Chef's Global Foods Make Thanksgiving American

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Chef Marcus Samuelsson i

Chef Marcus Samuelsson incorporates traditions from his global upbringing and international friends and family to create a uniquely American Thanksgiving. Marcus Samuelsson hide caption

toggle caption Marcus Samuelsson
Chef Marcus Samuelsson

Chef Marcus Samuelsson incorporates traditions from his global upbringing and international friends and family to create a uniquely American Thanksgiving.

Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and now is a world-renowned chef in New York City. His cooking style is as international as his life story.

He sat down with NPR's Steve Inskeep to discuss his multicultural Thanksgiving traditions.

"Like most immigrants, we roast turkey — we have turkey on the table," said Samuelsson. "But our table is filled with people from all over the world that are Americans like us, new Americans ... [So] there's also the dishes from our [home] country."

"I have Swedish potatoes au gratin," said Samuelsson. "I have gravlax on the table. Then my wife makes a mean doro wat, which is this chicken stew from Ethiopia. She will always have some injera bread there.

"I think Thanksgiving is this incredible, great example where we as immigrants, we as Americans, bring in the culture or the history of where we come from," said Samuelsson. "And then we serve it to our family, and I just think it's a perfect marriage where you can show your identity, and you're really proud to be an American."

"Cooking for me is also a way of looking back," said Samuelsson. "When I make the apple cake, I see my mother.

"So much of cooking and eating is about, 'Where do we want to go in our memories?' " said Samuelsson. "We want to revisit the vacation. We want to revisit our college years. We want to revisit our childhood years."

Growing up, he'd help his mother make her classic apple cake. "My job was always to sort of make the clock," Samuelsson said, in describing the way the apples were arranged on top of the dessert. "My mom always cut 12 pieces.

"I always wanted to mess it up — I wanted to put apples all over," he said. But his mother made sure the apples were adorned properly, because each person should get a slice of apple on their slice of cake.

Samuelsson feels everyone has a food story like his apple cake one.

"We all have food stories," he said. "We all come from incredible backgrounds. And we can ... share those memories ... through food. And that's the reason I love living in this country."

Marcus Samuelsson's Apple Cake Recipe

"I always joke about how bad my mom's cooking was, but as I've gotten older, I've come to realize that a lot of what I know about cooking came from her. I can't even count how many times she made this honest, simple apple cake — it seems as if we always had one in the refrigerator and another in the freezer, just in case we had unexpected company. Even now, when we are all out of the house, she always has apples on hand, just in case she needs to whip up a quick dessert for visitors."


2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 Granny Smith apples

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

1 large egg

1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup half-and-half

2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and coat with the bread crumbs.

2. Toss together the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Set aside.

3. Peel and core the apples, then slice one apple into 16 wedges. Combine the cinnamon and 1/3 cup of the sugar mixture in a medium bowl. Add the apple wedges and toss to coat. Roughly dice the remaining apple.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the remaining sugar mixture on medium speed until light, fluffy, and lemon colored, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and baking powder. Slowly add the half-and-half, and mix until combined. Fold the diced apple into the batter.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Arrange 14 of the apple wedges fanned along the outer edge of the pan and place the 2 remaining wedges in the center. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center is golden brown.

6. Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool completely. Run a small offset spatula around the edges to release the cake from the pan and remove the springform. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, then cut into 12 wedges.



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