Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Super Expat Thanksgiving

When I was growing up Thanksgiving was never a holiday I really understood why people got excited for. My family is full of good cooks, so we had gourmet meals practically every day. So, for us Thanksgiving was just a day to eat dinner at 3pm and in the dining room instead of the kitchen.

My feelings on Thanksgiving took a 180 turn once I moved abroad. Suddenly, I was very excited to share this American holiday with all my new friends! I have been lucky enough to be able to celebrate my 3 years here with people from all over the world. Here is the story of my first Spanish Thanksgiving 2 years ago, a very eclectic mix of food. Last year was a small celebration with my good friend, Roisin, who was visiting from England.

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My vegetarian Thanksgiving with Roisin
This year I wanted to make Thanksgiving as traditional as possible. Since we don’t have a break here, we had to celebrate the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I spent the week preparing the menu and gathering the ingredients. Going off tradition, I didn’t get a turkey because I didn’t order it in time (oops!) So, we ended up with 2 chickens instead. The funny thing about poultry here, is it isn't as clean as it would be in the US. Sometimes there are still big feathers in the skin and little feathers that need to be burned off. Friday night, I went through each bird with a pair of pliers to take out the rest of the big feathers. Then, to get the small feathers off, Mo made a blow torch with the stove. I was a little worried we would explode, but it all worked out in the end. Winking smile

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Saturday morning I woke up early to start preparing everything. First thing to hit the oven was a pumpkin pie made from homemade pumpkin puree (actually a butternut squash.) Thanks to King Arthur Flour for the amazing recipe.

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Beautiful color!
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The pie. DELICIOUS!
Mashed potatoes are my specialty, and something I always have been in charge of for Thanksgiving back home. I FINALLY found “my” secret ingredient (I stole the idea from my mom, who has been nice enough to let me claim it as my own. Thanks mom!) so I was very excited to be able to make the perfect potatoes. I forgot how much time they take to peel! Well worth the time though.

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After the potatoes were done I started on the stuffings. There were two vegetarians at the meal so I made one for the chickens and one with a watered down cream of mushroom soup for the base. Man, it turned out good! The stuffings were both flavored with rosemary, thyme and sage. We were very lucky to have some dried sage in the house all the way from Palestine! Although sage grows in the mountains near Valencia, I have, unfortunately, never seen it in the stores here.

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After all those dishes were done, I took a quick nap and went out for a coffee to try to get ride of a headache that was bothering me all day. A side effect of some antibiotics for strep throat. Sad smile

When I was ready for the kitchen again, my roommate was finally awake to help me with the chickens. To keep with the flavors of the stuffing we made a butter, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and dried sage rub for under the skin of the chickens. We had a little too much fun listening to Christmas carols and dancing with the chickens while they were sitting on beer cans to let the rest of the blood drain.

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Notice the green twine....
A few hours before our guests arrived we finished the stuffing the chickens. I realized then that we didn’t have any butchers twine! Luckily, she had some string from a craft project that worked just fine. It was colored though, so the only thing that was going through my head while we were tying the legs together was the scene from the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary where she uses blue Christmas ribbon to tie some herbs for a soup and the soup comes out blue! Luckily, our chickens came out a perfect toasty brown color and not green.

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The spread!
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The desserts! Homemade pumpkin and apple pies
This was probably my favorite of all the Thanksgivings I have had here. It was full of great people and great food. Did I mention we had 4 countries represented?? Talk about a true expat party!

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American, Palestinian, Egyptian, Spanish, American, American. A very international Thanksgiving!