Frenchie and the Colorful Thanksgiving

18 Nov

I need to start this post with a quick update on the FriendsEat competition for Best Food Blogger of 2011 since I last mentioned it when I got nominated back on September 21.

I’ve been waiting for the contest to be over and for FriendsEat to follow-up with me after the fact so I could include a little blurb in a brand new post. And here it is!

As many of you saw from the banner on the blog (top right) when reading the last three posts, your votes and participation landed me in the Top 10 – at #4! This was truly a great and wonderful surprise and I need to thank all of you who took the time to click on the FriendsEat link and vote. Merci, merci, merci!

Following the contest, FriendsEat decided to interview all bloggers from the Top 10. Interesting exercise I must say. But fun nonetheless.

So without further ado, the Frenchie and the Yankee interview is now available online and you can read all of it by clicking here.

Thank you again to Blanca for interviewing me and her wonderful team at FriendsEat.

I would be lying if I told you that Thanksgiving wasn’t my favorite Holiday.

This probably comes as quite a surprise since I obviously wasn’t raised celebrating Thanksgiving in France and ended up adopting this Holiday for the first time back in 1999 when I came to the U.S.

And yet, it’s my favorite one.

The French tend to be a little fuzzy about what Thanksgiving really is and means. When they hear the word Thanksgiving, the only thing that comes to their mind is manger and dinde.

And yes, eating and turkey pretty much sums it up!

Thanksgiving is really the National Stomach Stretching Prep Week before the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations roll right around the corner in December.

No need to explain in great details what the story behind Thanksgiving is – Wikipedia does a wonderful job for that in French.

However, what is worth mentioning here is why as a foreigner I adopted Thanksgiving and made it part of my very own tradition.

I was recently advised to tour the Mount Auburn Cemetery (thank you Michael H.!) to catch wonderful views of Boston and admire the colorful foliage.

A long walk on a lazy sunny and warm Saturday morning was the perfect moment to photograph the joyous picturesque trees around and discuss the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend plans.

One of the thing I really appreciate about Thanksgiving is that it’s a Holiday you can count on. You can never count on Christmas especially when it’s on a Sunday! A total let down!

Thanksgiving is always on the 4th Thursday in November. And I bet that Thursday must feel really lucky to be #4!

And with Friday wrapped together with Thursday as a one-package deal and Wednesday usually requested off from work, the Holiday weekend seems endless.

The cemetery offered such ranges of colors that a painter’s pallet would have been too small to recreate those combinations.

Yellow, brown, green, red, orange. Bright and lit. Dark and shadowed.

Like a linguistic declension, these colors paired themselves by groups following similar and drastically different patterns and changes.

And food is also color. Nuances in tones, combinations and subtleties.

Hints of bright colors among white plates.

The thrilling part about Thanksgiving is the tints of colorful food on the table.

Thanksgiving is meant to bring people together and gather around a table.

It’s a family event. And when you don’t have any family nearby, it becomes a dinner with friends.

Will it surprise anyone to know that during the week of Thanksgiving I usually attend 2 or 3 Thanksgiving dinners?

A friends’ Thanksgiving get-together is always in the air before the real Thursday dinner.

A long table, 12 to 15 guests, many dishes, glassware, chairs, laughs all mingling and waiting for the one and only turkey to magically appear from the oven.

And then there’s always a leftover party. And you know what? Leftovers are the best part about Thanksgiving.

Colors, friends, turkey, eating, being thankful for what you have – it doesn’t get any better than that.

But what I enjoy the most about Thanksgiving is bringing a new twist to an old tradition.

For some reason, most people complain about having to eat the same turkey every year, with the same cranberry sauce recipe, and the boring mashed potatoes with the bland boiled squash.

The exciting part for me is to plan, test and invent new flavor and color combinations to bring cheers to the table and awaken the palate.

Maybe this post will give you new ideas! I hope!

Being different in a sea of old too-familiar family recipes and breaking away from them.

Will my turkey be lavender-scented this year with French grey sea salt, lavender and herbes de Provence?

Or will it slowly and nicely roast with a home-made sage and pancetta butter inserted under the crispy skin?

Cranberry sauce, of course.

But add oranges, lemon, lemon zest and ginger to spice it up and make a citrusy cranberry compote.

Stuffing, definitely.

Remove the bread and turn it into a wild rice stuffing with small chunks of Granny Smith apples, dried cranberries, spicy pork sausage and walnuts.

Spaghetti squash, absolument!

It is my favorite thing to prepare. I had never seen one until I came to the U.S. and what a treat to be able to create “spaghetti” from a squash with a fork.

The recipe I am obsessed with is Deb’s at Smitten Kitchen with her Moroccan-spiced spaghetti squash. A treat!

A butternut squash, why not.

Bring more scents and flavors to it. Braise it and pair it with prunes, apricots, golden raisins, cumin, lemon zest and mint. Sprinkle with cardamom pods.

Or surprise your guests with a red kuri squash, which has a spicier flavor, and a roasted red kuri squash and apple velouté soup with mint and sage.

Dress up your mashed potato dish with drops of truffle oil.

Or steer away from potatoes all together with a rutabaga apple purée – aka faux mashed potatoes! <recipe below>

And of course dessert!

Thanksgiving is all about pies, pies and more pies.

Yes for apple pie. A new kind of apple pie with orange blossom water and cloves.

For the French touch, a grated apple tart will delight the end of your meal.

A new take on the pecan pie? Bon Appétit did it with their toasted nut tart recipe here. Toasted hazelnuts, pine nuts and pistachios.

I adapted it quite nicely – my notes are below.

A wonderful dessert.

And if you want to bring more French traditions to the Thanksgiving table, a clafoutis will do the trick.

Maybe a cinnamon cranberry clafoutis with hints of port and whiskey.

Or this wonderfully rich chocolate glazed cranberry chocolate cake with walnuts. <recipe below>

Thanksgiving is a meal. It is a time to spend with friends and family. And it certainly isn’t a time when you have to think about the pressure of giving presents.

It’s a Holiday involving an exchange between people who love each other and want to share a special time together.

One cannot possible think about skipping Thanksgiving because your presence is required around the table.

And as someone I met last night at an event casually mentioned to me: “Everyone who comes to this country is part of it <Thanksgiving>. This is what America is all about”.

Frankly, I think the French are secretly jealous and envious of not having a special Holiday like this one. There is no equivalent in France.

I am curious, what does Thanksgiving mean to you? And how do you twist traditional recipes?

Notes for the Bon Appétit Toasted Nut Tart:

I added 1/2 cup of ground hazelnut in the crust.

Replace the 1 cup of corn syrup with 1/2 cup of agave nectar combined with 1/3 cup of water.

The crust baking time is off: not 35-40 min but 15 min the first time. Not 15-20 min but 7 minutes the second time. And lastly bake for a total of 45 minutes and not 60 minutes.

Rutabaga Apple Purée – aka Faux Mashed Potatoes

1 celery root, peeled and cut into chunks

2 turnips, peeled and cut into chunks

1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup (120 ml) of vegetable broth

2 cups (475 ml) of beef broth – the beef broth is meant to bring a saltier taste to the purée. Replace with 2 cups of vegetable broth if you prefer.

10 cups (240 cl) of water

2 Tbsp (30 g) of butter

3 Tbsp (50 ml) of orange juice

dried sage

dried chervil

1 garlic clove

salt and pepper

In a big pot, bring the vegetable and beef broths with the water to a boil.

Add the celery chunks, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the pot and reserve in a bowl.

Add the rutabaga chunks to the boiling pot and cook simmering for 20 minutes. Remove from the pot and reserve in the bowl.

Add the turnips chunks to the boiling pot and cook simmering for 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and reserve in the bowl.

While the root vegetables are cooking and cooling, bring the apples and the orange juice to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook for 7 minutes or until soft.

Discard the boiling broth in the pot and add all of the vegetables with the apples.

Using a hand blender, purée the vegetables directly in the pot. If you do not have a hand blender, a regular blender will work as well.

Add the butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until the butter is melted.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the crushed garlic clove.

Add the sage and chervil upon serving by sprinkling them on top of the purée as garnish.

Rich Chocolate Glazed Cranberry Chocolate Cake with Walnuts (adapted from Papilles Magazine)

200 g of dark chocolate – at least 70%. I use 100%.

1 cup (190 g) of sugar

1 cup (100 g) of flour

1 stick (125 g) of butter

4 eggs

1.5 cup (150 g) of fresh whole cranberries

3/4 cup (175 ml) of orange juice

1/4 teaspoon of almond extract

3/4 cup (85 g) of chopped walnuts

150 g of chocolate – 60%

2 teaspoon (10 g) of vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).

In a small saucepan, bring the cranberries and orange juice to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the cranberries are soft and open. Cool on the side.

Melt the dark chocolate and the butter in 2 separate saucepans.

Separate the yolks from the whites.

Whisk the sugar with the yolks in a medium bowl until smooth and whitish.

Add the melted butter. Whisk well.

Add the melted chocolate and the almond extract. Mix.

Add the flour to the chocolate batter and incorporate slowly.

Beat the egg whites until firm. Fold in the chocolate batter.

Grease a 9 inch (23 cm) round pan. Strain the cranberries to get rid of all the juice. Fold them in the chocolate batter.

Divide the batter in half. Spread the first half at the bottom of the pan.

Add the chopped walnuts on top of the batter and cover with the second batch of batter.

Bake for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the glaze by melting the rest of the chocolate with the oil in a small saucepan.

When the cake is completely cool, remove it from the pan and place it on a wire rack above a roasting pan.

Pour the glaze over the cake and spread with a brush on top and on the side. Use some of the dripping chocolate to cover the sides if needed.

Place the cake on a plate and in the fridge for at least 3 hours.


9 Responses to “Frenchie and the Colorful Thanksgiving”

  1. TheWeeklySpoonful November 18, 2011 at 1:52 PM #

    wow. incredible photography. I had to tweet this!


    • David Santori November 18, 2011 at 1:57 PM #

      Thank you so much Jessica.

      @Nicole, have fun planning a great Thanksgiving for your guest. Sounds like a lot of fun.


  2. Nicole November 18, 2011 at 1:53 PM #

    What a vibrant post. I’m so glad you love Thanksgiving. When done right, it is an example of a beautiful “new world” tradition. I often invite strangers or people i’ve just met to join our family at Thanksgiving. Especially when I find out they are new to America or visiting, or have never experienced a Thanksgiving. That’s what often makes it extra special for me. This year, we’ll have a guest from South Korea and I’m looking forward to showcasing some of the best flavors, and thank you for the ideas!!


  3. Béatrice November 19, 2011 at 1:54 AM #

    Wow, I never saw so many beautiful photos in one article. You have the eye of the painter. Even the small touch of the leaves on the grave are there like a story that wish to be told. I can’t stop looking at all of them again and again.The first yellow trees let me stunned.
    I envy you having such an opportunity to visit a magical cemetery.
    Thank you so much to share all this jewels with us, and your recipes – me mettent l’eau à la bouche – The chocolate cake look so yummy and like really so close to me that i can almost touch it and take it from the computer.


    • David Santori November 19, 2011 at 9:08 AM #

      Thank you Bea! Maybe one day we will be able to share food through the computer screen!!


  4. Béatrice November 19, 2011 at 1:58 AM #

    looking at the “grave” more cautiously I think now that they are steps …. if it is so nevertheless it is still beautiful. Bea


  5. Inspired and pretty November 19, 2011 at 9:30 PM #

    Quel magnifique post ! C’est vraiment beau ! Combiner en photo les couleurs des légumes avec les couleurs d’automne est une très bonne idée qui donne un résultat magnifique. Vos photos sont très belles et que dire de vos suggestions pour améliorer ou faire changement des plats traditionnels, j’en ai l’eau à la bouche ! Ici au Canada nous avons l’action de grâce au début octobre mais ce n’est pas aussi important que Thanksgiving, ce ne sont pas toutes les familles qui se réunissent lors de ce congé. Pourtant nous sommes voisins avec vous mais il semble que nous n’ayons pas toutes les mêmes traditions.



  1. Frenchie and New York City « Frenchie and the Yankee - November 29, 2011

    […] the Thanksgiving weekend in The City That Never Sleeps is the perfect opportunity to finally satisfy the French obsession […]


  2. Frenchie and a French Christmas « Frenchie and the Yankee - December 13, 2011

    […] While the beautiful leaves are now long gone, the city hasn’t yet wrapped itself in its white and muffled winter coat. […]


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