For the better part of two decades, I lived in Switzerland. Before settling down in Geneva, I spent a year in Bienne. While many know it as the country’s watch-making capital, Bienne’s true historical significance has little to do with time pieces. This picturesque lakeside town is the birth place of an annual tradition, Thanksgiving Dinner at Susan’s.
Having grown up in Massachusetts, I have a special affinity for the harvest celebration. My family spent a lot of time on Cape Cod when I was a kid. Nana Nye took my sister and me to Plymouth to see the Rock and the Pilgrim Village at least once or three times over the years. In his day, Pop Nye made an important contribution to Thanksgiving tables across the country. After he retired, one of his many odd jobs was harvesting cranberries.
So even half a world away from Plymouth Plantation, there was no way I could ignore the harvest feast. I invited a dozen of my new friends and colleagues for dinner and promised them an authentic, New England Thanksgiving.
About a week before the party, I sat down with paper, pencil, Fanny Farmer and the Joy of Cooking. Figuring out my menu was easy. I would serve the very same dinner that my mother, and grandmothers before her, had been making for years. As I finished up my shopping list, it dawned on me that I had never cooked a turkey before. Or a butternut squash or turnip or creamed onions. I’m not sure it I had mashed a potato or not.
Then I realized that I had yet to see a butternut squash in the market. I was happy to improvise with my favorite acorn squash but they were nowhere to be found either. I wondered if the Cinderella pumpkins I’d seen in the market were for eating or decoration. At least an American friend had assured me that frozen turkeys would appear in the market five or six days before Thanksgiving. By lucky coincidence, the Swiss garnish their favorite fall feast of venison with cranberries. I’d already seen familiar bags of Cape Cod berries piled high in my local super market. But was the French word for turnip? Maybe I’d skip those.
Fresh from the land of fast food, weak beer and bad coffee, the new girl in town was going to dive in and cook a tradtional Yankee Thanksgiving dinner. I’m not sure why but I was not particularly worried. With the optimism of youth, I decided that what I lacked in experience, I could make up with enthusiasm.
The night of the party I nervously greeted my guests. My twelve-pound turkey was taking up every square inch of my tiny oven. Both Fanny and Joy had given all sorts of advice on how to tell when the turkey was done. I poked and prodded the turkey several times. I called my mother. Eventually I decided it was about time to eat, took it out of the oven and prayed it was done.
The holiday fairies must have been looking out for me. The Yankee feast was greeted with avid curiousity. The table buzzed with questions, stories and laughter – a wonderful a celebration of welcome and new friendship.
I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!
Rustic Apple Croustade
My version of a French country classic was such a big hit last Thanksgiving that I think I will bake one again this year. Enjoy!
5-6 Cortland or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons Calvados or Cognac
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces phyllo leaves, fully defrosted
6-8 ounces (1 1/2–2 sticks) butter, melted
About 2 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces
Put the apples, brown sugar, orange zest and juice, Calvados, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and toss to combine. Reserve.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly brush a 10-12 inch quiche pan or pie plate with butter. Unwrap the phyllo, stack and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Remove the first phyllo sheet and re-place the damp towel. Place the first sheet so it is about two-thirds-in and one-third-overlapping the pan; brush lightly with butter. Continue to line the pan with 1/2 of the phyllo, lightly brushing the sheets with butter.
Mound the apples in the pan. Dot the apples with the cold butter. Stack the remaining phyllo leaves on top of the apples, lightly brushing each with butter. Gently turn the edges of the phyllo up and pinch lightly to seal. Cut a few vents in the phyllo to let the steam escape.
Bake at 400 degrees until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is tender, about 40 minutes. If the phyllo gets too brown, cover it loosely with foil. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve. If making ahead, reheat for 10-15 minutes in a warm oven before serving.
Print-friendly version of this post.
One Year Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Two Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Three Years Ago – Broccoli Puree
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new stories and recipes.
Want more? Feel free to visit my photoblog Susan Nye 365 or click here for more recipes and magazine articles or here to watch me cook!I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011