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A Maastricht Thanksgiving Dinner

Yesterday was a “Happy Thanksgiving” for those Americans out there, whether living abroad or at home. We celebrated this year by having some friends over for a Thanksgiving chicken and all the fixings. Sadly, I forgot to take photos so you’ll just have to believe me when I say the chicken looked great (and tasted pretty good too).

One of the fun challenges of recreating Thanksgiving dinner in the Netherlands was making everything from scratch. A whole turkey can be tricky to find, they don’t do stuffing, and no one sells the jellied cranberry sauce that is the staple of American ready-made turkey dinners. Potatoes are easy to find though.  Here’s a quick rundown of our alternatives:

  • Chicken vs. Turkey. You can buy a turkey at some butcher shops in town, but you’ll have to make plans in advance. I was able to pick up a whole chicken that was just the right size the same day I cooked it. Turns out chicken is dead easy to cook. Recipe.
  • Stuffing. I ended up making a vegetarian stuffing from scratch with apple chunks and pecans in it. The only problem was that my recipe called for condensed cream of mushroom soup and all I could find was the un-condensed sort and I think that resulted in a dryer stuffing. Recipe.
  • Mashed Potatoes. My mother makes a delicious combination white & sweet potatoes mash which I wanted to duplicate for dinner. White potatoes are easy to find, but I ended up hunting down sweet potatoes at a small (I think) Turkish grocery shop in town based on recommendation from another expat. I hand mashed them because I don’t have a mixer. Recipe.
  • Cranberry Sauce. I love the kind of canned cranberry sauce that’s all jelly and, when you take it out of the can, you can still see all the ridges. Crazy I know. Since that sort of sauce isn’t available here, I made some from scratch and mashed the berries up quite a bit to make it as smooth as possible. Cranberry sauce is seriously simple to make and it turned out very good. Recipe.
  • Dessert. Our lovely guests provided dessert and included a wonderful pumpkin pie made from scratch. I haven’t had pumpkin pie in a while and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s more important to Thanksgiving than the turkey. I have no recipe for this, but it was the best “scratch” pumpkin pie I’ve ever had.

The other nice way we got to recreate Thanksgiving here was sampling some local delicacies. This isn’t really a tradition for us per sae, but back in Vermont we use to eat local birds and drink our own apple cider. So I guess it could become one. We included some regional cheeses (including limburger cheese), a Maastricht Riesling, rolls from the shop up the street, and a Limburg port. It was fun to try the new foods and there’s nothing like a dinner party to give you an excuse.

But really Thanksgiving is about spending time with the people you care about, and that’s what made this year a little more special than last. It was a lot of fun to cook good food, share the meal and get a little taste of the holiday.

Cranberry image is by Muffet. Used under a Creative Commons-By Attribution License.

4 Responses to “A Maastricht Thanksgiving Dinner”

  1. Steve says:

    The chicken was truly delicious with the mash and stuffing (great still for several days with some sliced meats), and the cranberry sauce was great! We’ll be round for left-overs later LOL! Thank you for a fabulous evening!

  2. Steve says:

    Steve’s (very easy!) scratch pumpkin pie:

    Place the flesh of half a young sweet pumpkin which has previously been diced and deseeded into a steamer and steam for about 15-20 minutes or until it is extremely tender. When cooked, lightly press down in the steamer to remove any excess moisture and leave it to drain further in the steamer. Shake of fork it through ocasionally to remove additional fluid. Lightly mash with a fork if necessary, but if you are lucky and the pumpkin is tender, the shaking and squeezing is all that is required! The pumpkin should be puree like when added to the egg and cream mix.

    Steep 3 whole cloves in a heavy bottomed pan containing two 240g pots of double cream (or use half a teaspoon of ground cloves). Add a generous teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg (or powdered), the same of ground ginger and two of cinnamon, two tablespoons of dark muscovado sugar (demerara is fine but will result in a lighter filling) and bring to a slow simmer stirring occasionally to mix and prevent the sugar burning. The cream should be warmed through but not boiling or bubbling.

    Lightly whisk 3 eggs with one additional egg yolk in a large bowl, and when the cream and spices are warm, add this to the eggs whisking gently (having removed the whole cloves if used). Add the pumpkin puree and lightly whisk again.

    Place into a dish or tin lined with short-crust pastry (ours was a large one so half the above quantities for a smaller pie). You can use shop brought or make your own. I used my regular recipe but added a handful of ground pecans and 6 ground digestive biscuits to the mix to make it more festive and biscuity. No need to prebake the pastry blind, but it is good to prepare it in advance and let it chill in the fridge while preparing the other ingredients.

    Bake in a preheated oven at 220 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or slightly longer for a larger pie (ours was about an hour and ten minutes in the end). Remove the pie when a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. The mixture should be light and springy to the touch.

    Dust with powdered sugar when cool. Serve with whipped cream.

  3. Amanda says:

    I’m afraid we’ve eaten up a lot of the leftovers already. ;) I nailed the portions pretty close. Still some pie left if you want to come round.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Jules says:

    It was nice to have a real Thanksgiving with you! And I’ll vouch for your chicken looking divine; as a vegetarian I think that says a lot :-D