David Rosengarten is one of the original chef presenters on the Food Network (now celebrating its 10th anniversary). Since leaving TV, he has written cookbooks, appeared on radio--where he is a regular on The Splendid Table--and launched The Rosengarten Report. His new cookbook is It's All American Food: The Food We Really Eat, the Dishes We Will Always Love (Little, Brown, $29.95), which PW called a "gut-rumbling, mouth-watering, heartfelt tribute" to what Americans eat.

Rosengarten spoke recently with PW Daily editor Edward Nawotka about his favorite foods and what he serves at Thanksgiving.

PWD: If anything, there is a significant trend toward creating awareness of different ethnic cuisines and fusions of different styles of cuisine. So why attempt an "All American" cookbook?

David Rosengarten: I wrote this book because I noticed a few years back that Americans were not proud enough of the food we eat. If you ask somebody about their town's best food, they will most likely tell you about the local fancy restaurant and they won't tell you about the local diner. When I spend a lot of time with foreign visitors in the food world in New York, I was noticing their eyes bulge out when they see the food we really eat here. They are not interested in the fancy. There's a story about Umberto Eco. He said, "Americans have made two great contributions to gastronomy: pecan pie and the Ruben sandwich."

PWD: Are you saying that we take our own day-to-day eating habits for granted? Is this a high culture versus low culture argument?

DR: I'm just saying attitude towards our food makes it all the more mediocre. The classic American food is often regional food--chili in Cincinnati, sandwiches (and not just cheese steak) in Philadelphia, fish tacos in California. This is great American food. For this book, I tried to sample as much as I could. Something like a New England clam bake, which is the kind of food that usually gets into a cookbook, doesn't really exist anymore.

PWD: What is the quintessential American food?

DR: While the Italians are the most important group, there are another 20 groups represented in the books. Italian-American cuisine was created because immigrants couldn't find the ingredients they had in Italy and substituted. It is my belief that the best food I've ever had was the Italian-American food of the 1960s--the eggplant Parmesan and spaghetti and meatballs from a place like Angelo's on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. But that kind of food is very hard to find. You can't find chefs who still want to make that kind of food. Likewise, the 50-cent glass of garage red wine, has become a $50 bottle, so to speak. I've created T-shirts to promote the book that say "Save the Meatballs" on the back.

PWD: You say in the book that you've tried to include the best possible recipes for each item, creating a "canon" of your of American recipes. After all your research, do you think American cuisine is on par with that of cultures that are millennia older?

DR: Yes. But look at our take on Chinese food...it's delicious. So this is the first cookbook to offer a serious recipe for chicken chow mein and egg foo yung. Our food encompasses 20 ethnicities and is harder to describe than French or Italian food. You would expect foreigners to say, "Americans, you eat hamburgers." But people from other countries see America as a land of gastronomic surprises. For example, soft shell crab sandwiches are a revelation to them.

PWD: Thanksgiving is unique to North America. Is there a menu you recommend?

DR: You know, some people think that the first Thanksgiving meal may have taken place in the Southwest. Accordingly, I propose a menu inspired by that region of the country. This involves covering the turkey with southwestern honey rub and creating a smoky, chipolte mushroom gravy. For stuffing, I suggest using taco shells with sausage. Then finish with cranberry relish with pomegranate seeds and tequila, cornbread with jalapeno. For something more conventional, there are great recipes for macaroni and cheese, glazed carrots with orange zest, scalloped potatoes with ham. Some people might want to go ethnic, for example, using Greek long-cooked string beans with olive oil and tomato.

PWD: Last, for everyone who's cooking the big bird on Thanksgiving, what is your solution to the dilemma of how to cook a turkey so the dark meat gets done without drying out the breast?

DR: I suggest a two-tier approach: I put the turkey in the oven and when the breast is done, take it out, bring it to the table and slice off the breast meat and serve it with a sauce and a white wine. I return the turkey to the oven, then in 20 minutes, bring it back and serve the dark meat with a different sauce and red wine.