Michael Ferreri’s home kitchen is small, and the oven is even smaller, but he’s hosted two Thanksgivings in this second-story Pennsport apartment. It’s his favorite holiday.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Ferreri, the executive chef at Res Ipsa, was prepped to host another.
He had a fully cooked, 14-pound spatchcocked turkey resting in a roasting pan, nested atop a bed of herbs and roasted vegetables. A skillet of sautéed apples with vanilla, star anise, and cinnamon sat on the stove; a plastic tub of brown butter whipped cream was at the ready, waiting to top an almond-flour cake. Three more chefs were en route with stuffing, mac and cheese, a side of squash.
The occasion: A photo shoot for The Inquirer’s Thanksgiving spread, set to take place on his roof deck.
The day before, when Ferreri had prepped his bird — cutting out the backbone, massaging it with kosher salt, letting its skin air-dry overnight — the temperature had been in the mid-60s. Today, though, the city saw its first snowfall. Happily for the photos’ sake, the chefs weren’t deterred by the cold.
“I mean, if the Instagrammers can do it, we can do it,” Ferreri joked.
One by one, the other chefs rolled in, each of them enthusiastically greeted by Ferreri’s dog, Harvey Dent. Mike Strauss, owner of Mike’s BBQ in South Philly, came early to get a tray of panko-crusted Italian mac and cheese in the oven. It’s a variation of a recipe he makes for an employee Thanksgiving dinner at Taproom on 19th, but he’d been continually futzing with it as he formalized the recipe — taking it from a stir-together mac and cheese with pappardelle noodles to one with a full-on béchamel sauce.
“I tweaked it again this morning while I was making it,” he laughed. (That’s how crispy pancetta made it in.)
Ed Crochet, co-owner of Queen Village’s Fiore, arrived with a plastic bin of roasted honeynut squash, sage leaves, spiced pumpkin seeds, 'Nduja vinaigrette, and a welder-sized blowtorch.
“Don’t take a picture of this, it’s cheating,” Crochet said as he browned the orange wedges with blue flame. “This is not what we really do.”
“I heard that’s how everything’s cooked at Fiore,” another guest quipped.
Last but never least, Chutatip Suntaranon — better known as Nok — made a grand entrance, wheeling a blue cooler up the steps in a red dress, black stockings, and high heels, Harvey bounding up after her. The chef and co-owner of the Thai BYOB Kalaya had brought the same sausage-based stuffing she makes for the family-friends’ Thanksgiving dinner she goes to every year. But before it would be ready for its closeup, she needed to put on the final touches.
The simple dish slowly transformed into the prettiest stuffing anyone had ever seen as Nok carefully distributed whole chestnuts, fresh cranberries, snipped sprigs of rosemary, thyme, parsley, and lavender, and finally, little sprays of marigold petals. (She almost forgot the extra bacon.)
“Everything besides [cranberries] and chestnuts are picked from my garden,” she told the incredulous chefs taking in the panoply of garnishes. “And besides the rosemary, because mine was dead.”
“Is the bread from your garden, too?” Strauss wisecracked.
The chefs and their dishes took turns getting photographed on the frigid deck before crowding back inside to devour the now-lukewarm spread, taking up every square inch of Ferreri’s counter. They scooped through the stuffing’s rainbow-colored surface. Tangles of cheese- and cream-covered pappardelle were twisted onto plates. The spoon-tender squash was gobbled up, and squares of cake were dipped straight into the tub of whipped cream. Harvey looked around pleadingly for scraps.
Ferreri carved the turkey and fished pan-dripping-bathed potatoes from the bottom of the roasting pan. “Mike, do you need any garnish?" Nok chimed in. “I have everything!” The crowd burst out laughing.
As they ate, they marveled over the moistness of the turkey; brokered deals on Kalaya’s vault of excess duck fat, then schemed about what to do with it; and traded go-to cheesesteak spots (Angelo’s Pizzeria was a favorite). Ferreri broke out a bag of potato rolls and ducked out to pick up some to-go containers. Nok asked everyone to squeeze together for a group shot.
“The food is really good,” Nok pronounced. “You guys should be chefs.”