Since this was my first Thanksgiving in charge of everything, and not to mention in a different country where I couldn’t just go pick up a couple of cans of creamed corn at the closest grocery store and call it a day, I had quite a bit of work ahead of me. So I decided I’d take it easy my first year and just go with a few of the basics for my first Thanksgiving in Spain. That way, I could concentrate on making just a few things, but trying my best to make sure they came out perfect! So, that’s what I did.
I started out with a small menu of fresh turkey, gravy from the drippings, my grandma’s old-fashioned mashed potatoes, green beans & jamón (to put a little Spanish spin on things), and of course, pumpkin pie.
The beautiful thing about Thanksgiving is that almost all of the main ingredients in the classic Thanksgiving meal are, with reason, derived from products grown in the Americas. Ok yes, this is a fine piece of information, if you’re in the Americas. If not, you’ve kind of found yourself in a bit of a predicament. But we seemed to work around that little setback.
Turkey’s aren’t really readily available in these parts, but one of my yoga friends turned me on to a butcher in the main plaza where you can order a turkey to your liking; weight, size, date, etc. My only concern when going to order my turkey was if the giant beast would fit in my itty-bitty European oven. (To read more about the tales of our turkey adventures as well as to get a delicious turkey recipe, click here.)
So the turkey was ordered and ready for 11 people. How we were going to fit 11 people at our table, I was still trying to figure out, but at least we knew that no one would go hungry.
Next up were the potatoes. I had been watching my grandma make the potatoes for years, but I hadn’t ever actually been behind the beaters mixing up the potatoes. Oh, and I found myself here without a set of beaters, so I figured an emulsifier would do pretty much the same job, right? (To read more on the whole old-fashioned mashed potato recipe, click here.)
I knew I wanted to make green beans, one of my Thanksgiving favorites, but without those fancy French’s fried onions & Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, the green bean casserole was out. (Ok, I’m sure I could have figured out how to make all of that from scratch too, but one thing at a time. Maybe next year.) So I decided to use one of my favorite new recipes, and more than anything, I knew it would be a hit with my guests since it’s from here. So I made green beans & jamón! Click here to add this tasty recipe to your Thanksgiving favorites.)
Last but not least, and actually the first thing I had to make, as it needs to cool and chill in the fridge overnight, pumpkin pie. I had found something that seemed kind of like a pie crust dough in the grocery store and I was more than happy to try it out. (Yes, another thing I’ll attempt next year, my own homemade pumpkin pie crust.) But hey, at least all of the ingredients in the actual pie were made from scratch, and when I say scratch, I mean scratch. I even had to make my own evaporated milk, because it was another impossible ingredient to find here in Spain. So I am pretty proud of the way the turned out! (To get the recipe for the ‘almost’ completely homemade pumpkin pie with real pumpkin or how to make your own evaporated milk when you’re in a bind, or on a different continent, click on the links above.)
We were very excited to have my mom come over to spend Thanksgiving with us this year! She was a huge help and it was nice to have someone here who knew all about my many Thanksgiving traditions. We started the day with a must, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Well, kind of. Taking into account the time difference we wouldn’t have see the parade until evening, and that did not go along with our schedule. So, thanks to YouTube and a little bit of searching, we found last year’s parade in the full-length version and pretended like it was the real thing. It was just as good! It’s amazing how much you forget in a year; it was just like watching the new one. Haha!
After the parade, it was off to get some last minute things around town. Of course we needed fresh bread from the bakery, 10lbs. of potatoes from the veggie stand (that was fun to lug home), oh yeah and a couple of extra folding chairs since this was going to be our first big shindig in the new house! It was kind of nice that everything was open on Thanksgiving here. (Although I will say that I in no way condone that Black Friday now Thursday shenanigan that the stores are trying to pull in the States.) But, since no one here was aware of the holiday, it was nice to be able to get some last minute things.
Back at the house around 2pm it was time to get the turkey dressed and ready to pop in the oven. If you’ve read my Fresh Turkey Recipe, you’ll know that this was quite the experience. Let’s just say that after some real effort we finally got that bird in the oven to roast. To read more on this oh-so-joyous experience or to get the recipe for the most delicious turkey I’ve ever eaten (sorry Dad!), click here.
After the turkey was wrapped in foil and in the oven, we moved on to the mashed potatoes. The entire time my mom & I were ‘torturing’ the turkey; Jorge was faithfully peeling and quartering 10 pounds of potatoes. We boiled the potatoes and finding ourselves without a blender, decided to try out the emulsifier, and it worked perfectly! If you ever find yourself in a bind, go to the emulsifier!
As the timer beeped for the turkey, I knew it was time to take off the foil and let the top get crispy for the last hour of roasting. It was starting to smell scrumptious and reminded me so much of Thanksgiving morning back in Phoenix. I guess from now on whenever I get a bit homesick I just have to stick a giant 12lb. turkey in the oven for 4 hours and I’ll feel much better! Ha!
Now, to the green beans & jamón. This was something that I had made many times here in my own kitchen, so I wasn’t too worried about it. I just knew that this time I had to triple the recipe and get to peeling a whole bunch of green beans! (Thanks again for all the peeling, Jorge!) To get this delicious recipe with a bit of a Spanish twist, click here.
As the green beans were finishing up, the timer went off for the turkey and it was perfect timing to take out the turkey and let it rest for 30 minutes while I stuck the potatoes and beans in the oven with the oven off to keep everything nice and hot.
While the turkey was resting, I took advantage of some of the drippings to make homemade gravy (another thing I had never made before) but it turned out delicious! Started out with just a bit of drippings and some flour and from there added a little more delicious juice from the turkey and a bit of whole milk until I had the perfect combination. It took a bit of tasting to get it right, but I wasn’t complaining! For the gravy recipe, click here.
Time for the show!
Jorge’s parents were right on time at 7:30pm, not only to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time, but to also see the finished house for the first time! They were delighted at how the whole thing turned out and even brought housewarming gifts! While we snacked on Manchego cheese & Sorian chorizo, we showed them the house and all the special finishing touches that we have been working on since we moved in.
Then a bit later Virginia & Pablo, Jorge’s sister and brother-in-law showed up. They were also mesmerized by all of the changes in the house, especially Virginia as she had seen the house before the remodeling had started, something even we hadn’t seen as we were in Phoenix when the renovations began. It was comforting to know that she had seen such a miraculous difference in what we had done in the house!
As Jorge showed all of his favorite parts of the house to his family, the ice dispenser in the refrigerator and the built-in china cabinet, my mom and I started carving the turkey. I couldn’t believe that after almost an hour out of the oven resting, it was still piping hot inside. And oh how juicy it was! I couldn’t wait to sit down and dig in. We took off the legs and the wings and saved one for Pablo as I new eating a whole turkey leg would be a new experience for him, and as you can see from the pictures, it was quite the adventure.
We kind of ate in shifts because just with Jorge’s family, my mom and I we had already filled up the table. And right when they had finished, magically, our other guests had arrived. Can we say perfect timing!? I was so relieved as I still had no idea where I was going to sit, let alone feed, 11 people at the same time! But it all worked out perfectly!
I was so excited for Fermín and his family to come, not only to see the house, but also to partake in the Thanksgiving festivities. Fermín has two daughters, Blanca and Marina, and they are both taking English classes and quite interested in learning more about different cultures. I thought this would be a great experience to teach them a little about one of our best holidays! So, after meeting and gabbing with Fermín’s family a bit, and finding out that Jorge’s dad, Carlos, had actually been Fermín’s teacher many years ago, Jorge’s parents were off to their house to take care of ‘la abuela Candida’ and it was time for round two of the first course. We served up Fermín’s family, and of course the other turkey leg was waiting for Fermín, and everyone was delighted with the food.
Something that must be said about Spanish culture, and something I really love, is that dinner is not just eat whatever is on your plate and leave. First you eat, then you chat, then dessert, then you chat some more, then a coffee or tea, and then more chatting. So a dinner can take any where from 2, 3, or even 4 hours around the table.
So after everyone had eaten, it was time for pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. I got out the whipped cream and explained how that whole thing worked on top of the pie, and even though it was something that no one at the table had ever tried before, it was a big hit! The pie was GONE before we knew it! And then of course we moved on the coffee and tea and a little coffee liqueur. Something for everybody’s taste! And we sat around the table (me translating each and every story to my mom to keep her in the loop) and laughed the night away.
What a delicious night; full of food, friendship and love. I could not have asked for a better way to spend hosting my very first Thanksgiving in my very own home. It was truly a pleasure.
A special thanks to Virginia and my mom, Denise, for sharing their pictures with me.