I hope all you American folks had a lovely Thanksgiving. This year was my second year of celebrating it, and for the first time, I made the turkey.

My friend Caitlyn who is originally from Florida, decided to host Thanksgiving this year in her wonderful apartment in Pigalle, and she solicited my help in making the turkey, the stuffing and any other side dishes which she wanted to include.

About a week before the 24th, I went over and the two of us debriefed about what she wanted to cook, the ingredients we needed, and how we would set about getting everything done in time. On Thursday, I arrived at about half 9 in the morning, and after doing a bit of work, we set off to the butchers on Rue des Martyrs to get the turkey. After receiving instructions from the chef which conflicted with the Delia Smith recipe which I had set out to use for timing guidelines, we returned home to get started on cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

Thanksgiving Dishes:

  • Orange, garlic and rosemary Roast Turkey
  • Apple and Walnut Stuffing
  • Spinach and Artichoke Sauce
  • Green Beans with bacon
  • (Against Caitlyn’s better judgement but on request of the French) Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Steamed Carrots
  • Biscuits (the American version, obviously)
  • Celariac Mash
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Apple Pie

Is that enough for 9 people?

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Caitlyn had already made the mac and cheese, the apple pie and had peeled and cut all of the vegetables before I arrived, which is certainly the most time-consuming aspect of any large meal. After another hour of work, we put on music and began.

Catherine’s Orange, Garlic and Rosemary Turkey:

– After bringing the turkey home from the butchers we kept it out of the fridge while we did some work, so it could come up to room temperature, and we started preheating the oven at 220° before we set off.
– I rubbed the turkey with unsalted butter, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies, and in the cavity, I put one slice of orange, about six cloves of garlic, three sprigs of rosemary, one lemon cut in half and smooshed into the garlic, the other half of the orange I used to ‘seal’ the opening.
– Between the skin and the meat itself, I put what was left over from my Apple and Walnut Stuffing (recipe to follow), and pushed it right down to the breast, being careful all the while of not ‘over-stuffing’ it as it would expand in the oven.
– I then created a parcel with two long sheets of aluminium foil, one across and one over the top, and put it into the oven for 40 minutes at 220°.
– After such time I lowered the temperature down to 150° and there it stayed for the duration of its cooking time (4 hours).
– We put it on the lowest shelf of the oven so we could use the top to rotate the other dishes which couldn’t be cooked in the stove.
– For the first 2 hours I basted the turkey every half and hour with its own juices and a glass of chardonnay. After that, I then basted it 45 minutes.
– When it was done, I poured its juices into a bowl for the gravy, then left it to rest under the foil while we got everything else prepared.

This was our final result:

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Apple and Walnut Stuffing:

This is the same recipe I used when I first did stuffing for Thanksgiving way back in 2011 while on my year abroad in Brittany. We were 19 around the table back then so I made two trays of it. However, this time around I was able to scale it back and make a smaller amount. Worried I wasn’t going to remember how to prepare it exactly I used Martha Stewart’s Chestnut Apple Stuffing just to give an idea of the right way to put the ingredients together. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

– 1 large celery branch, chopped
– 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
– 4 slices of wholemeal bread broken up into chunks
– 2 large apples (I used Pink Lady apples), diced
– 200g finely chopped walnuts
– 100ml fresh apple juice
– 400ml vegetable stock (see recipe)
– 2 white onions, diced
– 3 large eggs
– 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, with the leaves removed and finely chopped

Method:

– On baking paper, scatter out the breadcrumbs and toast for about 3 minutes tops.
– Toast the bread chunks in the oven for around about 7 minutes on baking paper.
– In a frying pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery and carrots, seasoning well, add half of the thyme and cook for 5 minutes, then add the apples and cook for 3 minutes more and then remove from the saucepan into a mixing bowl and stir in the bread.
– In the same pan, bring half the stock to a simmer along with the apple juice and then add to the mixing bowl before beating in the eggs, walnuts and the rest of the thyme.
– Season once again, stir and add the rest of the stock to the mixture and spoon into a greased baking dish (around 8 inch square in size), leaving about 3 heaped tablespoons-worth to one side.
– Stuff the rest of the stuffing between the skin of the turkey and the meat itself, cover with a foil and then place both into the oven at the same time. Cook the stuffing for 30 minutes, then uncover and return for a further 15 minutes until golden on top.

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Spinach and Artichoke Sauce:

This is a sauce that I’d heard about but never cooked before and it was absolutely delicious. However, I’d say even with leftovers, we needn’t have cooked that much but either way, it was delicious.

Ingredients:

– 250g artichoke hearts, chopped
– 250g fresh spinach (we didn’t have fresh so used frozen and used about 4 balls-worth)
– 3 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1 white onion diced
– 120g crème fraîche
– 220g buffalo mozzarella
– 120g St. Moret
– 120g grated parmesan cheese
– 1 sprig of fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped

Method:

– Combine all the ingredients in a greased baking dish and bake in the oven while the turkey is in the latter stages of its cook for half an hour until it begins to bubble on top.

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Sweet Potato Casserole:

This was the dish which we were most hesitant to cook, for obvious reasons but here it is, the French guests who requested it were all over it, and it was sweet for everyone to try something so quintessentially American.

Ingredients:

– 2kg sweet potatoes peeled and diced
– 120g unsalted butter
– 120g dark muscavado sugar
– 1/2tsp of cinnamon
– 1/2tsp nutmeg
– 220g chopped almonds
– 2 handfuls of white marshmallows, halved

Method:

– On a low heat, gently melt the butter and sugar together in a frying pan and then add the spices.
– In a large baking dish, lay down the chinks of sweet potato and quickly coat with the sauce before it starts to cool down too much.
– Sprinkle the almonds on top and place in the oven for 35 minutes, take out, sprinkle the marshmallows on and cook for a further 5 minutes until they’ve melted and browned.

Serve warm.

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Celariac Mash:

This is was by far and away the easiest dish to prepare and for that I’m thankful.

Ingredients:

– 1 celariac, peeled and diced
– 1tsp Dijon mustard
– 1 handful of fresh thyme, finely chopped
– 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
– 5tbsp vegetable stock (see recipe)

Method:

– In a saucepan, generously drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and add the celaric, thyme, and garlic, cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
– Add the stock, bring to a simmer and cover for 25 minutes until you can easily slide a knife into the celariac.
– Season carefully and mash until it’s to the consistency of your choice.

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Green Beans:

There’s nothing like a dash of green to brighten up the table. Here’s our short and sweet recipe for green beans.

Ingredients:

– 500g green beans, washed and top and tailed
– 2 rashers of bacon with the fat cut off and chopped into chunks
– 2 cloves garlic

Method:

– In a saucepan, gently heat the bacon and garlic and once tender, add the beans and 200ml water, cover and cook for 15 minutes on a low heat.

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Mont d’Or:

This cheese is the real deal. Buy it and eat with a spoon, of bread if you want to appear delicate.

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As previously stated, Caitlyn took care of the Apple Pie the night before, with her own crust recipe, and I believe with the apple she added cinnamon and other delicious spices. For the Pumpkin Pie, once again she made her own crust and I picked up the mixture from the Thanksgiving store in le Marais, I believe the brand we used was Libby’s.

It was a wonderful day filled with great music, company, conversation and food. We of course, took part in the tradition of going around the table and voicing something in your life for which you’re grateful. I believe this to be a cathartic exercise that encourages you take a step back and pause for a moment of self-reflection, and to truly be grateful for what you have around you at that point in time. It’s such an important thing to do, and truly, it should be practised all year round.

In an international forum such as Paris, Thanksgiving has been a way in which my American friends have brought together those closest to them, who are more often than not from all over the world. Together, they have shared their traditions, tastes and stories, and in our current state of affairs, it’s evenings like these which give me hope for our generation.

 

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