Food The Chefs:

Thanksgiving With Jonathan Waxman

Jonathan Waxman

Turkey day is my favorite holiday—more than any other it conjures sweet memories of Thanksgiving at my mama’s house growing up, a tradition that still lives on today. While I’m a big embracer of innovation in the food sphere—expanding my palette whenever possible–Thanksgiving might be the one exception to that rule. My family and I tend to keep our meal uber traditional, but this year I’ve been wondering if we should finally shake it up. I thought I’d focus on the sides, which I swoon over most: creamy sweet potatoes, savory squash and brussels sprouts are my ultimate staples.

So, for the sake of breathing some life into my Thanksgiving dinner this year, I sought out none other than a master of American cooking: Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto. I had heard from my friend Jessica Schiffer that Jonathan had been transforming her family’s Thanksgiving into something much more than the traditional feast for years. “He spices it up so it’s truly memorable, but never strays so far that it’s not also cozy and familiar,” she told me. I knew immediately I had to learn a few of his tricks.

Jonathan welcomed us into his swoon-worthy open kitchen at Barbuto and quickly took me under his wing. With our matching aprons on, we dove straight in, with him schooling me in the sweetest way on everything from how to hold my knife properly (apparently I need to loosen up a bit in the wrist and elbow) to how to prepare a few dialed-up holiday classics. The end result was three exciting veggie dishes—each a mix of the unexpected with tradition—that can be easily prepared in advance when hosting family and friends.

Jonathan describes his food as ugly, sloppy but with heart.  I’m a bit of a Tasmanian devil in the kitchen myself—I like to call it passionate cooking—but I believe it’s that energy which makes for a truly great dish. So, with full hearts we whipped up a roasted delicata squash baked pasta, infused with onion, fresh sage and a healthy dose of cheese. Next was a medley of root veggies slathered in a fresh & vibrant salsa verde. And, finally, we sautéed brussels sprouts with bacon, cream and parmesan—because what’s Thanksgiving without a little indulgence!? All of these JW creations are shared here for you to try yourself—I can assure you they’ll make for your most stand-out Thanksgiving yet!

P.S. Stay tuned for more Waxman recipes on The Bite this week.

Photography by Winnie Au

Chef Jonathan Waxman


Foodie Fix

Describe your cooking style in a few short words…
Ugly and sloppy, but with heart.

What was your last swoon-worthy food experience?
Estela on Houston Street.

Go-to restaurants…?
Red Cat, Blue Ribbon, En Brasserie, Little Owl, Cookshop, Colicchio & Sons, Toro, any Daniel Boulud restaurant, Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Telepan, Dinosaur BBQ, Red Rooster, Nomad, Empellon, Mary’s Fish Camp, etc.

Favorite city for food…?

Your ideal meal is…?
Mexican: perfect chips & guacamole, flautas with lobster, red snapper & crab baked in banana leaf, roast duck in embers with potatoes & corn, and strawberries & cream.

And with whom…?
Craig Schiffer

Any embarrassing indulgences?
Hershey’s bars, Peanut M&M’s, Fritos, Planters Peanut Bar, Snickers, Hershey’s Almond Kisses, etc.

Tips n' Tricks

Most important flavor-building ingredient or combo?

The kitchen trick guaranteed to step up the game of a home chef?
Be prepared.

Five ingredients you can’t live without?
Sea salt, black pepper, organic corn meal, steel cut oats, butter, olive oil

Favorite fall ingredient?
Hubbard Squash


How do you like to spend your Thanksgiving?
Always cooking!

In what ways do you follow tradition, and in what ways do you switch it up?
Always a turkey, but I’ve done a pheasaducken the last two years, too: it’s a chicken stuffed with a duck stuffed with a pheasant and filled with chorizo.

Which dish do you most look forward to on the holiday?
A margarita.

Are you a pie guy? If so, what’s your fave?
Yep, apple or blackberry.

Delicata Squash Baked Pasta

Jonathan Waxman


1/2 pound cavatelli pasta

2 delicata squash, seeded and cut into half moons

1 onion

10 leaves of sage

2 TB olive oil

1 TB butter

1 TB heavy cream

1 TB parmesan


1. In a heavy stock pot heat 2 quarts of salted water. Cook pasta for 5 minutes in boiling water – remove and let cool.

2. Roast squash in 350 degree oven with 1/2 of the onion and 1 TB olive oil –  for 25 minutes.

3. When squash is cooked, toss the pasta with squash and 1 TB cream, 1 TB butter and crush 6 leaves of sage; season and place in a gratin dish.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

5. Sauté sage leaves in 1 teaspoon olive oil until golden, crush and sprinkle on top of gratin and add the parmesan cheese, serve hot.

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