Thanksgiving Dinner with Anthony Anderson

Anthony Anderson

If you happen to score an invite to Anthony Anderson’s down-home Thanksgiving dinner, don’t you dare bring a dish. In fact, potlucks are off limits at Anderson’s Los Angeles gatherings. And no matter how good your potato salad is or how helpful you want to be, Anderson, 42, insists, “That ain’t my thing.” He prefers to have a well-thought-out menu as opposed to ending up with “two hams and no turkey” or “multiples of the same dish.”

According to the actor, who has been cooking since he was 11 years old, “It’s not that I need for you to tell me this is the best you’ve ever had; I want to prepare the meal for everybody,” he says. “This is what I love doing, and when I can’t, it’s kind of a letdown.” Grocery shopping two or three days before the big day is a part of his predinner routine, zigzagging across Los Angeles to hit Whole Foods and then “make the drive to the ’hood” to pick up smoked turkey wings, a key ingredient in his collard greens. He has even had to fight other comedians-tuned-actors such as Mo’Nique and Jamie Foxx, his neighbors, for ingredients at the local market. Once, a grocer told Anderson, “Mo’Nique was here yesterday, and she bought all the collards.”

That won’t be a problem in the future: One day soon, Anderson plans to simply walk outside for his veggies. The host of AOL’s new web series Anthony Eats America has spent the better part of 2013 planting and harvesting his own vegetable garden, now teeming with broccoli, carrots and tomatoes. “I joined my community garden in the neighborhood and got a plot that is 1,000 square feet; the house [where] I grew up in Compton was only 1,500 square feet. So it’s kind of crazy that my garden is almost the same size as the house I grew up in.”

Now with a mix of store-bought ingredients and homegrown herbs, Anderson spends the day before Thanksgiving with his family in his sprawling kitchen. His son, Nathan, 13, is in charge of snapping peas; daughter, Kyra, 17, whips up a cheesecake with graham cracker crust from scratch. Meanwhile, Anderson gears up to serve the “traditional Southern soul food,” such as mac ‘n’ cheese, as well as a few surprises. “I want to test their palettes,” says Anderson of introducing his 25-person guest list to roast duck or branzino (a European sea bass) with a tomato chutney salsa. “I want them to eat something they wouldn’t normally eat.”

Although many Americans overindulge during the holidays, Anderson, who recently dropped 50 pounds after being diagnosed with diabetes, rarely gets to sit down to enjoy. “When you’re in the kitchen four and a half, five hours, then you’re done; you don’t want to see no food,” he laughs. Instead, Anderson eats after everyone has left. “We’ll pray [over] the food, and I make a sensible plate while [everyone else is] eating and put it in the microwave or in the fridge,” says Anderson. “I learned to do that because sometimes the food is gone. Like, ‘Who ate my smoked salmon?’”

And while it’s important to make sure your uncle Charlie or Big Daddy gets enough for two heaping plates, that all comes in second to the good fellowship around the house on Thanksgiving. From games of bid whist to dominoes and even a karaoke sing-along, the Anderson household is always fun. “It’s family and friends, and that’s what it should be about,” he says.


ANTHONY ANDERSON Thanksgiving RECIPES
Cook these 6 dishes for a delicious down-home dinner

1. Jalapeño Cheddar Bacon Cornbread
Makes 6 to 8 muffins

Ingredients
1  package JIFFY corn muffin mix
1 egg
⅓ cup milk
1 jalapeňo, diced
1 cup American cheese, shredded
1 cup cooked bacon, crumbled or diced

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pans or use paper baking cups. Blend ingredients. Batter will be slightly lumpy. For maximum crown on muffins, let batter rest for 3 or 4 minutes, then stir before filling cups. Fill muffin cups half full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

 
2. Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
6 cups water
4 cups cooked large elbow macaroni, drained
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
3 eggs, beaten
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or substitute ½ cup sour cream)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
   Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Boil water and cook macaroni until al dente. Strain macaroni and while still hot, add cheese. In a separate bowl, combine all other ingredients, then add to macaroni-and-cheese mixture. For a creamier sauce, add all ingredients together in a pot except the macaroni and eggs.