A little help from your chef

Special to The Times

Right about now, after reading 13 pages on Thanksgiving, you might be ready to hear this: There are chefs all over town who are willing to cook the meal for you.

And we're talking about some of the most creative chefs in the city, not that guy behind the service deli counter.

Eric Klein at Maple Drive, Govind Armstrong at Table 8 and Jennifer Naylor at Granita are among a growing number of chefs who are preparing a menu of holiday foods and wrapping them up for takeout. The menus range from the most traditional -- roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc. -- to tandoori turkey and pumpkin pie with tofu whip.

Think of them as an alternative for the stressed, or the curious, or the kitchen-challenged. Just be sure to pay attention to the cutoff dates, because most of these guys don't do a short-order business.

Klein, a native of Alsace, based his holiday menu on his classical French training and eight years of firsthand Thanksgiving experience gathered since he moved to this country. "I've been invited so many times," he says, "I thought, how can I make it better or different?"

His menu includes traditional favorites like garlic mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie as well as dishes such as cauliflower puree, which Klein makes with half cream and half milk (" 'Atkins'-legal' substitute!" reads the menu). He's also offering kumquat chutney with golden raisins and blood orange, and an upside-down pear tart. Klein is accepting orders until Monday morning.

Maple Drive's Thanksgiving to-go procedure is standard: Customers call the restaurant and order by the cutoff time. Everything will be ready for pickup Wednesday, packaged in plastic containers and aluminum pans, with simple reheating directions included.

Like Klein, Granita's Naylor is sticking to the trimmings.

"This way, people can concentrate on the turkey and one or two of their own family recipes," she says. "It's hard to do all of it on your own, especially if you have a large group. But it's easy for us because we're set up for it."

Her takeout menu includes wild mushroom stuffing, her grandmother's apple muffin recipe and pumpkin squash soup that she makes with a porcini mushroom stock base and three types of squash: kabocha, acorn and butternut.

She expects a lot of eleventh-hour orders.

"People think they're going to do it all," she says. "Then, last minute, they decide they would like a little help."

Josie Le Balch of Josie Restaurant is also doing a squash soup, with butternut squash and pistachio nut oil. Other "Josie To Go" offerings include cranberry and orange relish, yams with maple syrup and butter-toasted walnuts, and a vegetarian-friendly cornbread stuffing with wild sage, baby artichokes and mushrooms.

"What's left over I'll portion out and give to my staff," she says. She also plans to take some home for her own family dinner. "Then I'll just throw my bird in the oven."

Armstrong is offering a soup-to-nuts Thanksgiving-to-go. His dinners, which include 20-pound turkeys, are part of what he calls a "trial run" for an ambitious takeout program he expects to begin next year.

Armstrong plans to brine the turkeys, roast them, carve them and then put one of his favorite pieces of kitchen equipment to use: a vacuum sealer he calls "my little baby." So Table 8 customers needn't fear if they're also carving-challenged. They'll receive sealed slices of ready-to-serve meat that just need a little warming and plattering.

"You can put a Thanksgiving meal on the table in less than 30 minutes," Armstrong says.

Other restaurants offering Thanksgiving foods to go include the vegetarian restaurant Real Food Daily (faux turkey breast, green bean casserole, etc. ), Clay Oven in Irvine (tandoori turkeys) and the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where you can order as late at 7 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Here are the details:

* 10-pound tandoori turkey stuffed with vegetable basmati rice; served with cranberry chutney. $45.95. Order by Monday.

Clay Oven, 15435 Jeffrey Road, Irvine, (949) 552-2851.

* Trimmings to go: squash soup, $12 a quart; wild mushroom stuffing $16, six-serving pan, $24, 12-serving pan; pumpkin and pecan pies $30 each. Order by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Granita, 23725 W. Malibu Road, Malibu, (310) 456-0488.

* Thanksgiving trimmings, including cranberry and orange relish, $20 a quart; baked pear and endive salad for four to eight, $40; 9-inch wild mushroom quiche that serves 10, $40; sausage and apple stuffing for 24 or more, $75. Order by 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Josie Restaurant, 2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 581-9888.

* "Everything but the bird" takeout, with dishes including pumpkin soup, $24 a quart; roasted winter root vegetables, $23 a quart; kumquat chutney with golden raisins and blood orange, $20 a quart; cornbread dressing souffle for eight, $36; pumpkin cheesecake, $39; upside-down pear tart, $38. Order by 10 a.m. Monday.

Maple Drive, 345 N. Maple Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-9800.

* Complete Thanksgiving meal for six to eight, $180. Order by 7 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

The Polo Lounge, Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 276-2251.

* Complete vegetarian Thanksgiving meals with faux turkey breast, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie with tofu whip and other dishes are priced at $28.95 per person. Order by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Real Food Daily, 414 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 289-9910. Also in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.

* Complete Thanksgiving meal for 12 to 14 people is priced at $350. The turkey is pre-sliced. Order by Thursday.

Table 8, 7661 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 782-8258.

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