There’s a comfort in sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal and knowing exactly what to expect. Chef and food stylist, Imogen Kwok, describes a traditional Thanksgiving meal thus: roasted turkey with a side of mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, and biscuits or cornbread. “Heavy cream and butter, as well as earthy herbs like thyme and rosemary, are always present as it’s a holiday for celebration and indulgence,” she adds. But while these are the familiar flavors of Thanksgiving across the country, Kwok—whose practice lies at the intersection of food and art—believes there’s always room for innovation and creativity while still maintaining tradition.
“Both my background in art history and food styling gives me a more fine arts approach to ingredients,” says Kwok, who received a masters in history of art from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a grand diplome from The French Culinary Institute in New York City, before working in restaurants such as Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park and Blue Hill at Stone Bar. Today, Kwok is known for her collaborations with various art institutions like Sotheby’s and Frieze Art Fair, as well as fashion houses like Loewe, Prada, and Chanel, where she creates both in-person experiences and visual content through culinary events and food styling. “Viewing food as a medium and material is at the core of my practice,” she says. Confirmation of this is displayed at her studio, which is filled with kitchenware and art supplies—from painting palettes and micro spatulas, to clay sculpting sgraffito and needles, to her latest hardware store finds.
Kwok loves the idea of reinterpreting traditional Thanksgiving dishes that encourage people to experience their meal in a new way. So this year, exclusively for Vogue, she developed five wholesome Thanksgiving recipes—all with a focus on leeks. Each recipe contains its own evocative flavor profile and innovative presentation, revealing the potential of one ingredient. “The recipes definitely have a connection to the holiday’s traditional flavors and crossover at some points in ingredients, but with hints of the unexpected,” she says. “To me, the side dishes are just as important as the turkey. My favorite Thanksgiving dish has truthfully always been the side bread that I use for swooping up the turkey gravy or any leftover sauces on my plate. This is perhaps why I put time and care into the leek-woven rolls—it’s the sleeper hit of the meal!”
Find all of Kwok’s inventive Thanksgiving leek recipes below.
Gruyère and leek squares tart
Ingredients:1 puff pastry sheet (typically 11 – 14oz, preferably all-butter. Dufour is a trustworthy brand) AP flour (for rolling out the puff pastry)2 leeks (flexible with diameter and length for this recipe)1 large egg2 tablespoons unsalted butter2 tablespoons harissa1 tablespoon dried rose petals (crushed with your fingertips), saving a little for garnish at the end¾ cup ricotta1⁄2 cup Gruyère, cut into thin squared-off slicesKosher saltMethod:Preheat the oven to 400F.Unfurl the puff pastry roll on a surface lightly dusted with the AP flour and roll out to roughly a 10-x-16-inch rectangle with an even thickness. Use the tip of your knife to score a 1-inch thick border around all the sides, then dock the surface using either a cake tester or fork tines so that the entire surface area within the border is pierced with tiny holes. (This prevents the puff pastry from bubbling too much while baking).Transfer the puff pastry rectangle to a parchment paper lined sheet tray, then make room in your freezer to sit for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling. Allowing the puff pastry to be at a cold temperature before baking is a nice touch because the butter between each layer melts in the oven so chilled dough allows for more distinct, separate layers and therefore a lighter, flakier base.To make the filling, remove the dark tops, outer leaves, and root ends of the leeks. Cut in half lengthwise then continue to cut into squares, smoothing them out so they lie flat.Heat up a large saute pan, drop in a tablespoon of unsalted butter and saute the cut leek rectangles until they have softened and become malleable and translucent. Remove from the heat and set aside.Have a small bowl ready to break your egg into. Whisk briefly so that the yolk and white combine, then remove your puff pastry tart base from the freezer and brush the entire surface with this egg wash—this will help it become golden brown and alluring.Transfer the tart to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.Remove the golden tart and let cool while you combine the ricotta cheese, almost all of the Gruyère curls (saving a handful for the top layer), harissa, and dried rose petals in a small bowl. Spread this filling evenly onto the tart base (within the scored-off borders) then lay the leek and Gruyère squares as a top layer, overlapping in places to make a checkerboard-esque pattern. Brush with a little extra virgin olive oil if it looks dry at all, then transfer once again to the oven for 5 minutes until the entire tart is warmed and golden.Garnish with the saved crushed rose petals before serving.