This post is a bit overdue, especially considering Hunter and I accidentally celebrated our Thanksgiving one week early this year… but LOOKIE LOOKIE at all the yummy foods we made! Leftovers for days. Happy tummies. As you know from this post, this was my first Thanksgiving that I didn’t celebrate with my parents in the home I grew up in surrounded by the normal crowd. This year, it was up to Hunter and I, in our cozy little nest, to make up what would end up to be a really special Thanksgiving dinner together. Check it out.
First up, the main event – our turkey! Obtaining the bird was hard enough, since Amsterdam doesn’t celebrate America’s Thanksgiving, of course. As a Dutch butcher explained to us the day before our dinner, turkeys generally aren’t sold until later in December when people buy them for Christmas. “They need time to grow up”. As you may or may not know by now, we don’t have an oven in our little Amsterdam apartment, so preparing a turkey the traditional way wasn’t really an option. Good thing Hunter is a chef-y genius and had a backup plan from when he made his Thanksgiving meal last year (again, without an oven)! Turkey cooked in a pot. First, we laid the bottom of our pot with sauteed carrots, onions, and celery (the holy trinity), and some white wine. Then, the turkey was cut up, the pieces browned in a pan, and then laid on top of our fragrant base in the pot. We covered the pan and let it cook on low heat for a couple of hours. “Browning then saute on mirepoix. How classically French.”
Another big production was making the stuffing. Stuffing is a must for the Thanksgiving dinners that I know, but Hunter’s family never made it! I insisted that our meal wouldn’t be complete without it, and so we looked up a bunch of stuffing recipes until we were inspired by the flavors enough to mashup some of the recipe ideas. We ended up with a stuffing made of bread, sausage, apple, onion, dried cranberry, celery, pecan, mushroom, parsley, butter, and homemade chicken stock. Like I said, quite the production. I had a lot of fun with the work that I did for it though, and it ended up being absolutely delicious with a great mix of flavors and textures. Plus, we made a HUGE amount of it and the leftovers were really pleasing. Needless to say, Hunter has agreed that stuffing is now going to be a must in all his future Thanksgivings!
Garlic mashed potatoes are, of course, classic Thanksgiving food. We made ours simply by boiling skinned potatoes in our rice cooker/vegetable steamer….. (hey, we only have two burners on our stove, and had a lot of food to make). We smashed the boiled potatoes until they were a good consistency – mashed potato-y but still with chunky bits – with cream, butter, and plenty of sauteed garlic. Not skipping out on any of the fat here. They were delicious. We meant to stir in some freshly chopped parsley before serving, but forgot. Ah well, more parsley for our leftover potatoes.
Sweet potatoes, made extra sweet. They were cooked up, again, in our steamer, then thrown in a pan to combine with all sorts of fun spices and things- brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and butter. But what made this dish extra fun was the homemade caramel sauce that Hunter whipped up for them. You’d think that as a baker, I would have at some point made my own caramel sauce, but to be honest it intimidates me a little. Not sure why, really, maybe because it’s so easy to burn. Well, Hunter’s caramel sauce was fantastic, and tasted really good drizzled over the diced sweet potato mixture.
With all the heavy foods, some greens were necessary. Our green beans were steamed, then tossed with lemon juice, sauteed garlic, and sliced almonds. Our brussels sprouts were also steamed, then thrown into a pan to cook with crisped bacon, some brown sugar, and a syrupy balsamic reduction. Okay so maybe they weren’t the healthiest veggie dishes in the world, but whatever, Thanksgiving.
Freshly made cranberry sauce! We were sure that we weren’t going to be able to find fresh cranberries in Amsterdam, but to our great surprise and delight, we happened to stumble upon a little produce shop that had a few bags of cranberries laid out while taking a walk. It was serendipitous. We simply cooked down the cranberries in a pan with lemon juice, sugar, and some water until it was the right consistency. So good! And perfect to eat with the turkey.
Lastly, a simple gravy was made from our turkey drippings. And! Spiced apple “cider” with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg :). All-in-all, a lot of work, but an even bigger reward. All the food was fantastic, and I was so so happy with each big mouthful that I took. Everything tasted phenomenal even as the food mixed together on my plate (Thanksgiving plates, always so big and full), but that’s the magic of Thanksgiving food. Bites of turkey + mashed potatoes + stuffing + cranberry sauce = good. Bites of green beans + sweet potatoes + stuffing = good. Pretty much any combination = good. A wonderful meal, a wonderful time in the kitchen, and a wonderful first holiday spent with Hunter!