There was never much consistency in my house for Thanksgiving. The menu and the guests changed every year. But one thing was guaranteed: My siblings and I would sit in front of the TV every fourth Thursday in November, eagerly watching every giant balloon and sparkling performer descend Central Park West, then 6th Avenue. And always, Al Roker would be there, jubilant and overflowing with festive facts and joie de vivre. I considered him, and still today, to be the King of Thanksgiving.
In addition to earning him the crown, Roker hosts the new podcast Cooking up a storm with Al Roker. Each episode features a different guest and a new recipe, offering the listener a diverse mix of menu options for their festive table, and a deep dive into the history of some of the day’s most iconic dishes. Roker phoned Thrillist to talk about all things Thanksgiving, including his very cold approach to how he celebrates the day himself.
Thrillist: For starters, if you had to prepare a full Thanksgiving meal, from entrees to dessert, what dishes should be on the menu?
Al roker: My mother always made this sweet potato dish called sweet potato. It was a kind of crustless sweet potato pie. Garnished with marshmallows. Toasted marshmallows. I think mac and cheese is one of the ones you have to make. The green bean casserole is always smashed. You know the green beans with the cream of mushroom and fried onions on top. It’s always a bit of a hit. I think these three that you notice are all pretty high in carbs.
What do you think is the biggest mistake when it comes to cooking Thanksgiving dinner?
RA: Becoming too ambitious. Suddenly you run out of time and / or ovens and stoves to get everything ready and then it’s hard to get everything out at once. So I think that’s why the turkey recipe from Sohla El Wayly is such a game changer because it only takes 90 minutes in a 425 oven, but because you set it up, which means you get rid of the spine, and now this turkey is flat on a cookie sheet. You always have room on the racks at the same time, especially if what you’re cooking is around 400 degrees.
What inspired you to start this podcast?
RA: Well, I’m going to be perfectly honest, nothing inspired me in that, as long as the digital team at NBC News came to me and said, hey, we’d love to do this cooking podcast , we would love to do a Thanksgiving podcast, we would love you to host it. And to be completely honest, my first reaction was, “Are people going to listen to someone cook?” They said, ‘Oh, we mean it.’ And, I mean, that’s the beauty of a podcast, it’s not like you’ve built a set and done all of these other things. We have a great food team and great technical staff. So they knew what they were doing. And then we just asked some chefs that I like, and they said yes. So we gave it a shot.
âMy mom always made this sweet potato dish called sweet potato. It was a kind of crustless sweet potato pie.
It’s like that kind of ASMR experience.
Yes Yes. Chop, slice and stir. And it’s very sound intensive, which again you don’t think about if you’re doing TV, cooking or even cooking in person because you see it all and say you hear it, but all of it. is part of your senses. You smell it, you see it, you taste it. But you take all these things out where you can only hear them. And it’s pretty intense.
Your podcast guests expand on what could be considered traditional Thanksgiving dishes and dig deep into the story as well. Was there one fact that you learned that was particularly intriguing?
RA: Well, Sean sherman, our native chief from Minneapolis, I had no idea. We are talking about native native foods and how much food is imported into this country. But you can really have a rich, full meal from what is part of our native foods. It’s pretty cool.
What does a typical Thanksgiving look like to you?
RA: When my family was a little younger, I had two daughters and a son, and my parents were still with us, we had a big dinner. And our daughters, friends, families would come, sometimes we had 18 to 20 people. And I was cooking, preparing everything the day before. And Deborah, my wife was starting to bake stuff on a schedule. And then we come home and then everyone comes and you have to clean up. And you just got destroyed on Friday. Now we go out to dinner after the parade, have a nice quiet dinner and go home. And I’m having a little Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday.
As the reigning Thanksgiving King, have you felt a change in the way people enjoy the holidays?
RA: We have learned to take nothing for granted, to be grateful for what we have because we have realized how easily it can be tweaked and changed, and in some cases, removed. So this year people appreciate more what we have been blessed with. We were fortunate enough to have it, for those of us who do, and because there are still many of us who don’t. But that awareness has now imprinted on us â the idea that we are a country of greatness, but we also have a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity to participate in that greatness and share that.
What is the composition of your leftover sandwiches?
RA: You have a good bread to start with and a layer, a thin plating of mayonnaise, and then some turkey, probably some dressing, some stuffing, maybe some cranberry sauce. And then, you know, some more mayonnaise and slice it up.