Michael McCarty, owner of Michael’s restaurant provides his thoughts on the Thanksgiving holiday and a pair of recipes to keep the celebration going for those that would rather eat (and drink) than shop.
Why are these recipes good fits for Thanksgiving?
As much as how they’re going to roast the perfect turkey, what’s going into the stuffing, what side dishes they’re going to serve, and what wines they’ll pour, the eternal question everyone faces at Thanksgiving is: What do I do with the leftovers? My favorite answer to that question for decades now has been to make turkey BLT sandwiches, moistened with a generous slathering of good bottled mayonnaise and served on big toasted English muffins (I love those from Bays, available in many local supermarket chains). My beverage of choice with those sandwiches has got to be my “beefed-up” version of the classic bloody Mary, enriched with canned beef bouillon, spirited with Stoli (my preferred vodka), and spiked with jalape√±o and cilantro. The drink is my favorite to serve at weekend brunch-and even though the morning after Thanksgiving is technically a weekday, it sure feels like the weekend. And you can go on enjoying the sandwich and the drink on Saturday and Sunday, too.
How did you develop the recipes?
Both are very much in the spirit of the way my mom and dad entertained when I was growing up. They always taught me to start with the very best ingredients, to prepare them in ways that showcased their quality, and to serve them with great style coupled with a total lack of pretension. That’s the way my wife Kim and I love to entertain at home.
What impact does food have on the overall holiday experience?
Obviously, the holidays are about so much more than food. They should focus on family, and on timeless values like peace, harmony, goodwill, warmth, and kindness. But food is one of the most human ways of expressing such messages. That’s why the foods we serve on our holiday tables are so important: They’re an expression of the love we feel for our family and friends. And that’s why it’s so important to Kim and me to serve a really blowout feast when we welcome home our daughter Clancy and our son Chas, plus our extended family, for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. And we like to fill both locations of Michael’s restaurant with equal overflowing measures of good cheer.
What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
Remember that old song we used to sing in elementary school: “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go”? There’s something about Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, that captures for me that spirit of homecoming. People aren’t gathering to share and open presents and to spoil their appetites with cookies and eggnog before they sit down to dinner, or to put on silly hats and count down to midnight. They come together on Thanksgiving to share a very traditional feast that’s meant to help us all reflect on the simple blessings we share living here in America. How much more basic and meaningful can you get?
What are the essential elements to a successful holiday?
To me, they’re no different than the elements behind running a successful restaurant like Michael’s, as we’ve done now for 35 years in Santa Monica and 25 years in New York City. First, make an effort to create a beautiful, relaxed, unfussy environment, including the table setting, that puts all guests at their ease. Plan ahead, figuring out your menu-including beverages-as well in advance as possible, writing down a schedule of what you have to have prepped by when, and doing as much work as feasible in advance, so you won’t drive yourself crazy and will have time to enjoy your guests’ company. Don’t overdo it, either: A few great, high-quality dishes prepared well and served stress-free will make everyone much happier and more relaxed than a huge menu that overwhelms hosts and guests alike. And, unlike a restaurant setting, don’t be shy about letting guests who volunteer help clear the table-including packing up and refrigerating those leftovers-and pitch in with the dishes. After all, this is a holiday about family togetherness!
Michael McCarty’s Turkey BLT
Michael’s Restaurants, Santa Monica and New York
Good mayo is essential for these sandwiches, supplying extra moisture for the leftover turkey, which can be dry. Lay it on as generously as you like.
For 1 sandwich:
1 Bays English muffin
Hellman’s or Best Foods mayonnaise
1 or 2 thick slices leftover roast turkey breast
1 or 2 slices (depending on size) vine-ripened tomato
Freshly ground black pepper
3 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cooked until crisp, drained
1 leaf butter lettuce
Split and toast the English muffin. Spread the cut side of each half generously to taste with mayonnaise.
On the bottom half, arrange a generous layer of turkey. Place the tomato on top and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the bacon slices next, then top with a leaf of butter lettuce and place the other English muffin half on top.
With a sharp serrated slicing knife, carefully cut the sandwich in half. Serve immediately.
Michael McCarty’s California Bloody Bull
Michael’s Restaurants, Santa Monica and New York
The old notion of “hair of the dog” certainly applies to these bracing cocktails, which can really give you a lift the morning after the Thanksgiving feast-and make a great companion to my turkey BLTs.
For 1 drink:
2 ounces Stolichnaya vodka
2 ounces Campbell’s canned beef bouillon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon minced jalape√±o
About 3/4 cup good-quality tomato juice
2 quarter-wedges fresh lime
1 stalk celery, trimmed
Fill a 1-pint bar glass with ice cubes. Add the Stoli, bouillon, Worcestershire, cilantro, and jalape√±o. Pour in enough tomato juice to fill the glass to about 1/2 inch from the rim.
Squeeze the lime quarters into the glass and add them as well. With a bar spoon, stir well. Garnish with the celery stalk and serve immediately.