Sweet as Pie

Chef and Culinary Stylist Ashton Keefe will be leading our New York based residents through a pie-baking class this month. Here, she shares with Related Life her best tips for an easy Thanksgiving. Plus, she’s giving us a peek at some of her best holiday recipes!

If you want to make a side dish or dessert for Thanksgiving, what are your go-to suggestions for more inexperienced cooks?
Sides and desserts are the best place for beginners to start! There's much less pressure. Also, turkey is not the star of the show in my opinion. I always say to people it’s fun to cook what you like to eat. So, if you’re a savory lover try with something simple like roast root vegetables, a Celery Date Salad (it stands up for hours!) or even a cheeseboard. For those who love sweets, skip the pie and try a Crostata, swap in any fruit you’d like and skip the pie tin. I also love an Apple Tart Tatin for the holidays.

For pie-making, besides pumpkin, what makes the best Thanksgiving pie?
Oh this is so dependent on your tastes and preferences! I love pecan, that’s my personal favorite but nuts can be pricey so if you prefer pumpkin, apple and even cranberry make great options. If you’re going to go pumpkin, make sure you make it Pumpkin Meringue, it takes it up a notch for a little extra work. I also think frozen fruit is overlooked. I love using a frozen cherry mixture and folding it into cranberries for an incredibly autumnal Thanksgiving dessert.

Pie crusts from scratch - a do or a don’t?
There’s no shame in buying a store-bought pie crust. But if you can – do it! It’s easier than you think, especially if you have a food processor. This simple Pate Briseé is great.  

What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?
Candidly, I don’t have any! I know that sounds wild, but I generally cook more turkeys than I can handle before the big day so “the food” isn’t the highlight. It’s counterintuitive but true. I have worked most of my adult life on Thanksgiving and believe it or not, it’s a delightful day to work. Everyone is happy, smiling, and grateful. Doing a morning segment followed by a day with family and friends, a run outside or paddles tennis with friends followed but some red wine and dessert? Perfection!

You’ve said you believe food is ‘an act of love and an opportunity for beauty.’ What are some ways to add that extra beauty to your presentation?
Yes, the time and care you take to make a dish look good is a form of self-care for you and those you’re feeding. You can always take the extra moment to wipe a plate, choose your serving ware or garnish with a bit of herbs or drizzle of olive oil, but truly it’s easier than that. You don’t need any ingredients, plates, gadgets – or skills! The energy and love you take to make the food, reflects in the way people feel when they eat it. It sounds woo-woo but it’s truly what Thanksgiving is all about. It’s why we always love our mother’s or grandmother’s or dad's food the best. It’s why we, as a culture, cherish this holiday so much. 

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