For the first time in 4 years I am not going to the US for Thanksgiving to spend time with family and friends. Thanks to Covid-19, this year we are staying put in Trieste and, to add insult to injury, current restrictions prevent us from sharing this special day with our local friends.
So how does one celebrate and prepare for this day of Thanksgiving, both practically and spiritually?
Spiritually and psychologically, it is important to have perspective and hope and appreciation for all that we have. It is also important, I feel, to maintain traditions throughout such a difficult, unusual and unprecedented (in my life) time.Therefore autumnal decorations are up in my home and the scents of traditional dishes are beginning to emanate from my kitchen.
Preparing Thanksgiving staples is not quite as easy here as it is in the US as it’s difficult to find ready-to-make items. How I yearn for frozen (ready to fill) pie crusts or Libby’s canned pumpkin puree, pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice blend, or even evaporated milk! In order to make pumpkin pie filling i had to peel and cut a pumpkin, boil it, strain it & blend it. Then I had to make my own spice mix of ground nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
And while hams are abundant in various sizes, turkeys are a little harder to come by, as they are usually reserved for Christmas so not readily available this time of year. My local Eurospin butcher, Robi, has agreed to get me a 4lb Turkey breast and cover it with the skin from turkey thighs in order to help me out this year. We look forward to the leftovers for making turkey sandwiches even more than we do the actually TG day roast.
Brussles sprouts are in season and can be easily found. Stuffing can be concocted handily with much better bread than anything Stouffer’s has to offer. Yams and sweet potatoes are trickier, as are turnips and parsnips, but higher end produce shops sometimes carry them.
So what will our Thanksgiving menu look like? REDUCED, since there are only 3 of us.
Soup: a cup of Corn chowder
Main: Herb roasted Turkey breast
Sides: Mashed potatoes with a mushroom gravy / Stuffing with apples, pine nuts, herbs, mirtilli rossi, onions, celery, carrots/ a mixed fall salad with diced and pan roasted pumpkin morsels with a bright balsamic vinaigrette.
Desserts: Pumpkin pie and apple hand pies with vanilla ice cream.
Here are the recipes I will rely on:
Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend Ingredients:
Mix together : 3 tbsp. ground cinnamon / 2 tsp. ground ginger / 2 tsp. nutmeg / 1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Cookie Crumb crust: Crumb crusts is made with any crunchy cookies.
1 3/4 c. Crunchy Cookie Crumbs (process cookies of choice in food processor)
6 tbsp. Salted Butter, Melted (8 Tablespoons For A Graham Cracker Crust)
2 tbsp. Sugars
Stir the ingredients together. Press into an ungreased pie or springform pan.
Optional: For a crispier crust, bake at 350ºF for 5 minutes. Cool before filling.
Pumpkin Pie Filling – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
15-ounces cooked pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Make the filling: Gently whisk the pumpkin, cream, granulated sugar, 2 eggs, the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt (do not overmix). Pour the filling into the crust and bake until set around the edges, 1 to 1/12 hours (the middle will still jiggle slightly). Transfer to a rack; let cool completely.
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 celery ribs & 3 carrots finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves whole (remove when browned)
4-6 C loaf bread, cut into small cubes
1 sprig fresh sage & 1 sprig fresh rosemary
1-2 cups chicken stock (depending on how moist you like it)
1/2 C nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries or mirtilli rossi
Melt butter over medium heat and add herbs garlic cloves, celery, carrots and onions; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add bread cubes and toss to combine. Add chicken stock. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Transfer to greased oven safe cookware. Cook, covered, on low 1 hour or until heated through, stirring once.
It will be bittersweet to spend Thanksgiving here in Trieste without friends or family, but we will make the rounds of Zoom calls to our daughter, our cousins, and friends. And we will create new traditions here in our adopted city, where we have found ourselves so “at home” despite being so far away from home.