I love having Thanksgiving at my house. I started this tradition in Switzerland many years ago. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday so Thursday was a work day like any other but on the Saturday after Thanksgiving I served up thanks for friendship with turkey and apple pie. Geneva is an international city so the party was a festive mix of American, European and Asian friends. The food was an evolving blend of New England with a bit of French panache. It was a taste of almost home for some and a glimpse of a few New England-ish traditions for others.
While most families and friends share the cooking duties for Thanksgiving, I generally insisted on doing it all myself. I traveled a lot in those days and from time to time I was forced to gratefully and graciously accept a kind offer or two. My friend Julie’s offer of help once landed her with the harder-than-you-think task of picking up the turkey. Fresh whole turkeys are not lined up on every Swiss butcher’s counter like so many Rockettes. Instead once a year they arrive, frozen solid, from Arkansas in plenty of time for the Swiss to celebrate Christmas. Delivered in late November, they hit the supermarkets with barely a minute to spare for my expatriate celebration.
Julie’s mission was to find a turkey small enough to fit into my apartment’s tiny oven but large enough to feed more than a dozen people. Trooper that she is, she found one and fought rush hour traffic to deliver it to the cooler in my kitchen where it slowly thawed in time for the big day. (Cooler you ask? There was barely enough space in my dorm-room-sized refrigerator for day-to-day provisions let alone a twelve pound turkey. But that’s another story.) Luckily for Julie, more often than not, I fiddled and fussed with my calendar and managed to stay in town Thanksgiving week. So my typical reply to the inevitable question, “What can I bring?” was “nothing, just bring your charming and hungry self.”
So now you are probably wondering if I am insane or a wonderful hostess. Or perhaps it’s something else? Yes, I have come to realize that I may have a little problem. I love sharing my home and table but sharing my kitchen? Well that is an entirely different matter. It’s taken me a while to realize but I think that I may be something of a … well, err, something of a control freak when it comes to cooking.
Now it’s time to get organized for another Thanksgiving. I’m not sure but I think it’s getting a little easier to release that iron grip on the kitchen. I got an email from my sister-in-law this morning. She gave their estimated arrival time for Thanksgiving morning. And of course she offered to help. Baking pies is a special tradition she shares with her girls. So I will steal myself. I will let them bake the pies and without a doubt, they will be delicious. Meanwhile, I’ll ask my mother to peel the potatoes and my brother to mash them. And my dad, he gets to be CEO. Chief Errand Officer. He’ll pick up the turkey and the million little things I somehow always manage to forget. You’ll be able to spot him on the road between my house and his and up and down the hill to town several times in the day or two before the big feast!
No matter how you and your family and friends divvy up the cooking chores, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy!
3-4 pounds red skinned or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in large chunks
4 ounces gruyere (cheddar is also good) cheese, grated
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 – 1 cup sour cream
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter.
Put the potatoes and 1 tablespoon butter in a large pot; add enough cold, salted water to cover by 2 inches. Bring the potatoes to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart.
Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Roughly mash with a potato masher. Mix in the grated cheeses, cream cheese, sour cream, 4 tablespoons butter and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. (At this point you can cool, cover and store the potatoes in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Remove the potatoes from the refrigerator about an hour before you want to bake them.)
Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and scatter over the top of the potatoes. Bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until the potatoes are piping hot and the top is golden brown.
Looking for a few ideas for your Thanksgiving feast?
This week marks Around the Table’s third birthday. I began writing the column in November 2006 for the now defunct Argus Champion. You can find all of the recipes on my web site. Here are a few suggestions for a delicious Thanksgiving feast:
Mulled Cider (October 12th 2008)
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Archives/October 19th 2008)
Roast Turkey and Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing (Archives/November 11th 2007)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pearl Onions (November 8th 2009)
Broccoli Puree (Archives/November 16th 2008)
Mixed Reds and Greens Salad with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette (Archives/November 25th 2007)
Rustic Apple Tart (September 20th 2009)
Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream (Archives/October 14th 2007)
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You can find all of the recipes mentioned in this post on my web site www.susannye.com. Recipes are organized by original publication date to help you find them quickly and easily. 2009 recipes can be found at www.susannye.com/id6.htm. Older recipes are in the archives www.susannye.com/id10.htm.
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Feel free to make a comment; I’d love to hear from you. Just click on COMMENTS below. You can find lots more recipes on my website: www.susannye.com.
©Susan W. Nye, 2009