Platelist: Lydia Shire's Boston Thanksgiving

Photo: Nightline Platelist: Chef Lydia Shire of Bostons Scampo Restaurant

Lydia Shire, the pioneering chef behind some of the hottest restaurants in recent Boston history, does Thanksgiving a little differently than most New England homemakers.

For one thing, the family turkey usually shares the spotlight with a skin-on pork rack. It's not that the Shires are extra-hungry -- although it is a house that looks down on dietary fads such as not buttering one's meat. It's that Shire's husband has not quite caught on to his adopted country's holiday obsession with massive fowl.

"My husband is from Colombia, and unfortunately he detests turkey," Shire told ABC News. "So we -- I have to have turkey and the rest of my family has to -- but I always cook a skin-on pork rack for my husband, and for us, too, we always have a little bit too."

Judging by the recipe for her pork rack special request, the family passes a happy holiday. This year, in the spirit of getting that warm glow started early, she shared with ABC News other details from her private kitchen, as well as memories of and reflections on her steady climb from "salad girl" to top chef.

Watch the full story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m.

Click HERE for Lydia Shire's favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Shire got her start slicing pate and opening oysters as the "salad girl" at Boston's Maison Robert. After a stint at London's Cordon Bleu Cooking School, she returned to Maison Robert as a line cook. Three years later she was head chef. In 1986, Shire opened the new Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. In 1989, she returned to Boston and launched BIBA (Back in Boston Again).

She opened Pignoli in 1994, and the James Beard Foundation nominated her as "One of America's Top Five Chefs" in 1996. In 2001, she took over the city's venerable Locke-Ober, becoming chef and owner of an institution that had prohibited women from its dining room for 97 years. She also runs Scampo and Excelsior in Boston and Blue Sky in Maine.

If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. Shire traces her industriousness to her parents, both illustrators, and to one image in particular of her mother.

"I remember my mother bringing in extra income to the family," Shire said. "She would take freelance work home. She would sit -- I would see her sitting at her drawing board at night when I was going to bed. I'd wake up the next morning, and my mother was still there. She would take a bath and put clean clothes on and go to work, and she'd work another whole day before she crashed. So, you know, I think people that know me know that I'm pretty tough chick."

Shire took something else from her parents: a knack for making it happen in the kitchen.

Saturday Night Dinner at Home

"I was born in 1948 and moved from Connecticut to the Boston area, grew up in Brookline," Shire said. "Both my parents were fashion illustrators and book illustrators. Sort of like the Norman Rockwell look. My father, who was Irish, happened to be a great cook. And you know what they say about the Irish, but there are exceptions to every rule, and he was definitely an exception. And my mother was a great cook too. You know they both had just beautiful taste, so I grew up in a home where I was surrounded by art, color, good cooking. And I think that was hands down what set me on my way.

Shire has a way of talking about food that can make it feel tantalizingly close to the tongue. It's as if language, for her, is just one more kitchen tool.

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