John Besh is a native of Louisiana, the author of My New Orleans and My Family Table and the award-winning chef behind nine acclaimed restaurants, including August and Borgne.
"Down here in New Orleans we make a turkey for Thanksgiving like everyone else, but it's our unique sides that set us apart. Take oyster dressing: In the Gulf South you can't have a holiday without it and every family has their own version. You're talking about gulf oysters stewed down and folded down into French bread, dressing with a little cream and, of course, butter. (It's the holidays — you have to splurge!) At that time of year, oysters are at their peak season, and it is remarkable how well they work together with the turkey — they sort of elevate the bird. Another common side is mirliton dressing, which is super regional because mirlitons, or chayote squash, are really only popular in and around New Orleans. Their flavor is faintly sweet and almost similar to pumpkin, which works really well with sweet crabmeat and a little spice. Mirliton dressing is one of those dishes that if I see it on a menu, I know I'm in New Orleans."
Serve with: A really simple fall salad of endive and roasted pears scattered with pecans and blue cheese is a full of great contrasts: bitter greens, sharp, creamy cheese, crunchy nuts and sweet, soft fruit. And it's pretty.
Pro tip: "Pulling off a big meal always comes down to the planning — chefs are able to cook that way not only because we have a team behind us but because we have learned to prep ahead. So think about what you can get done in increments; prepare your stuffing ahead, wrapped but not cooked, so it's ready to go into the oven at a moment's notice. Doing things bit by bit also gives you time to deal with cleaning up the mess — because there's no way the mess will not happen!"