FR Thanksgiving Interview: Vic Casanova

Vic Casanova, a Los Angeles-based chef though with deep New York City roots, opened his restaurant Gusto at the beginning of May and the phone has not stopped ringing. On a rare trip back east he stopped by the Food Republic Test Kitchen for a quick chat about Thanksgiving, particularly how he likes to roll with the turkey.

What was Thanksgiving like when you were growing up?

My mom used to take turkeys, bone and butterfly them, and then take all the meat and slow roast it. We would take the principle turkey, pound it all out and get it sort of even sort of like a big porchetta.

Why do it this way?

First you roast it and you have all this beautiful meat that's already done to perfection. Then you take it and something as simple as making a seasoned breadcrumb with chestnuts and currants, maybe some cranberries and rosemary, with the pulled meat. Roll the whole thing up – it's actually pretty easy because you go to the butcher and ask him to bone two turkeys for you. They do that ahead and it's so much easier to cook – salt and pepper after it's tied up, extra virgin olive oil, you roast it in the oven and you just slice it when you bring it out to the table, there's nothing else to do. It's not complicated and it's a perfect meal.

But this isn't like your typical Thanksgiving turkey...

You still have the carving experience, the only thing is that it looks prettier. When you think about it, you have this beautiful roll. I think it's sexy.

What is your go-to sidedish?

I like good, simple things like sweet potatoes with brown sugar and thyme.

Is Thanksgiving a day of rest for you?

No, I'll cook with my wife. I'll do a broccolini, garlic, chili and lemon. I may do sweet potatoes with brown sugar and vanilla. Simple stuff, nothing complicated. I think that's what is really important – sometimes people get into these big, crazy projects and sometimes food just doesn't work out. Oh, I also do brussels sprouts, green apple, chestnuts.

Nice. What fat do you use?

You can use pancetta as well. We take green apples, cut them into pieces, roast them until they're super sweet, then take pancetta and cook it down so it gives all the fat and is crispy. Then cook the Brussels in that and toasted chestnuts and just re-heat it. It's good.

I'm putting that on paper. Do you have a favorite way to serve Thanksgiving leftovers?

I just make sandwiches out of everything.

Take me through your perfect sandwich.

You'll definitely have cranberry sauce. I usually make an aioli with rosemary and garlic and put that on one side of the bread — a soft whole grain bread. I'll put the cranberry on the other side. You can actually take the cranberry sauce and make it into a jam with a little sugar. You put the turkey in there and you can even take some of the Brussels sprouts and put them in there. Doesn't that sound delicious?

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