Fifty million pumpkin pies! Let me say that again, fifty million pumpkin pies are consumed every year by Americans on Thanksgiving. Since there are approximately three-hundred million people living in the United States, that’s an overwhelming amount of pie, and that’s just pumpkin! Some other holiday favorites are apple, sweet potato, pecan, cherry, and many more. Pies are a huge part of Thanksgiving in America and as a pastry chef I’ve made hundreds of them.

Now, Thanksgiving is not just about the pie. Let’s talk Turkey. Forty-six million turkeys are sold for Thanksgiving every year! I come from a large family, and my grandparents were caterers so every family holiday was filled with an abundance of food, and Thanksgiving was no exception. Our thirty person gathering usually gets not one, but two forty-pound turkeys. I thought everyone had 2 huge turkeys on Thanksgiving, but it turns out that’s not the case! We use two turkeys to make sure there is plenty to eat for dinner, but also leftovers for everyone to take home. Leftovers are arguably the best part of thanksgiving and I have to say I love making a sandwich the next day.

NCC Pastry Chef Katie Horan shows off her Thanksgiving turkey. Chef Katie is in the running to become THE GREATEST BAKER! She wants to be recognized for her love of pastry and teaching and to be able to give back to NCC culinary students! You can vote once every 24 hours with this link.

The side dishes bring together the meal. Everyone has their own traditions, but some of the most popular sides are stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, and turkey gravy. Carin Winans, our Restaurant Manager, told me that her family always has corn as a side on Thanksgiving. Her Aunt forgot about the corn one year and the family has yet to let her live it down! It made me laugh because we all have our own idea of what Thanksgiving dinner should look like and everyone’s is a little different. For me, my favorite side is my Grandmom’s stuffing. She makes the most amazing stuffing with sweet Italian sausage – my mouth is watering just writing this, it’s that good! Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same for me without it!

This year is going to look a lot different for me and for so many other families around the world. With a global pandemic we need to be responsible and keep our gatherings small. My family will not be having our big dinner together this year, and while I’m disappointed I know that we will all be having Grandmom’s stuffing and much smaller turkeys! We will do what is right to keep each other safe this year and pray we can get back to our favorite traditions next year. I still plan on making pies for my family and I hope everyone can find a way to make this year’s Thanksgiving special. As a pastry chef, I thought I would share some tips for making the best pies and a recipe for one of my personal favorites, apple pie. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, no matter what your traditions are or how you celebrate.

Pie Tips!

  1. Cold Butter, Cold Dough! Always make sure your butter for your pie dough is cold and cut into small pieces before adding to your dry ingredients. Also, make sure you give your dough at least 30 minutes to chill in the refrigerator-the longer the better! I also like to put the finished rolled out pie dough in the pan back in the fridge before baking, keeping the dough cold will give you a beautiful flaky crust.
  2. Use your hands! You can use a pastry cutter if need be, but I always get the best results by breaking up the butter and working it in with my hands. You can feel the pieces of the butter and it makes it easier to control how big the pieces are. You want the butter to be pea-sized.
  3. Have fun with spices! With a fruit pie, I love playing with the spices until I get a flavor I love. You can taste the filling before baking it to make sure you have enough spice and adjust to taste. If you really want to bring out the flavors, add a little salt! It’s not just for savory cooking, it really elevates your flavors. Just be careful not to add too much.

Butter Pie Crust- makes 2 pies  

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 sticks butter, cold, cut into cubes

1 cup cold water

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup ice

  1. Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl
  2. Add the butter pieces and cut in using your fingers, working quickly, until pea sized pieces of butter are left
  3. Combine water, ice, and vinegar in a separate container
  4. Add 2T of water mixture at a time and work into the dough until it forms a dough ball with some dry bits remaining
  5. Shape the dough into 2 flat discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate
  6. You can also freeze this dough up to 1 month

Apple Pie

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

6-7 cups peeled sliced apples (I like to use granny smith but you can mix it up!)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon butter

1 egg white

Sugar in the raw, as needed

  1. In a small bowl, combine the sugars, flour, and spices; set aside. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice to coat the apples. Add the sugar mixture and vanilla extract, combine until all the apples are coated.
  2. Line a pie plate with your bottom crust, fill with apple mixture, cut the butter into small pieces and scatter on top of the apples.
  3. Top the pie with the second crust, you can get creative and do a lattice design, or save time and cover the whole crust, just be sure to cut slits in the top to ventilate the pie. Trim the edges and crimp the crust
  4. Beat the egg white and brush the crust, top with sugar in the raw. Cover the edges loosely with foil so they do not burn
  5. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 20-25 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack.


Roasted Turkey with Herb Butter


1 stick butter, room temperature

1 tsp. each of fresh thyme, fresh rosemary and fresh sage, minced (Some stores sell a Poultry Herb Mix or you can cheat and buy a premixed herb butter!)

Zest of one orange

1 14- to 16-pound turkey

2 large onions, peeled and cut large dice

5 stalks of celery, washed, cleaned and cut large dice

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut large dice

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 apple, cut into eight pieces

1 orange, cut into eight pieces

Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder and Poultry Seasoning as needed

2 cups. Turkey or Chicken Broth or Stock

Method of Preparation:

Mix the stick of butter, all minced herbs and orange zest in small bowl; season herb butter with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425°F. In a large roasting pan, add the onions, celery and carrots, mixing them gently. Then rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin. Rub half of the herb butter over breast meat under skin. Sprinkle turkey and its main cavity generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and poultry seasoning. Place turkey on the celery, carrot and onion mixture, breast down in the large roasting pan. Place a few pieces of the celery, onions and carrots inside the cavity of the bird and also add the apple and orange pieces. Place garlic cloves in the pan with celery, carrot and onion mixture. Tuck wing tips under. Rub remaining herb butter over outside of the turkey. Sprinkle turkey and its main cavity generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and poultry seasoning.

Place turkey in oven and roast 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 2 cups of stock or broth over turkey into roasting pan. Roast another 30 minutes and baste with pan juices. About halfway in, take two pairs of tongs and flip bird over so the breast side is now facing up. Finish roasting turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F, basting with pan juices every 30 minutes. If the turkey begins to darken more than your liking while cooking,

cover loosely with foil. Remove the cooked turkey from the oven let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5 or so degrees). Remove the apple, orange and vegetable pieces from the cavity and transfer turkey to platter. Cover with foil until ready to serve.

To make gravy, strain the pan juices into bowl and use those juices along with some of the cooked celery, carrots and onions. Thicken mixture with a roux or gravy thickener and using a hand blender, blend all of the ingredients together. Keep warm until ready to serve.