Designer Lela Rose's Favorite Recipes for Thanksgiving

Bifen Xu
Special Projects Director
Yahoo Style
Lela Rose’s Tablescape. (Photo: Courtesy of Lela Rose)

Designer Lela Rose, who is known for her feminine party dresses, is no stranger to entertaining. She and her husband Brandon Jones live in a townhouse in New York’s Chinatown neighborhood that has a massive dining room — a glass table descends from the ceiling so she can host dinners for family, friends, and, occasionally, famed chef Alice Waters. “I believe the tradition of bringing friends and family together over a home-cooked meal is important,” Rose says, “and one I hope my kids carry on for many holidays.”

Here are her top 3 recipes for Thanksgiving, including baked oysters, steamed turkey, and her mother’s own Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake.

Upside Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

For topping

2 1/2 firm pears (preferably Bosc)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

For cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour|
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup molasses (preferably mild)
1 cup boiling water
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Special equipment: a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet or a 12-inch deep nonstick skillet (handle wrapped with a double layer of foil if not ovenproof)

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Make topping:
Peel and core pears and cut each into 8 wedges.
Melt butter in skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low, then sprinkle brown sugar over bottom of skillet and cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all sugar will be melted). Arrange pears decoratively over sugar and cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together molasses and boiling water in a small bowl. Beat together butter, brown sugar, and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes, then alternately mix in flour mixture and molasses in 3 batches at low speed until smooth.
Pour batter over topping in skillet, spreading evenly and being careful not to disturb pears, and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool cake in skillet on a rack 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of skillet, then invert a large plate with a lip over skillet and, using pot holders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert cake onto plate. Replace any pears that stick to skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Steamed Turkey

For the Turkey

1 16- to 18-pound turkey, preferably fresh and organic, with neck, gizzard, heart and liver, knobby ends of drumsticks cut off so you can remove sinews later (you can ask your butcher to do this)
1 ½ cups diced (1/2-inch) carrots
2 cups diced (1/2-inch) onions

For the Glaze

½ cup apple cider
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
½ teaspoon salt

For the Sauce

1 cup white wine
2 teaspoons potato starch or cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
Salt and black pepper

For the turkey: Cut off the ends of the drumsticks if your butcher hasn’t already. Make a cut about 1-inch deep and 1 1/2 inches long at the joint connecting the drumstick and thigh of each leg and at the joint connecting each of the wings and the breast.

Place a small wire rack (or crumpled foil) in the bottom of a large stockpot (or other large pot like a canning or lobster pot) and add 6 cups of water. Place the turkey (minus the neck, gizzard, heart and liver) in the pot, and bring the water to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and steam the turkey for about 30 minutes.

For the glaze: In a small bowl, mix together the cider, vinegar, Tabasco and salt. Set aside.

Remove the pot with the turkey from the heat and heat the oven to 375 degrees. When the turkey is cool enough to handle, remove it from the pot (reserving the stock created from the steaming) and place it breast side up in a roasting pan. Put the pan in the heated oven, and cook the turkey for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the carrots and onions around it, and stir to coat them with any fat in the pan. Brush the turkey with the glaze, and continue to cook it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours longer, brushing it with the glaze occasionally. If the top of the bird begins to brown too much, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

While the turkey is roasting, pour the reserved stock into a bowl and let it rest until most of the fat rises to the surface, about 10 minutes. Skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Transfer the stock to a saucepan and add the turkey neck, gizzard and heart. (As a special treat, sauté the liver in a little butter, add salt and pepper and snack on it with a cold glass of white wine.) Bring the stock to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, partly covered, until reduced to 4 cups, about 1 hour. Remove the neck, gizzard and heart from the stock, pick the meat from the neck and coarsely chop the meat along with the gizzard and heart. (You should have about 2 cups of meat.) Return the chopped mixture to the stock.

Remove the turkey from the oven when the breast and the leg register an internal temperature of about 160 degrees. Transfer to an ovenproof serving platter and, using small pliers and a fork, pull the sinews (which are visible at the drumstick tips) from the drumsticks through the tines of the fork, so you do not pull out chunks of meat along with the sinews. Discard the sinews. Keep the turkey warm, uncovered, in a 160-degree oven.

For the sauce: Add the stock and giblets to the vegetables in the roasting pan and mix well with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom. Transfer the contents to a saucepan and let rest for 5 minutes. Skim off as much fat from the surface as possible. Place the pan over medium-low heat, add the wine and potato-starch mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until it thickens. Simmer for 1 minute and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a warm sauceboat and serve.

Baked Oysters

From Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rock salt for serving
24 oysters (such as Apalachicola, bluepoint, Pemaquid, Chesapeake or Malpeque) shucked and left in the bottom shells
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
Coarsely ground dried hot chile or cayenne pepper to taste
6 or 7 very thin slices pancetta, cut into 24 1-1/2-inch squares, or 6 slices bacon, preferably center-cut, cut into 4 pieces each
1 cup medium-coarse bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Make a bed of rock salt on a baking sheet and arrange the oysters on top. Top each with a little of the sautéed onion-just enough to cover. Place a teaspoon of butter and a good pinch of chile on each, then top with a square of pancetta (or bacon) and a scattering of bread crumbs to finish.

Bake until the pancetta is slightly crispy, the bread crumbs golden and the oysters heated through, 10 to 12 minutes.