Finn & Porter’s executive chef gives us his key ingredients to Thanksgiving
It’s not intentional, being without our families for the holidays. It’s just something that happens to transplants—the rocketing of flight prices that come complimentary with that pull we feel to be with them. Andrew Martin, executive chef at Finn & Porter, has cured this hunger with a meal to be desired, devoured, and possibly kept secret so we all don’t go knocking on his door come Thanksgiving Day.
It starts four or five days out: the prepping. His wife, Amy, whom he met at the New England Culinary Institute, bakes a beer walnut bread for the sole purpose of letting it go stale. For stuffing, of course. Then, it’s paired with fried sage and roasted butternut squash on the big day. Mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta or some local bacon, a leafy salad—they know their places, marked by sticky notes on the table days in advance.
“We do a great turkey,” said Andrew, getting to what matters most. “I brine it and I rub it with orange marmalade and baste it with white wine. … In the bottom of the pan, I throw in a whole bunch of stuff along with the giblets and I dump a bottle of white wine in there.” Make no mistake, that family flair is not forgotten. It’s in the orange marmalade, a trick he learned from his great aunt, and in his grandmother’s china that he sets out for the occasion.
“We also make a cranberry relish from scratch—raw cranberries ground up with orange, including the peel, and sugar. It’s uncooked and really bright,” said Andrew, noting that while color is fun, it’s not a necessity. He cooks for flavor with simple ingredients, pairing them off to hold hands and do a dance on our tongue.
The staples seem to be in place, the familiar aromas are stirring in our mind’s nose. But the gravy, Andrew admitted, is the most important ingredient—the star of the show. It’s the velvety layer that will embellish everything it touches, and even fill the holes that we amateurs might leave out in our preparation or execution.
“I’ll usually make a chicken stock,” said Andrew. “Those marmalade drippings with all the giblets and that white wine in the bottom of the pan go in the reduction and I usually deglaze with some brandy. The drippings from the turkey is key.”
Of course, once the meal is steaming, filling the air and bellies with a warmth only Thanksgiving can provide, there’s dessert to be had. Shameless! A mutual friend of Amy and Andrew brings a coconut creme pie, a pecan pie, and a pumpkin pie (Andrew’s favorite), made from scratch and with love.
With love sent from family across the miles, and a stitched family of friends to feed right here at home, it’s easy to know what Andrew’s most thankful for. But, he’s also thankful for the thing that makes his lifestyle and home life work—balance.
“It is so hard to do this job and to have something resembling a normal family life. I have pretty good balance because my wife is in this industry. She gets it. The career and the life that I’ve built, it was very important for me to have something resembling balance,” he said. “The time I get to spend with my wife putting all of this together is my favorite part.”