It was a Happy Italian Thanksgiving on Saturday. I even did a whole turkey this year!
I have not blogged much since last year’s inaugural Italian Thanksgiving. Yes, it’s been a busy year, chocked full of travel, language lessons, guests, and weddings (my own!) But, the reality is culture shock hit me about five months into living my Italian dream and I found it difficult to blog. It’s isolating to feel different.
On Saturday as I looked around my home filled with friends, food, wine, and most importantly my husband. I was overwhelmed. Different isn’t always a bad thing. In this instance it gave me the good fortune of introducing and sharing a feast of thanks with Italians, Brits, and fellow American expats.
Italian Thanksgiving: The Menu
One of my favorite things about exploring this new culture is finding ways to combine my traditions with local ones. And, that’s how I created my menu.
I made my first whole turkey. A few people told me the turkeys here can be more dry, so I did a whole chicken and turkey breast last year. But, this year we needed the full monty; everyone asked for it and I had to give the people what they want.
I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but in our little corner of heaven you can’t just pick up a turkey any old day of the week. We special ordered it from the butcher, telling him our guest count and he promised to do his best. We ended up with a 15 lb bird for nine people.
I selected a roast turkey recipe with chestnut-apple stuffing to pay homage to the area’s abundance of chestnut and sage. We got the roast chestnuts fresh from the chestnut stand near our apartment. When we explained the holiday the husband and wife team were pleased to have their goods participate.
The turkey is made by first mixing a sage, shallot butter, then generously spreading between the skin and meat. I had some leftover butter, so it went on the top of the skin for good measure.
The stuffing in the bird, just like mom used to do. It was a brilliant recipe of crumbled chestnuts, apples, in lieu of giblets I used pancetta, celery, onion, fresh sage, parsley, thyme, and rosemary. I had too much to fill the bird, so I cooked the remaining separately with about an extra 1/2 cup of broth to keep it from drying out. It did the trick.
For sides, I made my traditional brown butter mashed potatoes. I didn’t realize we were down to a half cup milk until it was too late, so I went heavier on the crème fraîche – it made the spuds creamier and more flavorful. For veggies, friends brought roasted squash with sage, a spicy spinach, and beets with pomegranate seeds.
Wine Pairing: 2013 Deigo Morra Pelaverga. This beautiful indigenous grape is a lighter body red showing more red fruits than black. It tends to be an acidic wine, which cut through the turkey fat. Pelaverga almost exclusively comes from the Barolo commune of Verduno, which offers a lot of pepper on the palate. It was a perfect compliment to the apple stuffing.
Our dessert selections included American and Italian fare. I made a classic apple pie and an italian friend brought a homemade jam torta.
Wine Pairing: 2006 Demarie Ice Wine (Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir). Our friends from Demarie, a Roero wine producer, brought this special treat. The wine was savory with a hint of sweetness – a perfect match for our dolce. The wine is not available for purchase as its an experimental wine that they make in rare vintages.
Italian Thanksgiving seemed to be a big hit; not only were the plates cleaned, but so were the sides. And, we did manage to put a dent in the 15 lb turkey.
It’s exciting to be making new traditions in Italy and to embrace what my “differences” bring to others.
While the first turkey was exciting, it was also another first. As I mentioned, I got married this year, so it was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. I am pleased to formally announce that Il Ragazzo (translation: the boy) is now Il Marito (translation: the husband). For that, I am most thankful.
Thanks to all my friends, near and far, who supported us during this year of transition. We’ll happily be hosting an Italian Thanksgiving every year – even when we head back to the States for the holiday.
Share your favorite Thanksgiving recipes with us! I am always keeping an eye open for the next year’s menu!
Song Pick! Happy Holidays, Bing Crosby