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Thanksgiving Tips from Keeneland's Executive Chef Marc Therrien

November 19, 2018

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Keeneland's Executive Chef Marc Therrien shares his Thanksgiving favorites and tips!

Tips for Hosting and Cooking for a Large Group

Follow the three Ps for success: Prior Proper Planning. Create a menu that fits your guests’ taste, but also stick with what you are comfortable preparing.

Once you’ve created a menu, make your shopping list. Break it down between the produce, proteins, pantry items, etc. A well-organized shopping list sectioned into groups makes for an efficient shopping trip.

The cleaning. Make sure your kitchen and refrigerator are clean and organized to store the items on your shopping list. Have your tools clean and in good working order (make sure those knives are sharp!). Keep your counter organized at all times and clean as you go!

Start your prep two days prior to the big meal. Any day of cooking should be the last minute tweaks, reheating, so you can focus on getting that turkey just right! Have your vegetables peeled, trimmed, and partially cooked. It’s easier if you get the bulk of your knife work out of the way at once.

Cooking Secrets

When blanching vegetables, heavily add salt water so it tastes like the ocean. Then, bring to a boil, add your vegetables and cook for just a few minutes, before shocking in an ice bath. The salted water preserves your vegetables’ vibrant color and adds a bit of flavor as well.

Roast that turkey slow and low! Make sure it is completely thawed out and your oven is pre-heated to 350 degrees (it’s better to brine the turkey for two days). Roast the turkey at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 for the duration of the cook time. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Thanksgiving Favorites

I like a good apple pie, honey baked ham, turkey and gravy, and my family’s stuffing recipe! I like a simple, roast turkey with a few great side dishes. Make a nice turkey stock the next day for soup, like turkey chili with your leftovers.

How to Take Thanksgiving to the Next Level

A few dishes that can take your Thanksgiving over the top:

  • Brined Thyme Roasted Free Range Turkey (don’t forget, low and slow!)
  • Moro Blood Orange Cranberry Sauce
  • Caramelized Root Vegetables with Bourbon-Sage Butter and Smoked Salt
  • Braised Giblet and Sage Turkey Gravy
  • Shortbread Honey Crust Baked Bone-In Ham
  • Sweet Potato Galette with Torched Marshmallow 
  • Lobster & Crab Bisque

Chef Marc's Recipe for a Tasty Turkey Gravy:


  • 10 fresh turkey bones
  • 1.5 cup carrots, diced medium
  • 1.5 cup celery, diced medium
  • 1.5 cup yellow onion, diced medium
  • 1.5 cup leek, diced
  • 1.5 cup fennel, diced medium
  • 1 full clove garlic, cleaned
  • 4 cups white wine
  • 1 oz. fresh thyme
  • 1 oz. fresh sage
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 oz. fresh rosemary
  • 2 gallons room temperature water
  • .5 cup grape seed oil
  • 8 oz. butter
  • 8 oz. AP flour (or a quinoa flower if you’d like gluten-free)

Cooking Instructions:

For best results, make a day ahead.

  1. Roast the turkey bones at 350 until browned (not burned).
  2. In a large stock pot add grape seed oil, carrots, celery, garlic, leek, fennel, and sweat down until lightly caramelized.
  3. Add white wine and reduce by half.
  4. Add herbs and place roast turkey bones over vegetables and add the water.
  5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer gently for 3 hours (do not stir).
  6. Once done, remove from heat and let sit for 1 hour. Strain in fine mesh strainer and set aside.
  7. In a stock pot melt the butter and add flour over medium heat. Stir constantly until roux is a toasted almond color and has a nutty aroma.
  8. Add warm stock to the roux mixture 1 quart at a time until all the stock is incorporated. Let simmer for 20 minutes. The stock should have a medium consistency.
  9. Add more chopped sage and season with kosher salt.