Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Frenchie and Istanbul

13 Nov

Eyes still filled with the colors and smiles of Turkey.

Teşekkür ederim. Merci. Thank you.

The frenetic city of Istanbul teaching me its wealth of culture and history, showing me its people and their kindness while I find my way through its maze of narrow streets.

Jewish, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Armenian influences throughout the city.

Straddling the continents of Asia and Europe, Istanbul offered me so much more than expected.

A big inspiration for this week’s recipe, perfect for Thanksgiving, rich in Turkish flavors and imparted by experiences from far, far away.

There is always something happening in Istanbul.

A cat stretching in the sun.

Tasting creamy goats’ cheeses in the Spice Bazaar.

Antique furniture shopping in Çukurcuma where the store owners casually wait outside sipping Turkish coffees.

Eyeing fresh pumpkin flans from the street vendors.

An older woman making flower crowns.

Pomegranates and oranges squeezed together for delicious juices on the side of the road.

Or the quiet serenity inside the city’s many mosques.

I made many friends in Istanbul.

The meyhane owner  displaying with pride his beautiful tray of mezes and talking to me through the entire dinner about his eastern Turkey background and upbringing.

The little boy on the boat gliding on the Bosphorus carefully listening to my English playfully shying away from questions.

The pack of 4 dogs strolling with me throughout the city for 2 hours to show me the way – barking with joy as they made me the 5th element of their tight group.

The street vendor who wanted to sell me an old record player. Next time! he said in English.

The Turkish pumpkin desserts I ate and saw sold in the streets were a big inspiration for this post’s recipe.

Poached pumpkin desserts – Kabak Tatlısı.

Or pumpkin flans with a sweet crusty top.

And how ironic that Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

A new dessert that almost tastes like a slice of pumpkin pie but remains interestingly foreign and different.

A twist on everyone’s favorite dessert to bring to your Thanksgiving table.

The rose water from the soft Turkish delights.

The hazelnuts from the sticky pastries.

And the cloves from the pieces of baklava.

With each street corner, a new surprise.

Crowded and noisy.

Colorful and exotic.

And a walk through the Spice Bazaar, where the East meets Europe, as eclectic as one can imagine.

Spices, herbs, honey, nuts, Iranian caviar, teas.

Bags full of seeds as tall as me.

My nose and my eyes weren’t prepared for this labyrinth of flavors and scents.

As I write this post eating a piece of the pumpkin cake and going through the many pictures of this beautiful trip, my 10 favorite Istanbul moments come back rushing.

10- Boating on the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara to the Princes’ Islands on the Asian side of Istanbul. The crowd, the sun, the views and that break from the bustle of the city.

9- Admiring the golden Arabic calligraphic ornaments in most mosques – mesmerized by the art of Ottoman calligraphy.

8- Laying on warm marble and looking up the small, star-like windows piercing the main dome of the old historic 1741 Cağaloğlu Baths.

7- Dipping my hand in a giant bag of seeds at the Spice Bazaar.

6- Licking my fingers after eating a sticky piece of baklava on narrow and busy Nevizade Sokak near the fish market.

5- The softness of the rugs under my socks – shut away from the noise and the world while exploring mosques.

4- Exploring the atmospheric historic streets of the Fener and Balat neighborhoods – home to many of the Greeks in the city.

3- Chatting up with the restaurant hecklers at night trying to grab your attention while choosing a place to eat.

2- Watching the sunset over the Golden Horn, behind the mosques and the Palace.

1- Picking out mezes to eat from giant trays filled with small dishes already prepared for you to choose from.

Turkey-Inspired Pumpkin Cake with Rose Water, Hazelnuts and Cloves

use an 8-by-11-inch baking dish OR a 14-by-4-inch tart pan

1 small sugar pumpkin – peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes (3 cups – about 680 g)

1 stick of butter (melted and cooled) + 2 Tbsp (113 g + 30 g)

1/4 cup of blonde cane sugar + 3 Tbsp (50 g + 35 g)

3 Tbsp of rose water

3/4 cup (105 g) of buckwheat flour

1/4 cup (25 g) of hazelnut flour

2 Tbsp of millet flour

2 Tbsp of coconut flour

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

a dash of ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

a sprinkle of sea salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup (150 g) of light brown sugar

1/2 cup (55 g) of chopped hazelnuts – or pistachios

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Butter the baking dish or the tart pan.

Heat 2 Tbsp of the butter, 3 Tbsp of the sugar and 2 Tbsp of rose water in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the pumpkin cubes and cook for 6-7 minutes until tender. The water should be absorbed and evaporated at that point.

Let the pumpkin cubes cool and set aside.

In a big bowl, mix together the flours, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg, baking powder and soda and the salt.

In a medium bowl, beat together the melted stick (113 g) of butter, the remaining 1/4 cup (50 g) of blonde cane sugar, the remaining 1 Tbsp of rose water, the brown sugar and the eggs until creamy, pale and smooth – about 2 minutes.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Add the hazelnuts and the pumpkin and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into the baking dish or the tart pan (do not fill the tart pan up to the top) and bake for 35-40 minutes until firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Divide the cake into bars, almost like a brownie.


Frenchie and New York City

29 Nov

A few of my French readers have asked me several times to post a little something about New York.

Lack of time and being forgetful contributed to putting New York in a corner… for now. And as you all know, nobody puts New York in a corner.

Spending the Thanksgiving weekend in The City That Never Sleeps is the perfect opportunity to finally satisfy the French obsession for New York.

Ô Chateau’s blog Stuff Parisians Like hit it right on the head when they wrote “Paris is every Parisians’ wife. New York is their mistress”.

The French are fascinated by New York – it’s a fact. In their minds, they think of New York as everything France is not: energetic and cosmopolitan.

They should really know that Americans have the same obsession with Paris. Ah, Paris et la belle France they all say. Quaint and historical come back regularly in conversations.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the Atlantic. I wonder if it would make New Yorkers and Parisians appreciate their cities a bit more knowing the infatuation they generate on each side.

It was a cold Thanksgiving morning.

The table was already set in preparation for the upcoming feast, the sun was slowly rising, the streets were still chilly and shaded.

Yet, the lack of wind and people around made it that much more enjoyable.

The crowds were gathering on the path of the Thanksgiving Parade. Adults and kids – all waiting for their favorite balloons.

And then they came out of nowhere. Giants led by strings through the buildings and the streets.

All eyes looking up at the sky. Kids on dad’s shoulders.

Mum, look it’s Snoopy!

And even if the Parade lasts for 3 hours, it’s an event no one will miss whether watching on TV at home or in the streets of New York City.

Even French tourists gathered around the police barricades to catch a glimpse of this American tradition, which started in the 1920s.

C’est vraiment incroyable, I heard behind me.

Last minute food shopping. Everything should be under control.

Thanksgiving is a big affair. We’ll be cooking all day.

Is the menu finalized?

As always, it will be too much food. But that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. And despite our best efforts to reduce the number of dishes, it will still be too much food.

With 9 people around the table, the cooking fest was about to begin.

So we will start with a Hungarian paprika-spiced cauliflower soup along with a roasted cranberry, grape and swiss chard salad.

And how many cooks are there in the kitchen? 4 cooks!

Who’s taking care of what? And who’s keeping an eye on the turkey?

The turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving table. Everyone has their own tricks to make it juicier, tastier and not dry. Cooking and roasting the Thanksgiving turkey is a national sport in this country.

Here’s what we ended up with:

Roasted and brined heritage turkey

Rabbit with gremolata and polenta

Roasted hen of the woods mushrooms

Cornbread stuffing with venison sausage and squash

Wild rice stuffing with cranberries, apples and walnuts

Lobster mashed potatoes

Caramelized Brussels sprouts with pancetta and sun-dried tomatoes

Golden beet and caramelized onion galette

Roasted sweet potatoes

Green beans almondine

Moroccan-spiced spaghetti squash

Cranberry-citrus compote

Still hungry? Thanksgiving is also known for its desserts!

Mixed berry pie

Bourbon pecan pie

Rustic Italian nut tart

Bacon-bourbon brownies with pecans

Pumpkin pie

Mincemeat pie – which I learned does not contain any meat in it!

And because I am that much of a gourmand, I had to take a cooking break at some point to enjoy a piece of bacon brownie and get away from the kitchen ebullience.

Excesses without moderation – très Américain, I shall say.

New York was only waiting for us to come out the next day to show us its best assets with a warm, sunny and colorful weather.

Walking a bit on the High Line on the way to the Chelsea Market brings a certain pastoral charm to one’s surroundings.

The High Line is a pedestrian walkway along former elevated freight rail tracks.

A place where grass and nature can run wild. A green path through Chelsea, which begins in the Meatpacking District.

Old slaughterhouses and packing plants. Industrial vibe and red bricks.

There is always an abandoned hidden corner or alley to discover. The promise of a new place to venture in with the hopes to find a gem.

Maybe an unknown restaurant patio to rest when feeling peckish.

Or forgotten posters of John Lennon, Louis Armstrong and Madonna tucked between a loading dock and a boarded up nightclub.

An adventure on its own.

We ended up in Hell’s Kitchen and its Sunday’s flea market where everything and anything can be bought.

With the Lincoln Tunnel as a backdrop, the flea market is the most famous urban outdoor market in the city.

Old armchairs, fake furs, jewels and leather pants – the market has them all for you to bargain-hunt.

Feeling courageous and needing to digest a bit more, our walk took us to Central Park – the lungs of the city.

We observed birds on a bench, while others boated around the Lake.

We said hi to the carriage horses and played in the fall leaves.

It was 66 degrees – mais oui, 19! – and a perfect reason to lay on the Great Lawn and walk by the Reservoir.

New York is like Paris. You can’t see it all at once and you can’t talk about it in one single post.

There will always be some new streets, neighborhoods and areas to discover. It’s endless.

And when you think you’ve seen it all, it will surprise you once more.

The photo opportunities seem to wait for you at each street corner.

Scenes of life to capture as they unfold and happen in front of you.

A slice of urban heaven for those who enjoy the bustling and effervescence of the city.

A place where you can eat anything. And is there anything you cannot find in New York?

A quick movement, a split second – everything around already changed.

A traffic light turning green, a smoking sewer drain, a honking horn and a sea of pedestrians pushing their way through.

Walking home trough the quiet and private Gramercy Park via the Christmas Market of Union Square, the city had started to switch from celebrating Thanksgiving to focusing on the next Holidays to come.

And as tradition wants it, the Christmas trees were put up the day after Thanksgiving. Homes and stores newly decorated with green, red and crystal clear white lights.

New York forever changing and reinventing itself, announcing a new season to come and celebrate.

That’s a New York Minute – en un clin d’œil!

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.

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