Preppy Kitchen Smart Hacks for a Less Stress, More Fun Thanksgiving [Exclusive]

Chef John Kanell has easy Preppy Kitchen ideas for harried Thanksgiving cooks. He said while the holidays are meant to be fun, they often end up being pretty stressful, especially for the chef at home.

“You know, we’re trying to crack into the holidays. We’re trying to make things easy when we might be a bit stressed out or at our limit,” he told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. So Kanell shared how he approaches the holidays and Thanksgiving the Preppy Kitchen way.

Preppy Kitchen plan ahead for less stress Thanksgiving

“The one thing you’re going to always want to do is plan ahead and prepare,” he emphasized. “I do not like doing things the morning when guests are coming over because I want to maybe finish straightening up the house. I want to look nice and be relaxed or have the last finishing touches like flowers on the table.”

John Kanell from the 'Preppy Kitchen' stands behind the bar at 'WWHL'
John Kanell | Charles Sykes/Bravo

“So I will do everything I can to have things baked well in advance, if possible, or prepped in advance,” he explained. “I’ll mix some things together, I’ll pop some things into the oven, but I don’t want to do a lot of work the day of. So if you’re in the kitchen for the first time in a minute, making a big meal, write out what your menu is, choose what you want to make versus what you want your guests to bring, and then say, ‘When can I do this? How long will it keep?'”

John uses eggs to add a fresh finishing touch

Kanell used a few examples from the Preppy Kitchen. “Like if I was making biscuits, for example, I can make those a week in advance,” he said. “They’re in the freezer in a deep freeze and they bake from frozen. So I’m not going to be worrying about that, but they’re going to come out of the oven fresh as a daisy and so delicious.”

But he also loves using eggs as a finisher for pies. “There are little things you can do, like if you’re making a pie. Go ahead and take an egg. Whisk it up a little water or milk or cream and make sure you have an egg wash on it,” he said.

“Even if the recipe says you don’t need one, just add it anyways,” Kanell said. “If you like a chocolate pie, for example, you want that crisp butter crust to melt in your mouth. When you’re baking the crust, add the egg wash over it. It’ll be glossy, it’ll be golden. But that egg wash is also going to give you a little bit of a barrier between the butter crust and that wetter custard top, and it’ll keep them separated so the crust remains crisp.”

What is John Kanell’s favorite holiday dish?

What’s a Preppy Kitchen “go-to” for the holidays? “Personally, I love having roll cakes,” he dished. “There’s a pumpkin roll cake that’s close to my heart. My mother’s favorite cake in the world is a lemon curd roll cake.

He described the Preppy Kitchen approach to a lemon curd roll cake. “So you’re making a really paper-thin layer and a roll cake generally doesn’t have any fat in it,” he said. “So the magic of it is coming from frothed egg whites. You take the egg whites and you froth them up almost into a meringue, and you’re going to fold that into your batter that has the flour and the sugar and whatever else. And those egg whites will expand in the oven as they get hotter. It pops your cake up without using baking soda or baking powder.”

“You fill that with a lemon curd,” he added. “Lemon curd is like this wonderful, rich, sunny egg yolks that helps to give a thicker consistency to that lemon juice. It’s one of my favorite things to eat … like sunshine on a spoon is what my mom always says. Spread that out over your cooled cake, roll it up, top it with some whipped cream and berries. And that works every day of the year. Everyone is going to love this cake and it’s so simple to make.”

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