or friends, are there dishes that are expected, and traditions you feel beholden to?
SEW: Oh yes, definitely. I grew up eating a very traditional Thanksgiving: stuffing, Pillsbury crescent rolls, gravy, cranberry sauce. As I got older and started cooking professionally, I would occasionally try to do something a little different, a little crazy—everyone would get upset. They’d be like, “No, no, no, I want the classic stuffing that we’ve had for years!” So instead of looking at this year as a sad thing, that we can’t all be together, I’m just going to take it as a fun opportunity to do what I really want this year.
TO: We tried putting cranberries in the stuffing about 15 years ago, and we still hear about it. No one ate it.
SEW: My family is exactly the same. One year I was being silly and I put beets in the stuffing, which was a terrible idea, because when you put that inside of a turkey, the turkey gets stained with the beets, and no matter how long you cook it, it’s going to look underdone. That was not a good year.
TO: Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving pie? This is a matter of some debate among many families.
SEW: We would always do pumpkin, pecan, and apple. Three pies, just to keep everyone happy. But I was all about the pecan. It feels like you’re eating a candy bar in pie form. I find that really delicious. And as a kid, it’s the one time of year that you’re allowed to just eat a plate of sugar. I just went all in for that corn-syrup-laden stuff.
TO: What advice would you give people who are tasked with cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for themselves this year, maybe for the first time ever?
SEW: Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. You should make whatever you’re comfortable making, because it’s Thanksgiving. It’s going to be special because it’s Thanksgiving. Take some time to plan. Don’t try to go to the grocery store the day before. See if there’s stuff you can prep in advance and have in your freezer. The day of should just be enjoyable. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.