Photo illustration.  Manny Rodriguez/Getty; Emilija Manevska/Getty
Brian Anstey
Nov 17, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

The most important part of Thanksgiving dinner? The turkey, of course. The second most important part? Getting that perfect, scrumptious, beautifully staged turkey Insta shot.

So to prepare the biggest food holiday of the year, we went straight to the expert, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. Owner of the popular Harlem eatery Red Rooster, Samuelsson shares his tips and tricks for cooking a dinner that will please any palate and have your guests lighting up their feeds with a filter-worthy turkey pic even Norman Rockwell could appreciate.

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Cooking a Thanksgiving turkey can be a little intimidating. Any tips?
First of all, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. If you've got a good turkey recipe, you stick to that. If you don't, you find one that works for you. I like to brine overnight. I use traditional salt and a little bit of sugar, but I also add in bay leaves and cloves to make it more interesting. I also love giving it a little spice rub, not too much in the beginning. [Samuelsson recommends a Moroccan spice rub called Ras El Hanout, which he adds midway through the cooking so that it doesn't burn.]

How do I make my turkey Insta-worthy?
When it's 45 minutes on, at that point you can add maple syrup and honey [to the pan juices you are basting the turkey with] to get it to caramelize more. And then, if you still don't have that color, I add a little soy to it to get that beautiful Rockwell moment.

What about side dishes?
On the sides, it's really the opportunity where you can be less traditional. I like Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and maybe you fold in some caramelized bacon into that and throw in some sour dried cherries. Its all about texture.

Butter is a huge part of most Thanksgiving sides. Any suggestions for a vegan guest?
Sweet potato mash is great sitting on the table. But what makes this interesting is that rather than putting tons of butter in there, you substitute the butter for coconut oil. Anytime you deal with mash, whether you have butter or oil, you have to have lots of it to make it delicious. [Scroll down for the recipe!]

What is your go-to Thanksgiving leftover dish?
Turkey ramen with kale.

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COCONUT SMASHED SWEET POTATOES (Serves 6):

Ingredients:
10 lbs. Yams
5 cups Coconut milk
1 cup Spectrum Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
2 oz. Maple Syrup
Salt to taste

Method:
1. Wash all of the yams and place them on a sheet tray.
2. In an oven preheated to 400 degrees, cook the yams for 30 mins.
3. Once the yams are cooked, remove the flesh from the skins.
4. In a medium pot over medium heat, warm up the coconut milk.
5. Place the sweet potatoes in a food processor and add some coconut milk to make smooth.
6. Add Spectrum Organic Virgin Coconut Oil and season with salt. Continue this process until all of the yams have been incorporated.
7. When this process has been completed, add to a container cool.

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