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For Thanksgiving, I'm usually cooking dinner for 24, but this year we’re only five, so I’m holding onto the classics we can’t let go of and doing everything else my way. I plan on roasting a smaller turkey in my old fashioned fire spit rotisserie, up in Hudson, and serving it with salsa verde and salsa siciliana. Cranberry sauce just doesn’t do it for me. I’d much rather have red currant sauce, but they don't grow those here.
Christmas Eve is normally the first day we all get together. I try to cook something different, so I serve linguine alle vongole. Everyone who’s been driving for hours and stuck in traffic can gather around a giant pot of something warm, juicy, slippery and salty. They can slosh the winey sauce on the table. It’s quick, it’s easy, it doesn’t take up lots of space in the fridge...it just makes sense, and everyone loves it. I put loads of chilli, loads of garlic, loads of white wine, so it’s very unctuous while being less involved. I’ll do it with a big green salad, and then we’ll roast chestnuts and drink whiskey. Everyone ends up smoking cigars indoors and I worry about the upholstery! That’s generally what happens.
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On her childhood traditions—and making new ones...

Food traditions are a huge part of my family—as I think it is with most. I grew up in India and later in the Middle East, and I’m very influenced by the hospitality of those cultures. The role that food plays in celebration is so warm and important. Generosity is at the core: everything is about passing and sharing; there are loads of different dishes. At home, it was the same. Everything revolved around food.
There are always traditions in the making...now that I’m the person hosting most of the holidays, I can architecture the traditions backward. For instance, I like to eat chestnuts, so I will serve them, and then we all sit around the fire roasting chestnuts together. Generally, what becomes a tradition has to be requested again. I’ve done linguine alle vongole two years in a row now, and last year my husband said, “Can we have that again on Christmas Eve?” That’s when I understood how traditions are established.
On why she’s mixing it up for Thanksgiving this year...

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s just about food, and it’s for everybody. Our table swells. The first time I celebrated was back when my husband and I were first dating and I got invited to his uncle’s house in Connecticut. It was awesome. I remember marshmallows on the sweet potato. My mind was blown. There were loads of baskets lined with fabrics, and people who never normally cooked had done this banquet...I just loved it. I like to do all the traditional things with my own twist. I’m trying to make this new tradition happen: a Middle Eastern shakh plov. It’s basically a giant dome that is stuffed with rice, layered with pumpkin, currants, nuts, then finished with loads of saffron butter, covered with bread, and then baked. You slice into it like a cake. This year, because we don’t have the older generations joining us, I’m going to do something a bit different, a bit less traditional.
On her cooking style...

Maximal flavor, minimal fuss. My approach to food and fashion is the same: I use good ingredients and I improve them, but there’s no fluff. I don’t accessorize. I can’t stand anything that’s not super functional. It’s about only doing the things to bring out the most beautiful, natural forms. Especially when it comes to food. The whole purpose of it is to taste as it should be and also not to overplay the food itself. It has a function, and the function is to bring people together around a table.
I’m constantly learning how to cook—the nice thing is it’s limitless. I actually grew up cooking with my grandma in the UK. My grandfather grew a lot of their own food in Buckinghamshire. Formally, I went to Ballymaloe Cookery school in Ireland but then I really learned to cook at the River Cafe in London, where I was for two years before opening King in New York.
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On how to set the scene upstate...

Warm light, low light. Good music. We listen to a lot of country and folk upstate—Willie Nelson! The key thing is to ensure everyone has a drink. We don’t do custom cocktails, it’s already chaotic enough. We serve whiskey after dinner and wine before. I’m definitely not a wine snob, I actually really like cider. The closer to kombucha something is, the happier I am.