For the past eight years, Tanya Steel of Port Chester has been the editor-in-chief for Epicurious, an award-winning site dedicated to recipes, cooking and entertaining. Under her watch, the site, which started as a recipe database with magazine-style content, grew to be the go-to reference site for many home cooks, with articles and chef interviews for gourmands everywhere.
And eight years in, that role has made her a reputable expert on the trends of Thanksgiving.
This month, Steel is transitioning into a new role as special-projects coordinator, where she hopes to expand the Epicurious brand further, as well as chase a few of her passions like empowering kids to cook and eat healthy.
In an undoubtedly busy time of year for Epicurious, Steel took the time to answer a few of our questions about this year’s “it” ingredient, how to host for a crowd and the future of the holiday.
Q: What types of recipes are most popular on Epicurious around Thanksgiving?
A: People come to us for the entire menu — turkey, stuffing, breads, veggies and desserts — but certain terms that are among the most searched during the month of November include pumpkin pie, green beans, cranberry sauce, butternut squash soup, brined turkey and stuffing with dried fruits.
Q: Last year we noticed chorizo in a lot of stuffing recipes. Is there an “it” food or ingredient for this year’s Thanksgiving recipes?
A: Sage is more present than ever in Thanksgiving recipes, from sage biscuits and sage-infused stuffing to sage-flavored potatoes and even a sage ice cream. Pumpkin is another extremely popular flavor right now. From soup to coffee, scones to bread pudding, pumpkin is definitely a trendy Thanksgiving ingredient.
Q: How have you seen Thanksgiving recipes change over the years?
A: People feel more comfortable adding more global dishes to their table. They will often make the same turkey or green beans every year, but change it up so family and friends don’t get bored, adding dishes with Mexican, German or Asian flavors.
Q: What is your favorite Epicurious recipe for Thanksgiving?
A: I have a huge sweet tooth. It’s my downfall, so without a doubt, the pumpkin layer cake with cream cheese frosting that my sister bakes every year is by far my favorite Epi recipe (it’s also in our Epicurious cookbook). It’s a showstopper to look at, moist two days later and is light yet satisfying with its creamy frosting and pineapple studded cake.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about cooking Thanksgiving dinner?
A: People tend to get very stressed about hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, but if you’re organized and make some of it in advance — like breads, stuffings and desserts — it’s actually a very easy meal to make. Roasting a turkey is really one of the easiest things you can ever do. You can make it as simple as slathering some butter or olive oil under and over the skin and putting it in the oven for several hours.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for someone hosting Thanksgiving for a crowd?
A: When hosting any large party, make a list a few weeks out. Plan the tools and tableware first, so you can shop for anything you need, and choose the right menu. The next week cook some of the items in advance and freeze them. Get in the beverages. The week of, shop for the remaining menu ingredients. The day before, clean the house and set the table and get out the serving tools and equipment. The day of, get up early, cook the remaining dishes, shower and have yourself a festive drink. You should also be a guest at your own party and not hidden in the kitchen.
Q: What do you predict for the future of Thanksgiving food trends?
A: I think in the future, potlucks will become even more popular as a way to make Thanksgiving more manageable for the host and more fun for the guests, who get to show off their own family recipes.