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Nobody will judge you too harshly if you stick with the usual Thanksgiving spread. Unless, of course, you’re an Iron Chef finalist on the Food Network. Then, turkey, tater tots, and canned pumpkin-pie filling don’t quite cut the mustard greens. We spoke with six top toques battling for this season’s ultimate culinary crown about thinking outside the box for the most traditional annual American feast -- and we sprung a secret Thanksgiving ingredient on three of them (pssst! -- it’s honey). Ready to sweeten the pot this Thanksgiving? Here’s how to perform like an Iron Chef.

FOOD


NATE APPLEMAN
Roasted Butternut Squash with Chestnut Honey

“Honey is a surprisingly under-used ingredient with home cooks,” says the New York–based James Beard Award winner and author of A16 Food + Wine (Ten Speed Press, 2008), who often puts honey ahead of sugar for its flavor complexities. “Chestnut honey has a nice bitter note to it,” Appleman adds. “Perfect for a savory Thanksgiving side dish like this one.”

1 to 3 butternut squashes
2 sprigs rosemary
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Lemon zest from one lemon
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon currants, soaked in warm water
4 ounces pancetta
2 tablespoons chestnut honey
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Peel squash halves and slice crosswise into half-inch-thick pieces.
3. Chop rosemary, garlic, and lemon zest and mix with chili flakes, currants,
pancetta, and honey.
4. In large bowl, toss squash, salt, olive oil, and all other ingredients. Divide
squash between two rimmed baking sheets, spreading pieces evenly over pans.
5. Roast in oven for 15 to 20 minutes (rotating pans front to back halfway) or until cooked through and golden.