As far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving is the most important holiday in America: it transcends religion, ethnicity and class to bring families and friends together around the all-important dinner table to share in good food, friendship, and, for those who love it… American football. So despite being “across the pond” from my homeland and family, I still celebrate Thanksgiving and invite British and American friends and family members over to share in some of my own traditions.
I lived in France for twenty years (oops, my age is showing) and one of my most looked-forward-to events was the annual publication in The International Herald Tribune of the late Art Buchwald’s column entitled “Le Grand Thanksgiving” where America’s favourite humorist and political satirist explained – after a fashion – to the French how Thanksgiving came about and what it means. One needs to understand a bit of French vocabulary to really appreciate the wit and humour, best represented in Buchwald’s superb translation of the word Thanksgiving: “Le Jour de Merci Donnant.” Enough said. Go read it for yourself; it’s absolutely brilliant and makes me laugh every year.
Here in England I had to start all over again trying to explain Thanksgiving to my guests; what we eat and why. For my British and other non-American readers, The Thanksgiving Story presents the history of Thanksgiving in a slightly different way than the traditional Wikipedia version. If you have any other versions that you prefer, do please send them along to me by putting a comment at the end of this post or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And let’s not forget the turkey! For this year’s Thanksgiving feast I rummaged around the cupboards while my turkey was thawing and came up with a smashing preparation which I will share with you below. And yes, dear American readers, fresh turkey is only readily available around Christmas time here in England. The Brits don’t do Thanksgiving so our fine feathered friends get a reprieve until mid-December. But there is at least one farm in the UK that does ship fresh turkeys especially for Thanksgiving. Goodman’s Geese in Worcestershire and the inspirational Judy Goodman (whom I saw demonstrating how to roast the perfect goose at the winter 2009 MasterChef Live show in London) go to great lengths to feed the turkey-hungry Americans in the UK, shipping fresh bronze turkeys to arrive in time for roasting and sharing on the fourth Thursday in November.
So here I am thawing my turkey in a sink full of cold water (make that a big sink) and wondering how I am going to prepare it this year. As usual, I have a look at Epicurious as they have good guides as well as recipes. (This year, since I am suffering from Menopause Mush Mind I found the Thanksgiving countdown very helpful in getting myself organised and getting dinner on the table on time.) It was too late to brine the turkey as I did last year (very good, by the way; extremely moist and moreish) so I started rummaging in the cupboards for inspiration. Bingo! A tub of dried Chanterelle mushrooms and a pack of butter. Perfect for rubbing under the skin of my turkey to make it moist and oh-so-tasty.
You may be wondering why I am rabbitting on about Thanksgiving when it’s over for this year. To me it’s obvious but I’ll let you in on the secret: it’s nearly Christmas and you can use my Thermomix Powdered Mushroom Turkey Butter recipe for your Yuletide Turkey! Here goes:
Madame Thermomix’s Powdered Mushroom Turkey Butter
30 g dried mushrooms
150 g butter, cut into pieces
Salt & pepper to taste
- Weigh the dried mushrooms into the Thermomix bowl. Grind at Speed 10 for 20 seconds or until it goes quiet and the mushrooms have been reduced to a fine powder.
- Weigh in the butter. Add a hefty pinch of salt and several turns of freshly ground pepper. Mix 7 seconds/Speed 4 until the mushrooms are mixed through. Scrape out into a bowl and reserve.
- Run clean hands under the breast skin of your turkey to loosen the skin. Grab a handful of Powdered Mushroom Butter and rub generously onto the flesh of the turkey, under the skin. Continue until all the butter is used up.
- Roast your turkey for the appropriate time, placing it breast side up in the roasting tin so the butter will melt down over the bird as a baste. Half way through the cooking time, turn the turkey over so it’s breast side down. This lets the natural juices run down into the breast, making the flesh lusciously juicy. Enjoy!
I was surprised to see here in the UK that it is recommended not to stuff your turkey’s main cavity, only the neck end. Many families bake their stuffing in a separate dish. Such a shame to lose all those flavours melting together! In America the USDA has developed guidelines for safely roasting a stuffed turkey which I gleefully followed with my stuffing this year. The other thing that surprises me is that in the UK stuffing is often made with bread crumbs, while in the States/whilst in the US we use cubed, stale bread for a more rustic, stick-to-the-ribs texture. Here then is my recipe for
Shitake mushroom and celery stuffing
One loaf of wholegrain bread
2 packs of shitake mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 stalks of celery, sliced
2 onions, sliced
A good handful of parsley, chopped
A good handful of coriander, chopped
100 g melted butter
Turkey stock, about a cup
Salt & pepper to taste
The night before Christmas if you remember!)
- Put the slices of bread out on a tray to go slightly stale. Don’t worry if you forget; you can always put them on a baking sheet in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes to dry out.
- Make some turkey stock with your turkey giblets, an onion, a carrot and a few mushrooms.
Just before roasting your Christmas turkey
- Cut the bread into pieces about 2cm/1 inch square. Put them into a large bowl or if you are doubling the recipe for a huge turkey, put your chunks of bread into a heavy-duty bin liner/garbage bag – a clean one, of course! This is really good for getting all the ingredients mixed up well.
- Add the sliced mushrooms, celery, and onions, and the chopped parsley and coriander to the bowl or bag. Pour over the melted butter and mix well. Now add some stock; just enough to bind the stuffing together so it is moist but not mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix really well.
- Stuff and roast your bird according to your preferred guidelines. Any extra stuffing can be baked in a separate dish.
Intense Mushroom Gravy
You will see that the Powdered Mushroom Butter will have melted into the roasting pan and melded with the turkey’s own juices to make the most incredible, intense, buttery, flavoursome jus imaginable. Scrape out all you can and put it into your Thermomix with 50 grams of flour and water to make 1 litre and set to cook and stir at Varoma setting/12-15 minutes/Speed 2 while you start to get ready and presto! Perfect smooth gravy. If your gravy is ready before you are, it will hold for up to an hour set at 70°C/60 minutes/Speed 2.
Bon appétit !