Giada De Laurentiis Shares Thanksgiving Favorites Thanksgiving, of course, is about family. But it's also about the food. Farai Chideya talks with famed TV chef Giada De Laurentiis, host of Food Network's Everyday Italian and Giada at Home about some of her favorite Thanksgiving recipes and how she manages her busy career.
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Giada De Laurentiis Shares Thanksgiving Favorites

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Giada De Laurentiis Shares Thanksgiving Favorites

Giada De Laurentiis Shares Thanksgiving Favorites

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This is News & Notes. I'm Farai Chideya. Thanksgiving is about the family but it's also about food. We've got ace chef Giada De Laurentiis, who has hosted on the Food Network many shows, including "Everyday Italian" with us. Her new show is "Giada at Home." It premiered last month. She's also the author of several cookbooks, most recently, "Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites." Welcome.

Ms. GIADA DE LAURENTIIS (Host, "Everyday Italian" and "Giada at Home"; Author, "Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites"): Hi.

CHIDEYA: So you are someone who has so many different parts of your empire, but they all come down to something which is essential to human life, which is to cook and to eat and to share. How did you get into taking something that clearly is a passion and turning it into, you know, who you are as a force in the world?

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: You know, it's interesting because I think a lot of people have asked me that question at this point because food has exploded. Although it's obviously been a big part of everybody's life forever, we need it to sustain life, it's now become part of our culture in a way that for me, growing up in an Italian family, it always was a big part of our culture. But coming to America when I was eight years old, it wasn't such a big part of the American culture. And now it's become a really big part of it, and it's so fantastic.

It makes me so happy to see everybody really enjoying food because I'm from a large Italian family and because everything surrounded our meals. Everything happened in the kitchen or around the table sharing food. I grew up with a passion. Now, my family is in the movie business and has been for a long time. I decided that I wanted to kind of do something a little different and go back to our roots and really spend time learning to cook, and never could have I imagined where I would be today. I don't think anybody could have, certainly nobody in my family. So I don't know where the ride goes but it's been a great one so far.

CHIDEYA: You do this turkey where - I'm watching your show, and you do a turkey with a little bit of a crust, and people can be very traditional about their food. And how did you decide to go about doing that particular dish?

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: You know, it's interesting. I've been doing Thanksgiving now for, what, six years on the Food Network, and every Thanksgiving you want to make it a little different. You don't want to give them the same stuff every year. So I know people are kind of sticklers to a certain type of menu when it comes to the holidays. Every year they do the same thing. But I tell people it's fun to break out of that mold every once in a while, do something a little different.

And I found that in my family, most people eat the breast. So this year, I said, you know what, the heck with doing a whole turkey and spending hours and hours on the whole turkey when most people just eat the breast. So I took the turkey breast, and I thought, the warm spices of Thanksgiving or the holidays - what reminds of the holidays is the cinnamon. It's the cumin. It's the all spice. It's a little brown sugar to make it slightly sweet. So I created this crust mixed in with mustard, and I put on the turkey so when it bakes it sort of goes into the actual turkey, infuses it with all the flavors and the aromas of the holidays and creates a little crust. So you get this little, like, spicy, sugary crust on top of the turkey, which I think is fantastic.

CHIDEYA: It's definitely something where I'm sure a lot of people would be not just surprised by it but also possibly intimidated by it. So if you find someone who is a friend, a family member or just someone who knows you from all the work you've done and who's like, I can't do that. I'm going to mess it up. What do you say to people who are afraid of cooking?

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: What people said to me in the beginning when I started doing "Everyday Italian" was great Italian food can only be had in a restaurant. You can't recreate it at home. It's too difficult. And I said, you know, but for years and forever, my family has always been making it at home. It can be done. It's simple. And I always say to people, if you're fearful of cooking, start by assembling. Don't cook anything. Just get a bunch of ingredients, like, for instance, acaprazi(ph) salad, some great mozzarella, some fabulous tomatoes and some great basil. Just a little extra-virgin olive oil, really good stuff, and some salt.

And just assemble things first so that you gain that confidence in the kitchen. And once you've assembled some great dishes and you see the excitement on your family, your friends, your boyfriend, your husband, whoever's faces, you will gain the confidence little by little to start actually cooking.

CHIDEYA: How do you eat?

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: Well, that's the interesting thing. I would never say that I'm a diet chef. I don't do diet recipes. I do like to eat healthy food, healthy, clean, good food. There are some recipes that you can trim down the fat, and they're still fantastic. There are others of them that you just can't. You just can't do it. So you either make them once in a while and eat a small portion, or you don't make them and you don't eat them.

I truly believe in balance in my life. So yes, I like to healthy and light. But there's days where I'm craving - you know, I love pasta bechamel, which is a cream sauce filled with cream, butter, cheese, baked in the oven. There's days that nothing else will take the place of that. So I need it, and I crave it, and I eat it. But I think it's really about portion control and a balance in life. Don't ever tell yourself you can't have something because the minute you tell yourself you can't have it, that's all you want.

CHIDEYA: Buying food, a lot of people have started to go to farmers markets who might not have five or ten years ago. It's become a little bit trendy, and then also, sometimes you can save money, and these are times when a lot of people want to save money. Where do you shop to buy your food?

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: I shop at a lot of different places. Farmers markets number one. Thank goodness now there are farmers markets across the country so we can actually in our programs talk about the farmers market, because a lot of times in the past we could not. Because living in California, we get a lot of farmers markets, but people across the country did not. So now, it's spread throughout the country, which is wonderful.

I shop at all different types of stores here in California, whole foods for certain things. I go to the fish market for fish. So I do what Europeans do - go to different places to get different things.

CHIDEYA: Let's go back to Thanksgiving. We already talked about your turkey breasts with a crust. Give me one or two other things that you think really should go with Thanksgiving.

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: Well, I think my husband would agree that he would not like Thanksgiving without potatoes of some kind. I think a lot of people feel that way. So my Aunt Raffi(ph) does this fantastic potato dish. Take the potatoes and mash them, make mashed potatoes; put them in a casserole dish. We put peas in the center and lots of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese mixed into the potatoes and top it with a little bit of breadcrumbs and stick it in the oven. So you get this, like, crust on top of the potatoes. And then inside, they're fluffy and light, and then a little bit of peas in the center because not everybody in my family likes peas. So you know that if you want peas, you're going straight in the middle of the casserole. And if you don't, you go to the sides.

CHIDEYA: That is very funny. What about dessert? Give me a dessert for the holidays that you love.

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: One of my favorite ones is this cornmeal and rosemary cake. So we use polenta corn meal and a little bit of rosemary. And you bake it, it becomes basically like a pound cake. It's buttery and rich. It's the holidays. That happens. Sometimes I stud it with some cranberries for some color, other times I do not. It depends on my mood. And then I top it with a balsamic syrup. So I reduce balsamic, gets nice and thick like a chocolate sauce, and then I pour it over the top. I can't tell you - breakfast, lunch dinner, whatever, snack, it is phenomenal. It's one of the those things I keep in my house during the holidays.

CHIDEYA: That sounds fantastic. So, you're a mother now, and your baby's first Christmas is coming up. How's that going to affect you to have someone - a little tiny one to take through the holidays?

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: You know, she's now about eight months, and so she's not quite a year old yet.

CHIDEYA: Old enough to open gifts.

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: She's old enough to open gifts. She's old enough to start tasting things. You know, she's tasting a lot of new foods, and it's amazing to watch her eyes just open up and sparkle with everything. And she's a very good eater. She's always opening her mouth and wanting more food. So I think what's going to be so exciting is just watching her expressions and her excitement. She gets very excited, starts kicking her legs and her feet and starts making all of these high-pitched noises when she gets excited. There's nothing like that, and I don't think you can understand - I never understood it until I had a child of my own.

CHIDEYA: Giada, thank you.

Ms. DE LAURENTIIS: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Giada De Laurentiis hosts the Food Network show "Giada at Home." Her show, "Everyday Italian" also airs on a network. Her most recent cookbook is "Giada's Kitchen."

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