This weekend is Thanksgiving – Canadian Thanksgiving to be exact. This is by far my favorite holiday along with Halloween. You can bet that October is an exciting month for me! It’s harvest season, so the markets are overflowing with bright fresh ingredients. The temperature is cooling so it’s time to pull out those boots and comfy sweaters. I love Thanksgiving for the food obviously but also because I enjoy taking a moment to think about what you’re thankful for. I even make everyone around the table say this before they can touch their food. I love the time spent with family and friends. For many years, because of university and a part-time job, I could not go spend Thanksgiving with my family but decided that I would host one here in Montreal for all my friends and family that stayed around and couldn’t make it their home for the holiday long weekend. Of course we grow up, get jobs and return to our families. That doesn’t mean the tradition stopped there – but more on that later…
So, this weekend’s Thanksgiving get-together will be slightly different. Mother is coming to visit and my brother-in-law joining us for dinner, so it’ll just be the four of us, with an 18 pound turkey! I may have to digress to explain why we need such a big turkey for so few of us. Yes, I’ll admit it, I especially love the leftovers but there are only so many turkey meals one can fit in a week. The reason is that on Sunday we are meeting up with other loved ones for a hike and picnic up North from Montreal and we said we’d bring sandwiches. So, dinner for three people and turkey sandwiches for fifteen – somehow that bird needs to get cooked! I do not want to go into detail on how to prepare a turkey since there are an infinite amount of resources for that (and probably more accurate ones at that). However, since we are only three, I wanted to try a couple of new things this year.
On the menu we have: roast turkey with a mushroom stuffing – a classic of mine if you ask anyone who had it; butternut squash risotto; candied yams – because it is not a true Thanksgiving dinner without them, and glazed Brussels sprouts since they are in season. For dessert: dairy-free carrot cupcakes with dairy-free chestnut-cardamom icing!
Mushroom Stuffing – a Kristel’s Kitchen original
I never used to like stuffing much. It was the one item at Thanksgiving dinners that I used to avoid because it looked boring and I would rather eat an extra serving of wild rice or yams. When I started hosting Thanksgiving parties, I figured I should give stuffing a try and make it with the flavours I wanted to taste. Mushrooms are the best! They are incredibly diverse and fragrant and I simply cannot get enough of them. So somehow this is the recipe that I came up with which has been perfected over the years. Everyone’s favorite stuffing is always their mothers’ but I am proud to say mine comes in as second best!
- 8 slices of thick-cut bacon or pancetta, diced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celeri stalks, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 cups assorted mushroom, chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 large apple, diced
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 6 slices country style bread, or 3 cups diced
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- Salt and pepper
In a large skillet, cook the bacon until the fat start to render. Add the onions, celery, garlic, and sauté until barely soft. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, add the thyme and cook mixture until barely soft. Add the mushrooms and while they cook, combine the diced apple and cider vinegar in a large bowl. When the mushrooms start to water, remove from heat and transfer to the apple mixture and allow to cool. While the mixture cools, if the bread isn’t stale enough, proceed to toasting the bread slices.
A side-note: this is a great way to use bread that you would otherwise throw out; take advantage of reducing your waste whenever you can. As another example, the celery and apples I used here were also past their prime, but I still managed to make good use out of them.
Back to the stuffing… Once the bread is toasted, dice it and add it to the mix. Stir to combine and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper is necessary. Add the eggs and mix well to combine. Now you are ready to stuff that bird! Once the roast beast is done to perfection, spoon out the stuffing. It is then ready to serve.
Butternut Squash Risotto
My lovely sister in-law and her husband gave me a subscription to Bon Appétit for my birthday and every month I wait impatiently for my new issue to arrive. Just this week I received the November issue (just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving) and of course it was a special issue for the upcoming American Thanksgiving. Hey, I’m definitely not going to complain about celebrating this glorious holiday twice!
- I obviously did not use any shrimp
- I never use cream when making risotto
- Instead of vegetable broth, I used all that extra stuff they hide inside the bird to simmer up a broth
- I finished the risotto with about ½ cup lactose-free smoked gouda
It’s never quite Thanksgiving without them. Start by peeling and slicing the sweet potatoes. Either boil or steam them until just barely tender (remember to salt your water if you’re boiling). Layout the slices in a baking dish, sprinkle with brown sugar, cardamom and cayenne pepper. Squirt the juice of about half of a lemon onto the yams. Drizzle with maple syrup (don’t use the fake stuff here – it would be sacrilegious) and bake at 400ºF until golden and caramelized.
Trim clean and cut the Brussels sprouts in half. Steam or boil until tender (again, remember to salt the water). I had extra bacon leftover from the stuffing so I decided to sprinkle the broken up pieces of bacon atop the Brussels sprouts with some chopped scallion and a bit of duck fat (you can use butter instead).
Dairy-free Carrot Cupcakes with Dairy-free Cardamom-Chestnut Icing
I am not going to claim to have come up with this recipe but I will thank the Food Network for their help in putting together this dessert. Lucky for me, the carrot cupcake recipe I found was entirely dairy-free and you can find the recipe here. As for the icing, I had to improvise a tad. I went with the traditional butter cream proportions of 1 cup of butter for 4 cups of icing sugar but experimented with it a bit. For those who want to make lactose or dairy-free desserts, this is a reminder that butter is a dairy product and is not lactose free.
For the icing:
- ½ cup margarine (try to find it in bar-form which is firmer than its container-form)
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 3 tbsp chestnut cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Let the margarine come to room temperature before whip with an electric beater. Gradually add the icing sugar until well incorporated. Add the cardamom, chestnut cream and vanilla extract. Combine well and proceed to decorating cooled cupcakes.