Geneva

My First Thanksgiving (Cooking)

The last time I was abroad for Thanksgiving was in 2011, when I was in Morocco. Instead of getting into the holiday spirit and joining my fellow study abroaders for a Thanksgiving potluck, I decided to take the day for myself – and have a burger at McDonald’s (gross, in retrospect) and, for dinner, some fish cooked by my host mom (delicious, but nowhere near as scrumptious and grandiose as a typical Thanksgiving feast). I beat myself up for it for a while, just as I did over not keeping a blog during that time, but what is done is done. This year I made sure that things were different and exponentially better.

F and I have a small dining table in the kitchen that really only seats four people comfortably and I have never actually had to cook for Thanksgiving, so we decided to make it a modest affair. We invited his cousin and his wife over and instead of making a massive turkey (which is hard to find here and quite expensive), I roasted a plump chicken in the oven. The chicken and everything else I made that day (I spent nearly 6 hours cooking), was – to put it simply – finger-lickin’ good, and although I would love to take the credit I simply cannot. Had it not been for the many online food bloggers who share their recipes and tricks of the trade, my Thanksgiving would have been disastrous. I was already forced to work with an oven that heats in Celsius so the odds were against me. Thanks to Google’s Celsius to Fahrenheit converter, I had that part covered; the food bloggers were indispensable for the execution of the rest.

Here’s a list of the dishes I made and links to the blogs where I got the recipes from!

Apricot-Glazed Chicken: This recipe was intended to be made with turkey but, as I mentioned above, I scrapped the turkey idea and went for the more manageable chicken option. I also never got around to making the fresh herb gravy for it since I had to make another adaptation – I don’t have a roasting rack, so I lined the bottom of the pan with potatoes and onions (and carrots, too), as this article suggested. If you’re unsure as to how long to roast a chicken for in the oven, this article gives you great indications, varying by the weight of the chicken. Don’t forget the meat thermometer!

Chestnut Stuffing with Leeks & Apples: If you love chestnuts, this is absolutely divine.

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions: This particular recipe is great if you’re not in the US and not somewhere where you can buy the crispy onions and cream of mushroom soup that the recipe calls for ready-made – no French’s or Campbell’s in Switzerland so I had to go the extra mile and make them both from scratch. This recipe was actually inspired by a friend’s grandmother. Last year, she drove two hours to cook her grandson (one of my close friends) and his friends (me and others) a full Thanksgiving feast, to then drive home without even having a taste. The green bean casserole she made that day was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten – she’s an angel!

Classic Cranberry Sauce: I wouldn’t say that I used any particular person’s recipe to make my cranberry sauce. Before the actual day I went on YouTube and watched three or four people make their own renditions. After watching a few I knew what I wanted and what I definitely did not want: I wanted the sauce to be made simply with cranberries but to also have other flavors to accent the sweetness of the cranberry but I did not want the sauce to have pieces of other fruits in it (i.e. orange, blueberries, etc.). In the end, I decided to use both white and brown sugar, fresh-squeezed orange juice and orange zest, and a little cardamon – and a pack of fresh cranberries, of course!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes: I suggest following mashed potatoes recipes loosely because the outcome is very much dependent on the type of potato that you use. I read that a mixture of Yukon Gold and the more brown Russet was the way to go but when I went to the local grocery store, I simply bought a pack of brown-ish potatoes that were allegedly good for mashing. Use heavy cream, milk, and butter at your own discretion.

Frozen Squash Mousse Pie: This recipe calls for pumpkin, the favorite of the season. Unfortunately, there were no pumpkins at the store so I had to opt for a squash and pray that it tasted good (and it did). The spices were key in sprucing up the otherwise bland taste of the squash. F loves ice cream and since everything else we were eating was warm, save for the cranberry sauce, I thought it would be a great idea – and it was a hit!

Fried Plantains: These are the easiest things to make and I couldn’t go through Thanksgiving without adding a little Cuban touch. All you need to do is buy the right kind of banana (the larger plantain), wait for it to look like it’s going bad (yellow with black spots), peel it, slice it, and throw it in hot oil for a few minutes. After you drain them in paper towels, they’re ready to serve!

Needless to say, I was exhausted after a full day of cooking but it was worth every moment. I was still munching on the leftovers and re-purposing them until just yesterday.

Voilà!

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