Even though this isn’t technically a Belgian holiday – okay, it isn’t a Belgian holiday at all – I have always loved the idea of this holiday.
That’s to say: the idea of keeping a day to give thanks, I’m just going to slightly ignore the problematic history of the day for now.
I first started celebrating Thanksgiving with a family member who (once upon a time) taught in the US, and as such, had picked up the habit of celebrating it. We would meet up, go out to dinner, and just enjoy the great food and company.
Because of college, this year that won’t be possible, so I figured I’d try to keep the tradition at least somewhat alive, and celebrate with friends. Of course, there are some things that are ‘required’ on the American version of a Thanksgiving-menu, but seeing how as 1) we don’t have all the necessary stuff readily available here and 2) I’m a student, I don’t have the money to go all-out all-out, I’ve created my own menu – so let’s get started!
First of all: starters.
Now, I strongly believe that these might just be the most important part of the meal, so I knew I wanted to do something at least somewhat special for these. I decided on keeping it rather simple, with a combination of 3 appetisers, put together into one dish.
One friend who’s coming insisted on “something pumpkin” – now, I wasn’t about to go buy a whole pumpkin just for an appetiser, but I still had some pumpkin soup in the freezer (you can see how to make your own creamy pumpkin soup here!), so I’m just using, and serving it in these tiny cups which allowed for tiny portions to go with the idea of little bites!
My sister loves goat cheese wrapped in bacon, so I’m serving some of those, as well smoked salmon on lightly toasted brioche.
Next up, the main dish – now, of course this requires turkey but (because, you know, I only have a tiny oven in the communal kitchen), rather than serving a whole turkey, I’ve opted to serve instead some turkey breasts, which I have lying ready now, marinating in some paprika, lemon and pepper and salt.
I took my inspiration from this recipe on yummly.com (seriously love that site, by the way, and definitely something to check out!) but I interchanged the orange for lemon, because I just love the taste of a nice lemon-y turkey breast.
Of course, Thanksgiving requires quite a few side dishes, and for this, I’ve decided to go more old-school-Belgian cuisine – just because I know that these are the recipes my guests love eating.
The most requested one was, no doubt, my mashed potatoes – potatoes in general are some of my favourite things to eat (I even have a whole post up, dedicated to nothing but potatoes!)
I have to say, there really is nothing like a nice bit of lovely, creamy, mashed potatoes – and here’s my recipe:
Peel 500g potatoes and cut them into equal pieces (this way, they’ll be done at the same time!), put them into a pot with warm water, and bring the water to a boil. Now you just wait until you can easily prick into the potatoes with a fork, and have them almost fall apart. At this point, you want to pour away the water, and put ready your milk, butter, an egg, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and any other herbs you want in there – I usually make life more easy on myself by using the bouillon cubes from Knorr.
Add in about 50g of butter and , and mash your potatoes. When there are still some chunks of actual potato in there, you can add in the egg, stir it through (I don’t know why, it just gives it a much richer flavour…) then add in your seasoning – do this bit by bit though, it’s a lot easier to add more than to take some out. As a last step (and this is completely optional!) I like to put my mashed potatoes into an oven-proof dish, cover with first cheese, then breadcrumbs, and put the whole dish into the oven for about 15 minutes, so that the cheese is molten and the breadcrumbs form a nice crust.
Next side dish: the vegetables. Again, I’m keeping it rather simple: I’m stewing some carrots with some salt, pepper and a bit of brown sugar (the sugar really lifts it to a completely different level!), some freshly prepared spinach (put it into a pot with a bit of cream, when it’s welted, add in a sharp cheese, like cheddar or Parmesan, and serve it while really hot) and some apples in the oven.
Now, this last one is where the more traditional “Thanksgiving-ness” comes back into play: this is one of my grandma’s signature dishes come winter, although she usually makes her apples in the oven with red wine and brown sugar – I decided to add in some cranberry-goodness.
|Photo Credit: mijnverstand|
First, I just pored 300g of fresh cranberries into a pot with 200ml water. I put the fire on high, and put a lit on. As soon as I could hear the cranberries popping, I took the lid off, reduced the heat to medium and added in some lime-juice, some sugar and 150g of dried cranberries, as well as another 200ml of water – then, all I had to do was stir regularly, until the dried cranberries had swollen and taken up the juices, and add in a little more sugar.
While I let that cool down a bit, I took the core out of 5 apples and placed them in another oven-proof dish, and pored the cranberry sauce into the apples (where the core was), poor a little bit of water and lemon juice around the apples (so they’d steam more quickly) and put them in the fridge for now – about 20 minutes before we get to the main dish, I just have to put them in a pre-heated oven (on a high temperature) and voilà: delicious apples in the oven, with some extra cranberry sauce to serve along!
Of course, Thanksgiving needs desert, but this is the part where I’ll be surprised (hopefully): everybody who’s coming to eat is bringing along some sort of desert – I’m expecting brownies and cupcakes, since those are easy yummy deserts, but who knows – maybe somebody will surprise me.
Anyways, that was it, that’s my Thanksgiving menu! How did you celebrate Thanksgiving? Do you celebrate it? What did you eat? What traditions do you have? Be sure to let me know below!