Growing up in the small town Waxahachie, Texas, Scott Browne remembers Thanksgiving preparation started months in advance.
His grandmother, Sandra Browne, would pit Browne and his cousins against each other in a race to see who would be the first to fill their bucket with pecans that had fallen from the tree in her front yard. Nights were spent in front of the TV — cracking, bagging and freezing the nuts slated for pies and stuffing. He realized now that it was great busy work for the grandkids.
Most years, Browne travels back to Texas.
But with his demanding schedule as general manager and executive chef at Uncle Julio's Fine Mexican Food in Boca Raton, Browne stays put. For the past few years, he's spent Thanksgiving Day with his staff or — as he calls them, his "restaurant family" — playing soccer or football at a neighborhood park before enjoying a potluck dinner and a holiday movie.
But his childhood Thanksgivings in Waxahachie hold many fond memories.
He grew up in a family of hunters, so it wasn't uncommon for Browne, his cousins, uncles and father, Scott, Sr., to provide the turkey for the Thanksgiving table. Next to the holiday centerpiece, there might have been a glazed duck, a bacon wrapped-jalapeno-stuffed grilled dove or even a hearty tomato based deer stew. They were all part of the local hunting game.
One of his fondest memories is peeling potatoes because knowing what was to come of them made the task more pleasurable and less work. "I guess it's all the fresh butter and milk that made my grandmas' mashed potatoes one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes," he says.
This year on Thanksgiving Day, he'll end up on speaker phone cooking and talking to his mother, Maria Rosa Lopez, and asking for grandma's guidance while replicating their dishes.
Although Browne's Texas family won't be present, his dining room table will reflect his roots with treasured family recipes enhanced by his own culinary flair. Browne and his newly engaged fiance, Adria McKinney, will host their first Thanksgiving dinner together establishing the next generation of family traditions.
Their Tex-Mex spread will have all the essential holiday components, but with a slight twist. You don't grow up in Texas and then work for a decade as a chef in a Mexican restaurant without adding some heat to your Turkey Day meal.
Authentic Mexican ingredients put a modern spin on the typical scripted menu adding elements of surprise with flavorful results. A nice change signifying the couple's delicious, adventurous beginning together.