SFoodie's series asking some of our favorite San Francisco food people about the dish they just can't celebrate Thanksgiving without.
Russ Moore is the Bay Area's chef's chef. At Camino, the Oakland restaurant, he operates with his wife, Allison Hopelain, the Chez Panisse veteran reduces cooking to basics, over fire and embers, either on the expansive open grill or in the wood-fired oven. When it comes to Thanksgiving, though, Moore makes a surprising departure from his signature Cal-Med style.
Moore: I have a very small family, so we have Thanksgiving with my mother, who's now 83. She lived in L.A, where I grew up, but we've moved her up here now. For Thanksgiving it's always me and Allison and my mom, and a few stragglers from the restaurant who don't have anywhere to go.
She's Korean, my mom. She was born in Hawaii, but for some reason instead of making Hawaiian food, she used to make a Chinese stuffing for her turkey, with that sticky rice you get in dim sum places. It has lap cheong sausage, shiitakes, cilantro, ginger and garlic. She made it once ― I ate a lot of rice growing up ― and now I make it for my mother. Being half Korean, people always want me to bust out some Korean kimchi on the menu or something. I think nothing would be grosser if someone was eating ricotta and kimchi in the same restaurant [laughs].
The cool thing for Thanksgiving is I go shop in Oakland's Chinatown ... I buy the sausage there, everything. It's the one time of the year I don't know exactly where the meat I'm buying comes from, but I get this sausage made from weird meat for my mother!
SFoodie: Which butcher shop is it?
I don't even know, it's just like this guy. They also have smoked turkeys hanging in there ― it's one of those Chinese shops with all the sausage hanging up at room temperature.
I soak the rice overnight and steam it ― steam it in a Chinese steamer basket over a wok, I always have to find my steamer basket and find my wok, near the washing machine. It's always dusty. I put the stuffing in the turkey ― I add all the giblets in there as well, just cuz, why not? And I'm one of the few chefs who think you can roast a turkey in the oven without taking the legs off.
SFoodie: Do you cook it at home or at the restaurant?
At the restaurant, because it's easier. If we're using the wood oven the night before, next day it's the perfect temperature, the high 300s, maybe 375. To make it taste a little smoky, I make a little fire in there at the end. And I make gravy.
SFoodie: With Asian aromatics?
I've used star anise and dried orange peel before, but no, maybe a sliver of ginger ― just a little bit. It can get overwhelming. If it's too Chinesey the whole thing starts tasting weird. We also have a bunch of grilled crabs, grilled crab with herbs all over it.
Crab and turkey, and whatever else anybody brings. It's kind of a mishmash-y and fusion-y meal I'd never do at any other time. Just Thanksgiving.
Other Thanksgiving essentials in this series:
-Jonathan Kauffman's Brussels sprouts with prosciutto
-Jun Belen's stuffing balls
-John Birdsall's braised turkey legs with polenta
-Roger Feely's relleno negro
-James Freeman's wonky turkey roasting, lots of coffee
-Bridget Batson's steak, then stuffing