A Southwest Thanksgiving

Denver chef Sean Yontz cooks a feast that draws on his family roots

A Southwest Thanksgiving

Lisa Romerein

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  • Sean Yontz and guestsSean Yontz and guests

    Sean Yontz pours wine to begin the Thanksgiving meal.

Menu


When Sean Yontz was growing up, holidays were all about food in his large Hispanic family. "Everybody got together at my grandmother's house for an enormous meal: posole, menudo, tamales," he says. "My mother brought her special green beans; my aunt brought her special salad."

This family focus drew Sean into the professional kitchen. He started in high school as a dishwasher at a hotel and never looked back. Until recently, he headed the kitchen at his acclaimed Denver restaurant, Vega; now he's launching a casual mini chain: Kitchen.

Sean and his wife, Alexa, and son, Luke, still celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives. His cooking has evolved but has maintained a family connection. "The food I'm doing is really what I grew up on, but a little fresher, a little new," he says.

Sean's Thanksgiving feast has the same balance ― tradition with a fresh approach. As he puts it, "It's just a traditional Thanksgiving ― with a small Latin twist."

Thanksgiving prep plan 

Much of this menu can be prepared ahead. It will be easier to get everything on the table if you have help in the kitchen after the turkey comes out of the oven.

Up to 1 week ahead: Make spicy pecans. Make guajillo-tamarind glaze.

3 days ahead: Shop for remaining ingredients (including turkey if using a frozen one; thaw in refrigerator). Bake cornbread for dressing. Grill corn for mashed potatoes.

2 days ahead: Assemble cornbread-chorizo dressing. Roast and peel chiles for poblano gravy and cauliflower gratin; chill airtight. Make mashed potatoes.

1 day ahead: Purchase turkey, if using fresh. Make sweet potato tamales. Cut up vegetables and fruit for turkey (step 2); chill airtight. Trim green beans, chop garlic, and shred cheese for garlic green beans; cover separately and chill. Assemble cauliflower gratin. Make pumpkin pie.

3 to 4 hours ahead: Roast turkey. Remove cauliflower gratin and cornbread-chorizo dressing from refrigerator.

30 to 40 minutes before serving: Reheat potatoes. Remove turkey from oven and increase heat to 450°; bake cauliflower gratin.

About 20 minutes before serving: Make garlic green beans. Make poblano gravy. Reheat tamales. Bake cornbread-chorizo dressing.

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