A Broadway Thanksgiving: Recipes to Stop the Show and a Sweet Farewell to Joan Rivers

Special Features   A Broadway Thanksgiving: Recipes to Stop the Show and a Sweet Farewell to Joan Rivers
Playbill.com revisits our holiday feature in which members of the theatre community shared their treasured Thanksgiving recipes. A highlight of the selections, which are sure to elicit a standing ovation from your guests, is a sweet treat from late comedian Joan Rivers.


To borrow a singular lyric from Fiddler on the Roof, the theatre and the holidays have something in common: "Tradition." Americans gather together with friends and family each Thanksgiving to reflect and give thanks – part of that tradition is delicious food.

Playbill.com reached out to members of the theatre community to share their favorite recipes, some of which have been gracing their Thanksgiving tables for generations.

This feature was originally published Thanksgiving 2013.

(Disclaimer: Playbill is not responsible if these recipes induce singing, tap dancing or spontaneous applause during your holiday dinner). 

Liz Callaway

The Overture: Tony Award nominee Liz Callaway's Night Before Thanksgiving Cranberry Margaritas

I usually host Thanksgiving at my house, so that means the night before I have a lot of cooking and prepping to do. I always make a batch of these to drink while I cook. (Of course you can drink these year-round, just stock up on bags of fresh cranberries and keep them in the freezer.)

Note: This makes 2 batches, so cut recipe in half if you like.
Another note: Run to the store and get a bag of fresh cranberries and put it in the freezer NOW!

¾  cup of tequila
1 ¼ cups cranberry juice (I use Apple and Eve's Naturally Cranberry 100% Juices)
¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
½ cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 ½ cup frozen fresh cranberries
Sugar, preferably superfine
Lime wedges

  • Prepare sugar-rimmed glasses, if desired (See note below)
  • Mix first 3 ingredients together in a pitcher or large measuring cup. Taste - if you prefer it sweeter, add sugar to taste and stir.
  • Add ½ of the above in a blender with half the frozen cranberries and fill rest of blender with ice.
  • Blend, and then pour into sugar-rimmed glasses. (Garnish w/ a wedge of lime if desired.)
  • Drink. Then make some more!

I love the contrast of the tartness of the cranberries with the sugar rim. And, it looks pretty too. (I use martini glasses.) Fill a small plate or saucer with sugar. Rub rim of glass with a wedge of lime to moisten and dip glass into sugar. Voilà!

Melissa Errico

The Star: Melissa Errico's Thanksgiving Turkey
This recipe is shared by Tony Award nominee Errico, and her mother, Angela

There are better chefs out there than me, but you follow this, you will have a delicious turkey. For all those actors out there who haven't quite had the time to learn much about the kitchen, buy these things: a large deep tin pan, a turkey baster and tin foil. That's it! The rest is a few groceries. You CAN do this.


11-12 lb turkey
20 sprigs of herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano
2 onions peeled and halved
One lemon
Two oranges
3/4 cup of butter for turkey or more (depending on size)
3 cups of water

  • The simple road to a good 11-12 lb turkey: Plan on 3½ hours. (13 minutes per lb)
  • Buy 20 whole sprigs of herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano. Divide them up.
  • Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  • Wash the bird, remove the giblets and neck (save for making gravy). Pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Breast side up in a big roast pan, butter the entire thing and wrap wings with foil so they don't burn. (You can also mix in some minced fresh herbs to the butter or do this later.)
  • Cut up onions, one lemon and two oranges and stuff cavity. Fancy chefs call these "aromatics!" Also, put 10 of the herb sprigs in the cavity. Add 3 cups water and the remaining 10 herb sprigs to the pan.
  • If you didn't flavor the butter earlier, now is the time to season with salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, ginger and oregano as you like - rub in with the butter all over the place.
  • Many people insist on getting a few pads of butter under the breast skin to keep the meat more moist. You can use your finger to carefully loosen the skin around the entire bird.
  • Put in the oven. Use the lower third of the oven. Roast 45 minutes and then lower to 350 degrees F for the rest of the time. I believe you must baste it every 20 minutes for it to look like a storybook.
  • Tip: Shield the breast meat with foil toward the end of cooking if it starts getting too browned.
  • Turkey is ready at 165 degrees F. (I like turkeys with the thermometer built in.)
  • Let the turkey rest 20 minutes before you cut it. Cover it in foil while it sits.
  • Additional option: Add 1 (32-ounce) bag celery and carrot party sticks in the pan (along with one largely-diced onion) while all the turkey prep is happening. Ignore those veggies during the roast and they'll taste nice at the end. Just another side dish or pleasant garnish later.

Errico also shares her husband's favorite Thanksgiving side: This is Patrick McEnroe's speciality: Roast some Brussels sprouts (slice in half, sprinkle with salt pepper) in a 400 degree oven on a cookie sheet with olive oil for 35-45 minutes (until slightly brown and crisp). Add toasted almond slices midway through baking. Just before you serve, sprinkle fresh fancy Parmesan cheese. Also - the key is to squeeze lemon on the Brussels sprouts just before serving. People will flip!

Ann Hampton Callaway

Co-starring: Callaway Family Oyster Stuffing
This recipe shared by Tony Award nominee Ann Hampton Callaway

This recipe has been in the Callaway family for generations, refined by our mom Shirley. My sister Liz and I had bread-cutting contests the night before Thanksgiving when we were children, which added to the fun. We can't imagine our family feast without this delicious treat - it's a culinary highlight each year!

1 cup onion chopped
1 ½ cup celery chopped with leaves
¾ cup chopped parsley
1 to 1½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. sage
8 cups stale bread cubes
1 pint chopped oysters (reserve liquid)
½ lb. of butter

Enough for a 12 lb-plus turkey.

  • Simmer onion, celery, parsley and seasoning in ½ lb. of butter for 5 minutes.
  • Add chopped oysters.
  • Pour over bread cubes and stir to mix.
  • Add left over oyster juice if too dry.
  • Stuff turkey just before roasting.

Victoria Clark
Photo by Denise Winters

Co-starring: Tony Award winner Victoria Clark's Company Mac and Cheese

I made this up over the phone with my mom in 2011 for an informal family dinner, but it has since become a Thanksgiving staple! Very fast and easy. Big hit, loved by all.

16 oz (1 box) elbow macaroni
1 stick of butter
½ cup flour
½ small onion, grated
1 teaspon minced garlic
ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground mustard
5 cups lowfat milk
4 cups lowfat or regular grated mild and sharp cheddar cheese
Fresh chives
Italian bread crumbs



  • Cook macaroni 6-8 minutes in salted water after it first comes to a boil. To make the sauce, melt the butter then stir in the flour, grated onion, garlic, mustard, and pepper.



  • Gradually stir in milk until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat. Add 2 ½ c-3 c of the grated cheese, and stir in until melted and smooth. Stir in macaroni until well mixed, and pour into buttered casserole dish.
  • Chop chives very fine and sprinkle over the top of the macaroni. Then add a thin layer of
  • Italian bread crumbs. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, and finish with another thin layer of bread crumbs.
  • Bake at 375 until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Bill Russell

Co-starring: Sweet Potato and Banana Puree (with rum!)

Shared by Bill Russell, Tony-nominated lyricist of Side Show

8 cups peeled, diced sweet potatoes
3 ripe bananas
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt, to taste
1 cup toasted sliced almonds

  • Place the sweet potatoes in a medium-size saucepan and add water to cover. Cook covered until very tender; drain.
  • Cut the bananas into 1-inch pieces and puree in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the hot sweet potatoes, 4 tablespoons of the butter, the rum, and brown sugar. Process until smooth. Add the nutmeg and salt to taste; process just to blend. Keep warm.
  • Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet. Add the almonds and saute until lightly browned. Sprinkle with a little salt. Top each serving of the sweet potato puree with a generous amount of the toasted almonds. 
  • Makes 8 servings


Celia Keenan-Bolger

Co-starring: Cauliflower Gratin

Shared by Tony Award nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger (Adapted from Ina Garten)


1 (3-lbs) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¾ cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
½ cup fresh bread crumbs

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, ½ cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.
  • Pour ⅓ of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining ¼ cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Christine Ebersole

The Eleven O'Clock Number: Chocolate Angel Pie
Shared by Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole

My mother grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and she was a fantastic cook. Everything was homemade. Along with her spectacular apple pie and pumpkin pie, this was a family favorite. I loved this pie so much as a child that I often asked my mother to make it for my birthday, instead of a traditional cake. It's that good!

Meringue shell:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar

  • Beat 4 egg whites until stiff but not dry, adding cream of tartar. Add sugar and beat until glossy. Spread in a 10 inch pie plate, making a deep ring around the edge. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 1 hour.

1 6-ounce package chocolate bits
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 cup cream, whipped
Shaved bitter chocolate

  • Place chocolate pieces in top of double boiler.
  • Melt and remove from heat.
  • Beat in the yolks; cool.
  • Fold in egg whites and vanilla.
  • Fold half the whipped cream into the custard and pour into the cooled meringue shell
  • Spread remaining cream over-the-top.
  • Sprinkle with shaved chocolate.
  • Chill several hours.

Joan Rivers

The Finale: Italian Plum Butter Cake


Shared by late Emmy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Joan Rivers

16 Italian plums (pitted & cut in half)
16 tablespoons sweet butter (room temperature)
2 cups of sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup of cake flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
4 eggs at room temperature
A pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla
Sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle over the top

  • Combine flour, cake flour, baking powder, salt (set aside)
  • Using the paddle on a kitchen aide, cream the butter until smooth and light, add sugar, beat until combined. (Do this on a slow speed.)
  • Add flour, beat again till combined, than add eggs and vanilla (still beating on slow speed until it is a smooth batter)
  • Butter a 10 inch cake pan. Cut a round piece of parchment to fit in the bottom, butter the parchment then flour the cake pan lightly. Put the batter in the cake pan and tap down on counter once to smooth out. Place plum halves flesh side down over the top of cake starting with outer edge covering the whole cake. Sprinkle the top with sugar then cinnamon. Bake the cake in a 350 degree oven for approximately one hour. Check with a cake tester after 45 mins. It may take longer than 1 hour depending on the oven. Let cool before removing from the pan.

This recipe was created by Marian Burros and published in the New York Times many years ago.

The Encore: Harvest Pear Crisp
Shared by Bill Russell, Tony-nominated lyricist of Side Show

6 cups Anjou or Bartlett pears, cored and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 3 pounds)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup regular oats
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds (pecans or walnuts are also good)

  • Preheat over to 375 degrees
  • Combine pears and lemon juice in a 2-quart baking dish, toss gently to coat. Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; stir with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to pear mixture; toss well to coat.
  • Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, brown sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse a couple times or until combined. Add chilled butter; pulse 6 to 10 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add oats and walnuts; pulse a couple more times. Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over pear mixture.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until pears are tender and topping is golden brown. Cool 20 minutes on a wire rack; serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.
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