Canadians do have Thanksgiving and yes, it’s one month earlier than the American one. Being grateful for the year’s harvest comes earlier up here simply because it gets colder sooner. In Québec, this holiday is called Action de grâce and is less widely celebrated. Therefore, as a French Canadian, I’ve never had a Thanksgiving meal in my life. Having watched a lot of American sitcoms, however, I do know that it’s a big deal. Families come together (for better or for worse). They eat too much and give thanks for what the year brought them. There is turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and stuffing. To me, preparing the event, it felt like a Christmas meal with a few changes: more buttermilk and sage that I’ve ever used in my life and the addition of an odd side dish made out of yams and marshmallows. In the end, it was delicious.
Classic Thanksgiving food, 8 guests, and a beautiful table.
Planning the meal was hard. Doing it, I soon realized I should have started planning (and cooking) weeks in advance. Every single recipe (almost) was for dishes that needed to go in the oven, for a long time, at a different temperature. The list of classic side dishes kept going on and on. At one point, I had to have a reality check. There was no way I would have enough time to cook everything. Having that in mind, I put aside some ideas (like homemade dinner rolls) and searched for quicker and simpler versions of some meals. If I were to host another Thanksgiving dinner, I would try to make as much dishes as I could ahead of time. That would reduce the amount of cooking needed to be done on the day.
- Squash soup
- Cranberry sauce
- Mashed potato
- Brussel sprouts
- Pumpkin pies
For starter, we had Butternut squash and apple soup from Kylee Cooks. You can find the recipe here. I used Granny Smith apples and added a little bit of cream. To make it extra special, I put bacon and grilled almond slices as a garnish. This was a perfect fall dish. I really liked this healthier version of the soup to start this big meal.
For the main dish, I cooked my first whole turkey. For eight guest, I settled for the smallest bird I could find at the grocery store: a 9-pound turkey. In retrospect, it would have been enough to feed 12 guests with the number of side dishes I had. But, hey, leftovers mean less cooking during the week. So, I’m not complaining! Not finding what I needed at the grocery store for the recipe I had selected, I changed my plans and used two recipes to cook my turkey.
Firstly, I used Tyler Florence recipe for the bird itself, sage butter and all. For the cavity, I did what Gordon Ramsay does:
Putting butter under the skin of the turkey made it very moist and delicious. Using the 15-minutes by pound ratio worked perfectly for me and the bird was ready on time. After 30 minutes of resting time (way less than what Gordon suggests), it was great and still warm.
I wanted a gravy recipe that was fast and easy and this one made with pan drippings was a winner. It really took less than 15 minutes. In my family, we usually use sauce from a can to serve with turkey. Therefore, it was my first time making gravy and I loved the taste of it! If like me, you aren’t familiar with making a roux (the base for the sauce), you can watch this helpful video:
As a Canadian, I couldn’t help myself and picked the cranberry sauce recipe that used maple as a sweetener. I did an Orange Maple Cranberry Sauce from Kitchen Treaty. I liked this recipe because it was simple, didn’t take long and didn’t require a lot of ingredients. You can find it here. I really enjoyed the taste of the orange juice with the sauce. I used fresh cranberries and the result was very acidic. So, I did add a lot of sugar. After this small adjustment, it tasted great. I did the sauce the week before and froze it.
Browned butter mashed potatoes
We do a lot of mashed potatoes in my house. But to do so, we never use brown butter, buttermilk, and chives. We usually use milk, butter and onion salt. For our American Thanksgiving, we used a recipe from Country Living that you can find here. I thought it was a nice twist on something I’m very used to eating and I would make it again. You can make the brown butter a little ahead of time.
Sweet potato casserole
I know that yams and sweet potatoes aren’t the same. However, yams are very hard to find here in Québec. So, I used sweet potatoes. Out of all the classic Thanksgiving side dishes, this was the more intriguing. It a savory dish with marshmallows. How does this make sense? Here is the recipe I used. All my guest were equally intrigued. However, after a few bites, we got used to the savory/super sweet mix and quite enjoyed it. I would do this side dish again. However, I thought cooking it was a long process.
For the stuffing, I cut baguettes into pieces and put them on a tray. Of course, my cat immediately laid on the chopping board full of breadcrumbs and then proceeded to disperse them around the house. Thanks, cat. Being disgusted by wet bread, I wasn’t keen on the idea to put my stuffing into the bird as it cooked. Therefore, I cooked it on its own. Technically, this turned my stuffing into dressing. It was really tasty. Even if it took a long time to make it, I will do this recipe for Christmas. You can find the recipe here.
There are a lot of recipes out there for decadent brussels sprouts with bacon and all other kinds of goodies. However, I thought our stomach would want a little break and picked a healthy recipe. I chose a roasted brussels sprouts recipe with balsamic vinegar. It was the easiest dish I made for my Thanksgiving feast and it tasted lovely. You can find the recipe from Country Living here.
To save me some stress, I made the dessert the week before and froze it. I made one pie with a classic pie crust and one with a graham crackers crust. For both, I used this filling from Live Well Bake Often. My guests chose to try both pies. However, they couldn’t decide on the one they preferred. Personally, I liked the graham crackers pie best. One thing we all agreed on was that serving this with whipped cream was a must. It made the dessert much lighter.
In the end, my Thanksgiving dinner with my friends (also called Friendsgiving) was really fun and delicious. Even though it was a lot of work, the Monica in me really liked providing a nice dinner for the people I love. And this Canadian will certainly keep these classic American Thanksgiving recipes for another occasion.